The Halloween candy’s almost gone, the costumes are packed away, and the porch pumpkins are giving way to lawn displays. It’s catalog season – no wait, it’s holiday season, the time of year when Thanksgiving is followed in rapid succession by Hanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, when amid the feasting, shopping, noshing and partying we celebrate faith, friends, and family. Religious and secular, traditional and spontaneous – Central Virginia holiday celebrations of all types begin this week.
Blessing Of The Hounds
Grace Episcopal Church in Keswick kicks off the season at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving – Thursday, November 27 – with its annual Blessing Of The Hounds, a centuries-old tradition imported from the mother country. The brief, thanksgiving ceremony (which will precede a fox hunt) will include hymn singing and prayers for the horses, hunters, hounds and foxes. Expect about a thousand people. Humans of all ages are welcome; pets are not. Cider and donuts will be served, and an offering will be taken for two charities that work with animals.
The annual blessing “has been going at Grace for about a hundred years,” says Father Miles Smith. “It’s done at a few other locations on the East Coast, but still it’s fairly uncommon. It’s about being aware of the gift of nature and creation, and being thankful for all of that. The hunters are there in their full regalia on their horses, so it’s blessing them in their form of recreation. It’s calling us to be mindful, in whatever we’re doing, of God’s presence.”
Two 5K fun runs will take place Thanksgiving morning, prior to the big meal. The Earlysville 5k Turkey Trot at 8:30 a.m. will benefit the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Walkers are welcome to take part in the festivities, and strollers are welcome at the back of the pack. Dogs are not allowed. Young runners can participate in the Free Half Mile Kids Run at 9:00 a.m. The runs will be held at 600 Earlysville Forest Drive, Earlysville, at the three-way intersection of Earlysville Road, Reas Ford Road and Earlysville Forest Drive.
At 9:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving, The Boar’s Head Inn will hold a 5K Turkey Trot to raise money for the UVA Children’s Hospital. All ages are welcome. There are 1400 spots available, but none for pets. Reservations are required.
At 9:30 a.m. on Friday November 28, the Barracks Road Annual Holiday Parade at Barracks Road Shopping Center will feature costumed characters, antique cars, live animals, colorful floats, local celebrities, and marching bands. The parade has been a Charlottesville tradition for over 40 years.
Down on the Downtown Mall on Friday, November 28 at 5:00 p.m., the City of Charlottesville and the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville will sponsor Charlottesville’s Grand Illumination, the annual lighting of the community’s Christmas tree at Central Place, and lights along the Mall. Children’s activities will take place from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Charlottesville Holiday Market
Saturdays through December 20, from 8:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m., the Charlottesville City Market at the corner of Water & South St. parking lot will be transformed into the Charlottesville Holiday Market, with more than 100 vendors selling handmade items including gifts, wreaths and decorations, pottery, jewelry, and home baked goods. As always, hungry browsers will find food trucks selling Mexican tacos, Caribbean food, dumplings and more, and local beef, chicken and turkey will be available to take home. There may even still be fruit and veggies.
“We’ll have produce as long as we have produce,” says Market Manager Stephanie Anderegg-Maloy hopefully. “I talked to some farmers last week and they have been picking and putting produce in the greenhouses to preserve it. I have vendors who pick green tomatoes and put them in the greenhouse and hope that they will ripen. It’s likely that we will have produce in December.”
For sure there will be singing. Among the caroling choirs already signed up this year are DMR Adventures, Western Albemarle Varsity and Henley Jazz Singers.
Monticello will hold its Second Annual Free Holiday Open House on Sunday, November 30 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., with Thomas Jefferson (Bill Barker) himself hosting, and live music in the parlor. The house will be decorated for the holidays, and visitors are invited to stroll through the first floor at leisure. Reservations are not required.
Monticello’s 4th Annual Holiday Classic 5K and Deck the Halls Kids Dash will take place on Saturday, December 6 from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. This family-oriented 5K begins at the East Walk of Monticello and ends at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center. Kids 12 and under can enjoy the Deck the Halls Kids Dash, a loop around the West Lawn within the shadows of Monticello. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations are required.
Monticello will offer Holiday Evening Tours on December 12, 13, 19-23, and 26-30 at 5:30, 5:45, and 6:00 p.m. The small-group, after dark tours will include the Dome Room, and will offer a look at how the holidays were celebrated in Jefferson’s time. Tickets are $45; reserved tickets are required. Holiday Evening Tours are not recommended for children under age 6. Portions of this tour are not handicapped-accessible.
Gingerbread in its modern form dates back to Medieval Europe. Gingerbread houses date back to the 13th century, and were so popular that professional gingerbread bakers had their own guild. If Thomas Jefferson ever made a gingerbread house, the result has been lost to history, but it’s fun to imagine the guy who wrote that “”Architecture is my delight, and putting up and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements” trying his hand at it.
