Your Guide to Holidays Events in Boston 2015
With more than 40 tree lightings, Santa visits, shopping extravaganzas, and other festive events.
Believe it or not, the holidays are just around the corner, with preparations for annual traditions such as Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker and the city’s First Night celebration already underway.
Plus, the Mayor’s Holiday Special has already announced its list of half-price tickets to more than 100 shows, ranging from theater to dance to music to comedy, as well as dining discounts for restaurants around town.
Ready to start planning? Here, we’ve compiled a chronological guide to holiday festivities all over Boston—where to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts, see Santa, attend a tree lighting, build gingerbread houses, and more.
* We’ll keep updating as more events are scheduled; feel free to add your recommendations in the comments below.
Boston Christmas Festival
The Seaport is getting into the holiday spirit early, with the 29th annual Boston Christmas Festival rolling into town the first week of November. More than 300 master craftsmen from all over the country will exhibit and sell their goods, including home accessories, one-of-a-kind holiday decorations, clothing, and gourmet food. The three-day event will also feature the annual Gingerbread House Competition, tapping top local chefs to create edible masterpieces that will be judged by a celebrity panel and then sold to benefit Housing Families, a nonprofit tackling family homelessness.
$15 for adults, free for children under 14, Friday, November 6, noon to 7 p.m., Saturday, November 7, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, November 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Seaport World Trade Center, 200 Seaport Blvd., Boston, bostonchristmasfestival.com.
Ballet Day at Boston Children’s Museum
Boston Ballet is bringing all things Nutcracker and kid-friendly to the Boston Children’s Museum for a day. Visitors can learn how a ballet is put together during open dress rehearsals with Boston Ballet School students and then show off their own moves during creative movement classes with faculty. Boston Ballet’s maestro Jonathan McPhee will bring along members of his orchestra to sample music from the show, and other activities and photo opportunities will be available throughout the day.
Free with admission, Wednesday, November 11, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Boston Children’s Museum, 308 Congress St., Boston, bostonchildrensmuseum.org.
“Local Gifting for the Holidays” at Boston Public Market
This holiday-themed edition of the Boston Public Market’s weekly “Brown Bag Lunch” series will host Maggie Battista, author of upcoming cookbook Food Gift Love and founder of Eat Boutique, a story-driven online shop for food gifts. At the Boston Public Market, Battista will teach workshop attendees how to assemble food gift sets with a distinctly New England style.
Free, Friday, November 13, 12 p.m., The Kitchen at the Boston Public Market, 100 Hanover St., Boston, thetrustees.org.
Elf: The Musical
The musical version of the popular 2003 movie with Will Ferrel is setting up a limited three-week residency at the Wang Theatre. Join Buddy the Elf, an orphan who grows up on the North Pole, as he journeys to New York City to find his father and adjust to life among humans.
$35+, 22 performances from Tuesday, November 17, through Sunday, December 6, Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston, citicenter.org.
SMFA Art Sale
There couldn’t be a better place to scout out the perfect holiday gift for the art lovers in your life—or an addition to your own living room—than at the SMFA Art Sale. Featuring thousands of works by current students, alumni, faculty, and affiliated artists, the annual sale benefits student scholarships, paving the way for the next generation of artists.
Free to attend, Thursday, November 19, through Saturday, November 21, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, November 22, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., School of the Museum of Fine Arts, 230 Fenway, smfa.edu/art-sale.
Santa in the City!
Grab the little ones and get your photo taken with Santa, who’ll set up a Winter Wonderland at the Prudential Center for more than a month. While you’re at the Pru, you can also contribute to the holiday gift drive at Center Court and visit the free gift-wrapping booth set up in front of Barnes & Noble.
Photo packages start at $19.99, Friday, November 20, through Thursday, December 24, extended hours begin on Friday, December 11, Belvidere Arcade in the Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., Boston, prudentialcenter.com.
ICA After 5: Punch Bowl Pro
The ICA serves up some holiday entertaining tips with a workshop on creating the perfect batch cocktail. Samples will be provided.
