Holiday Events in Boston 2014

Here's a roundup of tree lightings, live shows, shopping events, and more.

This is our 2014 roundup of holiday events in Boston. Check out the 2015 list.

holiday events boston

Holiday Pops photo by Olga Khvan / The Nutcracker, Santa, crowd photos by Margaret Burdge / Boston Common Tree, Christopher Columbus Park Trellis, Comm. Ave. Mall photos via Shutterstock

Believe it or not, folks, it’s almost that time of year. Before you know it, bells will be ringing, people will be singing, and you will be behind on holiday shopping.

One important thing to know as the holiday season approaches is that paying full price is for chumps. Each year, the Mayor’s Office and ArtsBoston team up for the Mayor’s Holiday Spectacular, so before dishing out the dough, check first to get half-price tickets to shows, dining discounts, and more.

Now, without further ado, here are a bunch of festive holiday events coming up this season.

* We’ll keep updating as more events are scheduled; feel free to add your recommendations in the comments below.

A Night of Gifts and Glam

Several malls in the area will host special events for the holidays. What’s a mall without Santa during the holidays, after all? One of the many events coming up is “A Night of Gifts and Glam” at the Pru, where you’ll find shopping discounts, style consultations, makeovers, and of course some drinks and snacks. Santa, by the way, still start hanging out at the Pru daily starting Friday, November 21. Photo packages start at $20.

Free to attend, November 20, 5-8 p.m., Prudential Center, Boston.

Elf: The Musical

Sure, you can watch The Nutcracker, Rudolph, or A Christmas Carol for a classic Christmas story (scroll down for more info on those). However, no one embodies the super-hyper, wildly contagious enthusiasm for the holidays quite like Buddy the elf. Don’t forget, “elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” Um, yum?

$39+, November 21-23, Hanover Theatre, Worcester.

Cultural Survival Bazaar

This one-of-a-kind shopping experience helps guarantee that your gifts won’t be the same as everyone’s else’s. Plus, you’ll feel better knowing that you’re buying quality accessories, decor, and other items directly from artisans and free-trade vendors. The Bazaar will set up shop in five different venues throughout this season in Cambridge, Watertown, and Boston.

Free to attend, November 21-December 21, various locations.

Winter Wonderland at Citi Wang Theatre

To help you get into the holiday spirit—and promote two upcoming shows, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas—Citi is transforming the Wang Theatre’s grand lobby into a winter wonderland. Every hour, performers from Rudolph will present a sneak peek, and all through the event, families can take part in free holiday activities, collect free samples (ice cream!), and more.

Free to attend, November 22, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Citi Wang Theatre, Boston. Read more.

Candy Land Tournament

Considering Candy Land involves no strategy whatsoever, this tournament is more of a play date than a competition. In fact, every kid will leave the 10th annual event a winner, because regardless of the results, each child who participates will leave with a Hasbro game or toy of their choice. Proceeds benefit Pitching in for Kids.

$20 per family or $5 per individual, November 22, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., Upper Rotunda (Second Floor) of Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston. Read more.

Blink! A Light and Sound Extravaganza

Also returning to Faneuil Hall this year is Blink!, a light show featuring music by the Holiday Pops. While the show runs throughout the season until January 4, the first performance takes place during the Faneuil Hall tree lighting. After a full day of special events—the arrival of Santa Claus, live music, and the aforementioned Candy Land Tournament—the ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS—but really, it’s so much more fun to be there.

Free, November 22, 8-9 p.m., Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston.

Trellis Lighting at Christopher Columbus Park

For a nice non-tree lighting event, head to Christopher Columbus Park. Rather than drape lights on an evergreen like everyone else, the Friends of CCP transform the park’s trellis into a romantic blue-and-white walkway. The lighting event includes music, snacks, and good company.

Free, November 24, dusk, Christopher Columbus Park, Boston.

Tuba Christmas Concert

For the 29th year—wow!—a large gathering of tuba players will serenade Faneuil Hall visitors with holiday classics. Who’d have thought “Silent Night” on tuba could sound so nice?

Free, November 29, 2 p.m., Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston.

Handel Messiah

This year, Handel and Haydn Society will present the 400th performance of George Frideric Handel’s masterpiece Messiah. H+H has quite a few milestones to be proud of in 2014—the organization is also celebrating its 200th season this year.

$25+ tickets, November 28-30, Symphony Hall, Boston.

So, So, So Many Versions of The Nutcracker

While Boston Ballet’s production remains the glitziest show of them all, you can experience the classic tale just about anywhere during the holidays.