Monticello’s Gingerbread House Family Workshops at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center will let today’s architects, amateur and professional, craft their own mini Monticello’s, or other designs to suits their fancies. The two-hour workshops are recommended for families with children ages five and up. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Hot cider and cookies will be served. The workshops will take place at the Smith Woodland Pavilion, Saturday, December 6, Sunday, December 7, Saturday, December 13, and Sunday, December 14, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Reservations are required.
For the 28th year in a row, Monticello’s Wreath Workshops will offer participants the opportunity to make beautiful holiday wreaths. Lou Hatch and Maggie Stemann Thompson will lead these three-hour workshops at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center. All materials (12″ straw wreath forms, pins, wire, etc.) will be provided, including a cornucopia of natural materials. Bring hand pruners.
Workshops will be held on Friday, November 28, at 1:00 p.m.; Saturday, November 29 and Sunday, November 30 at 9:30 a.m.; Monday, December 1 and Wednesday, December 3 at 10:00 a.m.; Thursday, December 4, Friday, December 5, and Saturday, December 6 at 9:30 a.m.; and Sunday, December 7 at 10:00 a.m. The cost is $75, and reservations are required.
Ash Lawn-Highlands and Montpelier
Just up the road from Monticello, James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland home is decorated for the holidays all December, with greenery and botanical arrangements that highlight the carefully restored historic home.
Over at James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, families can enjoy holiday entertainment, refreshment and children’s crafts, and take candlelight tours of the Madison home with “James” and “Dolley” themselves. Santa Claus will welcome kids on December 5, 12 and 13 starting at 4:00 p.m. “Dolley” will give tours on the 5th and 6th, and “James” and “Dolley” will lead them together on the 12th and 13th. The first tours will begin at 4:30 p.m. The final tours will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, and $10 for children under 12.
Virginia Discovery Museum
The Virginia Discovery Museum on the Downtown Mall will have pre-assembled graham cracker Holiday Houses for families with kids four and older to decorate at 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 13. Registration for these events includes museum admission for one child and one adult. The cost is $15 per house for members and $18 per house for non-members.
The museum’s Ornament Extravaganza on Saturday, Dec. 20, at 10:30 a.m. will give kids of all ages, with an adult, the chance to craft their own holiday decoration. Registration is required. The cost for the first ornament is $8 for members, and $10 for non-members. All subsequent ornaments are $5 each. Participants will also enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and a reading of “The Littlest Christmas Tree.” Starting on December 1, the museum will sell $10 ornament kits for home assembly.
The museum’s Santa Pancake Breakfast is on Sunday, December 14, with seatings from 9:00 a.m. through 1:20 p.m. The cost is $10 per person for members and $12 for non-members. Family 4-Packs are $36 for members and $44 for non-members. Children under 1 are free.
Also for children, Barnes and Nobles booksellers at Barracks Road Shopping Center will have a Hanukah Storytime on at 6:00 p.m. on Monday December 15.
The Paramount Theater
The Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall will celebrate the holiday season starting on December 7, with two performances of Moscow Ballet’s The Great Russian Nutcracker, at noon and 4:00 p.m. The holiday classic with the enchanting Tchaikovsky score includes larger than-life-puppets, growing Christmas Trees and life-sized Matrushka Dolls. Tickets are $177-$29.50.
Gian Carlo Menotti’s beloved children’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors returns to the Paramount on Saturday, December 13th, with principal singers from Washington National Opera, students from The Wilson School of Dance, and a professional orchestra conducted by Kate Tamarkin, the Music Director of the Charlottesville Symphony at University of Virginia. This hour-long inspirational holiday story is sung in English.
The Paramount’s free, 13th Annual Holiday Spotlight on Sunday, December 14 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. will feature hundreds of community performers in music, drama, dance, and more.
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843, and gave its first public reading in 1852. Today this holiday classic is perhaps best known in the numerous stage versions that amuse, frighten and stir audiences each holiday season.
The Nebraska Theatre Caravan has been touring A Christmas Carol since 1979, and will bring it to the Paramount on Tuesday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39.50-$29.50 for adults and $19.50 for children.
Over in Staunton, American Shakespeare Center presents twenty performances of A Christmas Carol, from Friday, December 5 through Saturday, December 27. Tickets are $44-$16. Opening night is pay-what-you-will.
Gypsy Hill Park Celebration Of Holiday Lights
Every evening from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., now through January 1, 2015, the 214 acres of Staunton’s Gypsy Hill Park will be aglow with holiday lights. Admission is free.
Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas
Wintergreen Resort will host a Holiday Concert and Sing-a-Long with nationally known storyteller and folksinger Bill Wellington at 6:00 p.m., Saturday, December 20 at the Gristmill at the Mountain Inn. Wellington will tell stories and sing original songs, plus favorites from various holiday traditions.
by Ken Wilson