Free with museum admission, Friday, November 20, 5-8 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, ica.org.
Blink! A Light and Sound Extravaganza
The light show featuring music from the Holiday Pops returns to Faneuil Hall Marketplace for the fourth year in a row. Festivities kick off on November 21 with the first tree lighting of the season, followed by nightly performances through January.
Free, Saturday, November 21, 7-8 p.m., Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, faneuilhallmarketplace.com/blink.
Trellis Lighting at Christopher Columbus Park
Every year, the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park drape the waterfront spot’s signature trellis with blue and white lights. As added bonuses, the lighting event also promises “music, fun, snacks, and good cheer.”
Free, Monday, November 23, time 5 p.m., Christopher Columbus Park, Boston, foccp.org.
Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite
In 1960, Duke Ellington released his jazzy interpretations of The Nutcracker Suite. This holiday season, Berklee professor Tia Fuller will direct the Rainbow Big Band in performing Ellington’s take on the Tchaikovsky classic. The evening will also feature small-group arrangements of holiday carols.
$8 in advance, $12 day of show, Tuesday, November 24, 8 p.m., Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, berklee.edu/events.
Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker
To prepare for the holiday season, Boston Ballet’s manager of costumes and wardrobe Charles Heightchew and his staff refurbish around 350 costumes for the company’s revival of The Nutcracker. Watch them sparkle on stage as if brand new when the annual tradition returns to the Boston Opera House.
$35+, Friday, November 27, through Thursday, December 31, times vary, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., bostonballet.org.
Christmas Countdown Paper Chains
As you recover from your Thanksgiving feast, head over to the BPL’s Hyde Park Branch, where you and your kids can make paper chains to help you count down the days until Christmas.
Free, Friday, November 27, 10 a.m. to noon, Hyde Park Branch of the Boston Public Library, 35 Harvard Ave., Hyde Park, bpl.org.
If you’re willing to make the trek outside of Boston, more than nine miles of holiday lights await at the Heritage Museums & Gardens. After strolling through the gardens, you can check out a model train exhibit in the Special Exhibitions Gallery, take in music and dance performances, ride a vintage carousel, and roast marshmallows over outdoor fire pits.
$15 for member adults, $5 for member children, $18 for non-member adults, $7 for non-member children, free for children under 2 years old, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from November 27 through December 27 (closed Christmas Day), 4:30-8:30 p.m., Heritage Museums & Gardens, 67 Grove St., Sandwich, heritagemuseumsandgardens.org.
EVEN MORE LIGHTS
Light Up the Row
The lighting celebration at Assembly Row will feature live music performances, as well as special guests from the North Pole.
Free, Saturday, November 28, 5-7 p.m., Assembly Row, 340 Canal St., Somerville, assemblyrow.com.
Boston Tuba Christmas Concert
More than 150 tuba players will gather at Faneuil Hall Marketplace for the 30th (!) year in a row to serenade the crowd with performances of favorite holiday classics.
Free, Saturday, November 28, 2 p.m., Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, faneuilhallmarketplace.com.
City of Lights Parade in Lowell
The parade marks the official start of the holiday season in Lowell, featuring magic shows, safari rides, photo opportunities with Santa, and the 8th Annual Hot Chocolate Competition, during which local businesses sell various flavors of hot cocoa for just 25 cents a sample.
Free to attend, Saturday, November 28, Downtown Lowell, lowell.org.
Special Hanukkah Storytime!
Every third Saturday and last Sunday of the month, the team at Brookline Booksmith hosts story time for local kids. Join them for special holiday edition shortly after Thanksgiving.
Free, Sunday, November 29, 10:30 a.m., Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St., Brookline, brooklinebooksmith.com.
Copley Square Tree Lighting
The bells of the Old South Church will toll once the tree is lit at Copley Square. Join Santa, the Boston Pops, and Rudolph at the ceremony, and then head over to the Fairmont Copley Plaza for story time and candy cane tea.