$35+, The Nutcracker by Boston Ballet, November 28-December 31, Boston Opera House.
$25+, The Nutcracker by Boston Dance Company, December 6 in Andover and December 11 and 12 at the Strand in Dorchester.
$15+, The Nutcracker by José Mateo Ballet Theatre, November 28-December 21, shows in Duxbury, Cambridge, and Dorchester.
$25, The Urban Nutcracker by Tony Williams Dance Center, December 12-28, Back Bay Events Center, Boston.
$27+, The Slutcracker, December 5-31, Somerville Theatre.

Lowell City of Lights Parade

Lowell’s celebration will include a visit from Santa, food, live performances, a shopping tour on the “COOL” bus, and more. One of the crowd favorites—for obvious reasons—is the annual hot chocolate competition. Four-ounce samples go for 25 cents each—taste test to your heart’s content.

Free to attend, November 29, Downtown Lowell.

31 Nights of Light at Prudential Center

Each year, the Pru dedicates each day of December to a different organization, lighting up the tower in colors representing that local group. Each night is accompanied with special event with music and speakers, but for casual passersby, just know that the changing beacon represents a different cause each night.

Free, December 1-31, Prudential Center, Boston.

Commonwealth Avenue Mall Lights

Sure, the trees at the Common, Faneuil Hall, and Copley will be completely decked out, but for a quieter, more elegant display of holiday lights, take a stroll through the Comm. Ave. Mall, which is illuminated each year with thousands of sparkling white lights.

Free, December 1-31, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Boston.

Christmas in the City

The Seaport Hotel is teaming up with Christmas in the City for its third annual toy drive and holiday tree auction. The night will include a number of awesome Christmas trees lit and decorated by Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins, and also a “Boston Strong” tree in memory of Mayor Menino. The hotel will serve as a drop-off location where attendees can literally drop off their toys by handing them to the valet upon arrival.

$20 admission, December 3, 6-8 p.m., Seaport Hotel, Boston.

Copley Square Tree Lighting

Santa and Rudolph will be among the special guests at the Copley Square tree lighting, which also typically features other highlights like music and kids’ activities.

Free, December 2, 5-6 p.m., Copley Square, Boston.

Holiday Pops

A long-running tradition continues in December when Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops take the Symphony Hall stage to perform all your favorite holiday classics. This year, in additional to the regular show, the Pops will also perform three shows of Home Alone. Or you can ring in the New Year on December 31 with Bo Winiker and the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra.

$37+, December 3-31, Symphony Hall, Boston.

Boston Common Tree Lighting

This is understandably one of the biggest tree lighting events in town. The mayor, Santa, and other notables will be in attendance. Last year boasted live performances by Joey McIntyre, Blue Man Group, and Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Plus, don’t miss the annual Frog Pond Skating Spectacular, when pros and students from the Skating Club of Boston put on one of their two free shows of the season.

Free, December 4, 4-8 p.m., Boston Common.

Reagle Music Theatre’s ChristmasTime

The annual musical extravaganza is back this year with its gigantic cast to bring the holidays to life. You’ll see a glimpse of all the classics—Living Nativity, Teddy Bears’ Nutcracker, Parade of the Wooden Soliders, and Santa’s Workshop with over 100 children transformed into elves. How cute!

$35+, December 5-14, The Robinson Theatre, Waltham.

CraftBoston Holiday

Expedite your holiday shopping with a trip to CraftBoston Holiday, where some 175 exhibitors will be more than happy to show you their fashion-forward, gift-worthy goods.

$15, December 5-7, Hynes Convention Center, Boston.

Old South Church Christmas Craft Fair and Music Day

Right in the heart of Boylston, the fair at Old South Church will bring 30 artists from all over New England to display their offerings in all kinds of photography, fine art, jewelry, pottery, and more. The Boston Conservatory’s Boylston Brass Concert will take place at 10 a.m., the Christmas Organ concert at noon, then a final tree lighting and caroling will take place at 2 p.m.

Free, December 6, 9:30 a.m.-3:30p.m., Old South Church, Boston.

MassArt Made Holiday

This annual holiday sale features unique, handmade artwork made by the talented MassArt students and alumni. You’ll find everything from paintings, ceramics, jewelry, hand-blown glass, photography, and more. Proceeds from the sale will go toward MassArt artists and scholarships.

Free to attend, December 7-13, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Lobby of the Tower Building, Boston.

