By Ken Wilson –
If the leaves have fallen and the mailbox is full of Christmas catalogs, that’s a sure sign. No need to consult the calendar—holiday season is upon us, and with it a 100 ways to celebrate. Here’s a look at a few of the most popular.
Celebrations On the Mall
The City of Charlottesville’s 3rd annual Downtown Toy Lift and Holiday Market will be held on Friday, December 1 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at City Hall Plaza next to the Sprint Pavilion. More than 30 vendors will offer holiday foods and crafts. Toy Lift Charities and its signature bucket truck will be on hand to take donations for area children in need, and the Charlottesville Municipal Band will play from noon to 2:00 p.m.
Charlottesville’s annual Grand Illumination is scheduled for that same evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Central Place on the Downtown Mall. This free, all-ages community event will feature live music, kids’ crafts, photo ops with costumed characters, a visit from Santa, a free movie screening, and the Grand Illumination of the community holiday tree.
From 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. local businesses and organizations will provide craft activities for the kids at Community Cares And Crafts tables, and Toy Lift Charities will exchange a raffle ticket for every dropped off toy. Free face painting and concessions will be available and photos may be taken with Mrs. Claus and Friends.
The Grand Illumination itself, including a community countdown to the lighting of the tree and spectacular projection animation by Jeff Dobrow, will happen at 8:00 p.m. Santa Claus and a few of his North Pole friends will visit immediately after the lighting. The Virginia Gentlemen, the Virginia Consort Carolers, Live Arts Players, DMR Adventures, and others will perform from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
At 8:30 p.m., the Paramount Theater will offer a free screening of the popular family holiday movie A Christmas Story, with free popcorn.
A Claus for a Cause
“Be a Claus for a Cause!” is the official slogan of the Great Charlottesville Santa Fun Run and Walk 2017, happening at 9:30 a.m., December 3, rain or shine. Adults will walk or run in free Santa suits; young people will wear free elf ears. Registration ($20 for adults, $10 for kids 3-12) will be at the Sprint Pavilion on the Downtown Mall between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Whole Foods will provide breakfast starting at 9:30 a.m.
Awards will be presented to the top corporate team, family team and individual fundraisers, and for the most festive stroller/sleigh. All proceeds of the event will support the programs of the Arc of the Piedmont, which helps Charlottesville area residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Gingerbread At the Omni
The Downtown Business Association held the first Virginia Gingerbread Christmas competition “just for fun” back in 1994. Nowadays, thousands of people come to the Omni Hotel on the Downtown Mall for a host of Virginia Gingerbread Christmas activities in what has become a Charlottesville holiday tradition.
This year’s theme is Christmas in the Movies and the most accomplished entries will be on display at the Omni from December 3 through 6. Entry forms and information about categories and judging criteria may be downloaded online. Entry forms are due by November 30, 2017.
Santa will be on hand and possibly first in line at the pancake breakfast sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Charlottesville on Saturday, December 9 from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. Tickets are $10, and proceeds will benefit local agencies, including the Ronald McDonald House.
The Omni will also host Mrs. Claus and her friends. on Wednesday, December 13 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Kids of all ages will enjoy singing, dancing, storytelling, craft-making and—everyone’s favorite—cupcake decorating. Advanced ticket purchase is required.
All proceeds from Virginia Gingerbread Christmas benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Charlottesville, which provides a home away from home for families of seriously ill or injured children receiving medical treatment on holidays and every day.
The Moscow Ballet has toured North America dancing stories, like the Great Russian Nutcracker, for 25 years. The 40-member company will be back at the Paramount for their annual performance of the Tchaikovsky/Petipa classic, with the evil Mouse King, and the gracious Sugar Plum Fairy, on Monday, December 11 at 7 p.m. The ballet features Russian folk characters including Father Christmas and the Snow Maiden, who escort Masha to the Land of Peace and Harmony where she and the Nutcracker Prince are honored by emissaries from the world over.
Charlottesville Ballet will present their own version of this favorite holiday tradition at Piedmont Virginia Community College at 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 16; 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 17; 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Thursday December 21; and 2:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, December 22.
Set to Tchaikovsky’s famous score, the Charlottesville Ballet’s Nutcracker follows young Clara as she is given a magical wooden nutcracker and journeys through the Lands of Snowflakes and Sweets.