Free, reservations required for tea, Monday, November 30, 5 p.m., Copley Square, Boston, mayorsholiday.com.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical
The stage version of the beloved 1964 stop-motion animated TV classic returns by popular demand. Featuring a colorful cast of favorite characters, the holiday classic takes the audience on an adventure, including a visit to the Island of Misfit Toys, to help Santa save Christmas.
$38+, Tuesday, December 1, through Sunday, December 6, times vary, Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St., Boston, citicenter.org.
Celebrating 20 years with the Boston Pops this year, conductor Keith Lockhart returns for the orchestra’s beloved Holiday Pops tradition. Performances at Symphony Hall will feature holiday favorites, sing-alongs, and visits from Santa during all pre-Christmas concerts.
$31+, Wednesday, December 2, through Thursday, December 31, times vary, Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, bso.org.
Frog Pond Skating Spectacular & Boston Common Tree Lighting
National and international figure skaters will take over the Frog Pond for a skating spectacular before Mayor Marty Walsh oversees the annual tree lighting on the Boston Common.
Free, Thursday, December 3, skating show from 5 to 6 p.m., tree lighting from 6 to 8 p.m., Boston Common, bostonfrogpond.com.
Gifts + Glam
In addition to shopping and dining discounts, the evening at the Pru will feature entertainment, sips-and-snacks stations, and a holiday gift station, where style blogger Allie Wears will share tips on winter style and her picks for must-have gifts. Local yoga instructor Rebecca Pacheco will also be on-site to sign copies of her book Do Your Om Thing.
Free to attend, Thursday, December 3, 5-8 p.m., Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., Boston, prudentialcenter.com.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Bellini Brunch
Take a break from holiday shopping by settling in for a screening of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Brunch and bellinis will be served during the movie, and attendees will take home gift bags stuffed with offerings from The Street’s boutiques and eateries. All proceeds will go to the Boston Children’s Hospital League.
$50, Thursday, December 3, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Showcase SuperLux at The Street, 55 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, eventbrite.com.
Holidays with the Longfellows
A national historic site, the house in Cambridge was the home of 19th-century poet Henry W. Longfellow, given to him as a wedding gift by his father-in-law Nathan Appleton in 1843, as well as headquarters for General George Washington during the Siege of Boston. The first floor will be decked out in decorations in December, and visitors can join a tour to learn about the history of Christmas, as well as how it was celebrated by the Longfellow family.
Free, Thursday, December 3, 3-6:15 p.m., Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters, 105 Brattle St., Cambridge, nps.gov.
Chrismukkah at SoWa
Ninety artist studios, 60 boutiques and galleries, and 50 local artisans will set up inside a 6,000-square-foot tent for a three-day holiday shopping extravaganza.
Free to attend, Friday, December 4, 5-8 p.m., Saturday, December 6, and Sunday, December 7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, www.chrismukkahatsowa.com.
SPIN ON A CLASSIC
Leave the kids at home before heading to Somerville to enjoy this fun, burlesque, satirical take on the classic ballet.
$27, Friday, December 4, through Thursday, December 31, times vary, Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, theslutcracker.com.
Christmas in Salem House Tour
Tour nine private homes and four community treasure sites in Salem’s historic McIntire District, each of which will be professionally decked out for the holiday season. Out of courtesy for the homeowners and their historic floors, Historic Salem, Inc. asks that you don’t wear high heels.
$30 in advance, $35 day of, Friday, December 4, through Saturday, December 6, headquarters at First Church, 316 Essex St., Salem, christmasinsalem.org.
Regal Music Theatre’s ChristmasTime
Featuring an impressive cast of nearly 200, the 33rd annual musical extravaganza returns to the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, bringing back favorite holiday scenes like “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” “Teddy Bears’ Nutcracker,” and “Santa’s Workshop.”
$35+, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from December 4 through December 13, performance times vary, Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington St., Waltham, regalmusictheatre.com.