Beacon Hill Holiday Stroll

Beacon Hill’s annual Holiday Stroll is the epitome of charm. The area is decked out in all the bells and whistles to get visitors in the holiday spirit. And of course, the boutiques and galleries will be open for your shopping needs.

Free to attend, December 11, 6-9 p.m., Beacon Hill, Boston.

Seaport Holiday Tree Lighting

The Seaport’s growing up. Further proof it’s a real neighborhood is the establishment of its very own tree lighting celebration, with music, snacks, and a special mystery guest probably named Santa Claus.

Free, December 12, 4-5 p.m., South Boston Maritime Park at D St. and Seaport Blvd., Boston.

Holiday Sing

H+H’s chorus and children’s ensembles—along with a brass quintet—will lead a cheerful sing-a-long featuring all the classics. Yes, you will know all the words.

$20+, December 13, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Great Hall at Faneuil Hall, Boston.

Back Bay Ringers’ Christmas Memories

If the aforementioned tuba concert doesn’t sound like your thing, then consider experiencing your favorite Christmas classics performed by on hand bells by the talented Back Bay Ringers.

$15, five shows December 5-13 in Boston, Danvers, Worcester, Framingham, and Waltham.

15th Annual Santa Speedo Run

No explanation necessary. See photos from last year.

Free to be there, register online, December 6, 1-1:30 p.m. on Newbury and Boylston Streets between Berkeley and Gloucester.

Aimee Mann’s Christmas Show

Mann’s holiday variety show returns after going on hiatus for a few years. This year she’s back with her partner from The Both Ted Leo, Susanna Hoffs, Jonathan Coulton, and more.

$35+, December 9, 8 p.m., Wilbur Theatre, Boston.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

Even if you aren’t singing out loud, we dare you to resist not mouthing the lyrics by the end. Even as you read this, the words are coming to you. Then one foggy Christmas Eve… Stuck in your head now? Yeah, you’re welcome.

$28+, December 9-14, Citi Shubert Theatre, Boston.

SoWa Holiday Market, December 13 and 14

As soon as their Halloween market ends—their last outdoor market of the season—people start looking forward to SoWa’s annual Holiday Market in mid-December. The vendors here are the cream of the crop, and the lines to get in wrap around the building. Once inside though, the challenge is not to find something; rather, it’s to resist the temptation to not buy everything…for yourself. This year’s market is two days, and you can also take advantage of free gift wrapping at the Yelp table.

$5, December 13 and 14, Benjamin Franklin Institute, 41 Berkeley St., Boston.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical

Based on the 1954 film, White Christmas has all the trimmings—red ball gowns with white fur trim, cheesy Christmas sweaters, and dancing on a tiny piano.

$35+, December 16-28, Citi Wang Theatre, Boston.

Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights at the MFA

The MFA’s Hanukkah celebration includes a menorah lighting, olive oil tasting, and art-making activities—including dreidels, of course—as well as music and a film screening. The coolest part of the celebration, however, is the 8 Nights, 8 Windows installation, where visitors don Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets to preview a forthcoming art project by local digital artists Jeff Hesser, Mike Mandel, and musician Guy Mendilow.

Free, December 17, 6-9:45 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

A Christmas Celtic Sojourn at Hanover Theatre

Brian O’Donovan will host this evening of world-class Celtic music and dancing presented by WGBH.

$46+, December 17, 7:30 p.m., Hanover Theatre, Worcester.

A Bach Christmas at Jordan Hall, December 18-21

Corelli’s Christmas Concerto and Bach’s Cantata IV from Christmas Oratorio as among the pieces classical music lovers can expect from the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Back Bay Chorale Music Director Scott Allen Jarrett.

$22+, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. and December 21 at 3 p.m., Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, Boston.

Moo Shu Jew Show at Hei La Moon

This fourth annual event was designed to be a place for Jews to go on Christmas Eve. A five-course dinner—with no shellfish or pork—comes with four standup comedy acts. Dim sum, win some, amiright?

$45+, December 24, 6 p.m., Hei La Moon, Chinatown.

First Night

The annual city-wide arts fest that almost wasn’t last year will return with all sorts of free and discounted programming, ice sculptures, ice skating, and other fun activities as we herald in a new year.

Plus, here are some other shows happening around New Year’s:

Lake Street Dive, $35+, The Sinclair, December 29, 30, and 31.
Bad Rabbits, $38+, Paradise Rock Club, December 31.
John Oliver, $52+, Wilbur Theatre, December 30 and 31.