More at the Paramount Theater
The Paramount Theater offers an “electric” family outing, Saturday, November 25 at 11:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. with Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Christmas. Performed in complete darkness, the show uses puppetry, theater, dance, music and state-of-the-art “electroluminescence“ technology to tell a story of a young bird named Max and his family, who begin flying south for the winter, get blown off course, and find themselves at the North Pole. That’s where their real adventure begins.
Music Director Michael Slon will conduct the Oratorio Society of Virginia in their annual Christmas at The Paramount concert on Saturday, December 16 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The 90-voice chorus, accompanied by brass, organ, and percussion, is composed of some of the community’s finest singers.
This year’s concert’s signature piece, J.A.C. Redford’s lush “Welcome All Wonders: A Christmas Celebration,” is by turns exuberant, tranquil, and haunting. In addition, the chorus will perform “Walking in the Air ” from a children’s film, “The Snowman,” plus a selection of traditional English and Spanish carols. In what’s become an Oratorio custom, two guest youth choruses will perform as well. An accompaniment of brass, organ, and percussion rounds out what is sure to be a vibrant and heart-lifting performance.
The Paramount will show the beloved Christmas classic, White Christmas on Sunday, December 17 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Two World War II buddies with a song-and-dance act, Bob (Bing Crosby) and Phil (Danny Kaye), cross paths with two sisters with their own song-and-dance act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen). Smitten, Bob and Phil follow the sisters to an inn in Vermont, which turns out to be owned by their former commanding officer (Dean Jagger). There the duos become a foursome, and keep the failing inn in business.
Lynchburg native Phil Vassar and former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler will bring their Christmas Tour to the Paramount in support of their new original holiday single, “The Naughty List” on Saturday, December 23 at 8:00 p.m. Vassar has released eight albums and ten chart-topping songs, is a two-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year and a Billboard Country Songwriter of the Year, and received a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Original Song.
Kellie Pickler grew up loving Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton in the small town of Albemarle, North Carolina. In 2005, at age 19, she was chosen to be a contestant on American Idol. She released her debut album, Small Town Girl, in 2006. Her third studio album, 100 Proof, released in 2011, was named number one Country Album of The Year by Rolling Stone magazine.
Historic Homes and the Holidays
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello will celebrate the beginning of the season with a free Holiday Open House, Sunday, November 26, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The first floor of the house will be decorated for the holidays, and will be open for visitors to stroll through at their own pace. Holiday gifts and free tastings and treats will be available at the Shop at Monticello.
Monticello’s Holiday Evening Tours, December 8-9, 15-18, 20-23, and 26-30, at 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., offer the rare opportunity to experience Jefferson’s home after dark, historically decorated and illuminated for the season. The ticketed tours will explore both private and public rooms including the Dome Room, and examine how all people who lived on the Monticello mountaintop, both enslaved and free, celebrated the holidays in Jefferson’s day. Live musical performances will take place in the Parlor. Holiday Evening Tours are not handicapped-accessible and not recommended for children under age six.
The annual Monticello Holiday Classic 5K and Deck the Halls Kids Dash will be held on Saturday, December 2 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The family-oriented 5K begins at the East Walk of Monticello and ends at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center and Smith Education Center. Youngsters 12 and under are invited to take part in the Deck the Halls Kids Dash, a loop around the West Lawn within the shadows of the main house. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The Kids Dash will start at 8:10 a.m. and the Holiday Classic will begin at 8:20 a.m. These are ticketed events.
Monticello’s popular Wreath Workshops, led by its gardens staff, are a 31-year tradition.
The ticket fee covers all materials, including straw wreath forms, pins, wire and over 75 natural materials—everything except hand pruners. Space is limited to registered participants only; participants may make one wreath.
This workshop is recommended for ages 14 years and older. Workshop dates and times are as follows: Friday, November 24, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.; Saturday, November 25, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.; Sunday, November 26, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.; Monday, November 27, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; Thursday, November 30, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; Friday, December 1, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 pm.;. Saturday, December 2, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.; Sunday, December 3, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Monticello’s Children’s Woodland Ornament Workshops will take place on December 9 and 16 at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The one-hour workshops will let parents and kids, fueled by hot chocolate and cookies, craft ornaments from natural materials gathered from the woods of Monticello. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Advance tickets are required.
James Madison’s Montpelier will hold a Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Madison home will be decorated according to 19th-century customs, and James and Dolley will be home to greet their guests. Visitors to the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center will meet Santa, and enjoy hands-on history activities along with delicious food.