Harvard Book Store’s Winter Warehouse Sale
This year’s winter edition of Harvard Book Store’s Warehouse Sale is their biggest ever. Head to Somerville to get 70 percent off already-discounted used and collectible books, as well as 15 percent off other already marked-down offerings. It’s the perfect place to find a gift—or two or three—for the book lovers in your life.
Free to attend, Saturday, December 5, and Sunday, December 6, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Harvard Book Store Warehouse, 14 Park St., Somerville, harvard.com.
SantaCon Boston 2015
Leave the kids at home, don your finest red suit, and join fellow Santa impersonators on a holiday-themed bar crawl, with stops at multiple bars in Fenway, on Boylston Street, and near Faneuil Hall. When planning your outfit, don’t get lazy—according to the official guidelines, “a Santa hat alone is not enough.”
Saturday, December 5, starts at 12 p.m. at Game On!, 82 Lansdowne St., Boston, facebook.com.
Oliver Best Craft Centric Holiday Market
Oliver Best Vintage Market, a collective that recently opened inside a new pop-up community space in Allston, is hosting a holiday shopping event where you can not only find one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone on your list, but also meet the people who handcrafted them.
Free to attend, Saturday, December 5, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., POP Allston, 89 Brighton Ave., Boston, facebook.com.
We all love photos of kids with Santa, but let’s not forget the dogs. Bring your pups to Orvis at Assembly Row for photo opportunities with St. Nick. The event will support SomIDog, a volunteer organization dedicated to making Somerville and Greater Boston more dog-friendly.
$10 for digital images, $20 for image and in-store print, Sunday, December 6, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Orvis, 660 Assembly Row, Somerville, assemblyrow.com.
MassArt Made Holiday Sale
SMFA is not the only art school in town hosting a sale in time for holiday gift shopping. Offerings at MassArt’s event include hand-blown glass, ceramics, oil paintings, and jewelry by students and alumni.
Free to attend, Sunday, December 6, through Saturday, December 12, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., lobby of the Tower Building at 621 Huntington Ave., Boston, inside.massart.edu.
Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights at the MFA
After a successful inaugural event, an evening of art and activities celebrating Hanukkah returns to the MFA for the second year in a row. Visitors can tour the galleries to learn about the museum’s Judaica collection, enjoy musical performances, check out the virtual-reality art installation 8 Nights, 8 Windows, and join the candle-lighting ceremony in the Shapiro Family Courtyard.
Free, Wednesday, December 9, 5-9:45 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, mfa.org.
Assembly Row Celebrates Hanukkah
Another local Hanukkah celebration will be held at Assembly Row, where its Welcome Center will offer crafts and kosher snacks.
Free, Wednesday, December 9, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Assembly Row Welcome Center, 340 Canal St., Somerville, assemblyrow.com.
Urban Nutcracker returns for the 15th year in a row, but this time with a few new features—sets, costumes, and the recently launched Tony Williams Ballet Company. The modern spin on a holiday classic will bring 130 dancers from Boston’s diverse backgrounds to the stage.
$25+, Friday, December 11, through Sunday, December 27, times vary, Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley St., Boston, urbannutcracker.com.
A Christmas Celtic Sojourn with Brian O’Donovan
World-class practitioners of Celtic music and dance will join WGBH’s Brian O’Donovan for his annual holiday concert, now in its second decade.
$25+, Friday, December 11, through Sunday, December 20, times vary, Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St., Boston, cutlermajestic.org.
ARTS & CRAFTS
CraftBoston Holiday 2015
In addition to being an actor, Parks and Rec star Nick Offerman is also a seasoned wood craftsman. In his “Sawdust and Mirth” talk at this year’s CraftBoston Holiday, he’ll discuss the importance of handmade objects. The three-day event will offer ample opportunities to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts and meet with experts in the field of fine contemporary art.
$15 for general admission, $13 for seniors, $12 for students, $7.50 for SAC members, free for children under 12, Friday, December 11, and Saturday, December 12, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, December 13, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Hynes Convention Center, 900 Boylston St., Boston, societyofcrafts.org.
SoWa Holiday Market
With two weeks left until Christmas, head to the South End to find one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone on your list, courtesy of the SoWa Holiday Market. Lines are known to wrap around the building, but the array of handbags, jewelry, pottery, letterpress stationery, silk-screened T-shirts, and other handmade goods by New England’s top independent designers, artists, and crafters is well worth the wait.
$5, free for children under 12, Saturday, December 12, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, December 13, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Benjamin Franklin Institute, 41 Berkeley St., Boston, sowaholidaymarket.net.
Family Design Day: Gingerbread Edition
Every Saturday, BSA Space hosts two-hour hands-on workshops for families, introducing them to architecture and design. December’s holiday edition features tours of gingerbread houses built by local design firms, as well as a chance to build your own while learning design and decorating tricks. Two sessions will be held, one at 10:30 a.m. and another at 1:30 p.m.
$12 for children and adults, Saturday, December 12, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., BSA Space, 290 Congress St., Suite 200, Boston, architects.org.
Santa Speedo Run
Scantily clad runners—we’re talking only Santa hats, Santa beards, and Speedos—will once again spread holiday cheer down Boylston and Newbury streets. It’s all for a good cause, too—the money raised will go to Play Ball Foundation, which builds sports opportunities for urban middle schoolers.
$30 to register, must raise at least $400 in donations, Saturday, December 12, check-in begins at 10 a.m. at Lir Tavern and Whiskey’s at the corner of Gloucester and Boylston streets, run commences at 1 p.m., ssrunners.org.
Handel and Haydn Society’s chorus and children’s choral ensembles will lead a sing-along of favorite holiday carols and songs, accompanied by a brass quintet. Can’t get enough of H+H? The following week, on December 17, they’ll perform their Bach Christmas program at New England Conservatory.
$20+ for adults, $15 for children 17 and under, Saturday, December 12, 1 and 3 p.m., Great Hall at Faneuil Hall, Boston, handelandhaydn.org.
ICA After 5: All Wrapped Up
Get some last-minute holiday shopping done at the ICA Store, which will offer one-night-only discounts. Then, learn some pro gift wrapping tips while enjoying a free mug of cider.
Free with museum admission, Friday, December 18, 5-8 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, ica.org.
Somerville Arts Council Illuminations Tour
Head to Somerville City Hall, where you can enjoy coffee, hot chocolate, and cookies before embarking on a tour of houses in the neighborhood that have been decked out for the holiday season. Hop on a trolley or grab a map for a self-guided adventure.
$5 for children and seniors, $10 for adults, Saturday, December 19, 4:30-10 p.m., tours start at Somerville City Hall, 81 Highland Ave., Somerville, somervilleartscouncil.org.
The Moo Shu Jew Show
For the fifth year in a row, Hei La Moon in Chinatown invites Jews to spend Christmas Eve by enjoying an elaborate dinner—without shellfish or pork, of course—along with three stand-up comedy acts.
$80 for adults, $45 for young adults (under 40), Thursday, December 24, Hei La Moon, 88 Beach St., Boston, newcenterboston.org.
Disney on Ice: Treasure Trove
Kids will love this skating spectacular, which brings together favorite Disney characters—everyone from Snow White, the princess who started it all, to Rapunzel, the star of the studio’s 50th animated feature.
$10+, Saturday, December 26, through Sunday, January 3, times vary, agganisarena.com.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
The City of Boston Credit Union recently donated $30,000 to fund the fireworks display at the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, and so, the tradition lives on. Enjoy a family festival of arts performances at Copley Square—complete with ice sculptures and skating on the Frog Pond—as well as dancing and pyrotechnics as you count down to the new year. Then, on January 1, recover with discounted brunch and retail therapy.
Free, Thursday, December 31, Copley Square and the Boston Common, firstnightboston.org.