Posted: December 19, 2017
18 can’t-miss Maine holiday events
Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Up Next: A newly arrived artist displays assemblages about loss in his Portland debut
It’s that time of year, when we’re faced with the annual decision of whether to rail against or lean into the holiday season. We think it’s easier and more enjoyable to do the latter because how good is eggnog? The good news is that there’s plenty of holiday events to go around: some free, some ticketed and all festive. So whether you give the holidays a bear hug or just a casual fist bump, we hope this year’s can’t-miss holiday events guide will brighten your days and nights.
Christmas at Victoria Mansion
11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, starting Friday through Jan. 7. Victoria Mansion, 109 Danforth St., Portland, $16, $14 seniors, $5 ages 6 to 17, free under 6, $35 family rate (two adults and up to five children). victoriamansion.org
Victoria Mansion is a spectacular place to visit anytime, but it really ups its game at Christmastime. Local designers decorate the rooms in glorious yet historic fashion, and touring it is like stepping back in time. You'll feel a sense of nostalgia that will put a twinkle in your eye, and if you're lacking in Christmas spirit, you'll leave with your heart having grown at least three sizes larger.
Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
4 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, through Dec. 31 (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve). Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 132 Botanical Gardens Drive, Boothbay, $12, $10 seniors, $6 for ages 3 to 17, free under 3, $30 for family (two adults, two children) reservations suggested. mainegardens.org
See what is arguably one of the most mesmerizing spots in Maine during the holidays. Visit Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and you truly will be walking through an enchanted winter wonderland with hundreds of thousands of lights strung through the upper garden in gorgeous displays.
Staff photo by Ben McCanna
Gardiner Days of Light
Saturday through Dec. 24. Various locations, Gardiner. gardinermainestreet.org
Gather one and all in Gardiner for many days of holiday-themed merriment. Festivities and activities include the storefront window-decorating contest, small business Saturday, Festival of Trees, Gardiner tree lighting, holiday art walk, parade of lights, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, Wreaths Across America, the annual Latke Party and the Christmas Eve shopping extravaganza.
Old Fashioned Christmas in Bath
Saturday through Dec. 31. Downtown Bath. visitbath.com
Bath is all about the holidays, and the city kicks things off on Nov. 15 with a Christmas tree lighting, Jingle Bell Walk and visit with Santa Claus. Then on Fridays and Saturdays in December, there's trolley Christmas caroling through the streets of Bath, free with tickets from the trolley stop on Front Street near City Hall. Other events includes a Christmas is Magic show, the Bath Salvation Army Christmas Craft Fair, the 45th annual Spirit of Christmas Fair, a community Christmas sing-along, the downtown Bath Open House and a Motown Christmas show with Pat Colwell and the Soul Sensations, among other activities. Do you need a little Christmas, right this very minute? Bath is ready and waiting.
'A Charlie Brown Christmas'
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Dec. 1 to Dec. 17. City Theater, 205 Main St., Biddeford, $20. citytheater.org
Few things evoke more nostalgia than "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and here's a chance to see a faithful stage adaptation of the classic animated special that first aired in 1965. Gather up your favorite gang of blockheads and head to Biddeford, where you'll see Charlie Brown struggle in delightful fashion to find the true meaning of Christmas. The cast includes Snoopy, Linus, Pig Pen, Shermy, Schroeder, Lucy, Sally, Frieda and, of course, Peppermint Patty. When the show ends, you'll be treated to a holiday concert, and it's likely you'll find yourself singing along. We agree with Charlie Brown; it never was such a bad little tree, it just needed a little love. Give it some.
Jeff Cameron Collingwood/Shutterstock.com
Portland Symphony Orchestra's Magic of Christmas
2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9, 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 10. Performances run through Dec. 17. Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland, $32 to $82. porttix.com
For nearly 40 years, Portland Symphony Orchestra has presented "Magic of Christmas" much to the delight of thousands upon thousands of revelers who have seen it performed. This year's show is extra special because it's the last one you'll see conducted by departing music director Robert Moody. You'll hear the symphony, along with guest choruses. Arrive an hour early and enjoy an organ prelude concert from Ray Cornils.
'Scrooge: The Musical'
7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17. Chocolate Church Arts Center, 804 Washington St., Bath, $12. chocolatechurcharts.org
Got a case of the bah humbugs? The cure can be found in Bath at a musical version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Grouch Ebenezer Scrooge sees the light with the help of the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley, not to mention ones from Christmas past, present and future. Songs include "Thank You Very Much," "I Hate People" and "December the 25th."
Photo by David Mention
4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Dec. 2. Old Port, Portland. On Facebook
It’s a pub crawl like none other in downtown Portland. Hundreds will gather donning the gay apparel of Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, mistletoes, Christmas trees, the Abominable Snowman, leg lamps, Yukon Cornelius and assorted elves. In a day of joyful “Santarchy,” you’ll spread holiday cheer as you make your way to several Old Port watering holes. You’ll also be lending a helping hand, as donations for Family Crisis Services will be collected. The fun starts at 4 p.m. at Pat’s Pizza, Lincoln’s, Dry Dock and a couple of other spots. You’ll then repair to Port City Music Hall and then there will be a group photo at the Monument Square Christmas tree at 7:45 p.m. From there, it’s off to several other Old Port establishments. Organizers suggest following the Facebook event page (Portland Santacon X) for further updates as the date draws near.
Photo by Samuel Cousins
8 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2. Winter Street Center, 880 Washington St., Bath. $15. brownpapertickets.com
Hire a babysitter for this one and have yourself a merry Twisted Christmas, courtesy of Studio Theatre of Bath. It's an offbeat variety show with comedy, music and improv. The sass will be flowing and your belly will shake with laughter just like St. Nick's.
Maine State Ballet's 'The Nutcracker'
2 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Dec. 3. Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland, $21 to $66. porttix.com
If visions of sugar plum fairies are keeping you up at night, you probably should go see Maine State Ballet's annual performance of "The Nutcracker," with its classic choreography, incredible sets and wondrous costumes, along with live music from the Maine State Ballet Orchestra. The 30 professional members of the ballet company perform with more than 200 local dancers.
Photo by C.C. Church
4 to 10 p.m. Dec. 7. Kick-off at Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., 20, 21-plus. eventbrite.com
It's become a Portland tradition, and it's a hot ticket, so act soon or you might miss out. Merry Madness is a very special local shopping night with a red-carpet welcome, commemorative Merry Madness reusable shopping bag, stemless wine glass (and one free pour of wine), snack bag with sweet and savory treats, and live music from The Nightcaps and Viva & The Reinforcements. You'll make your way on foot through The Old Port and downtown, and many participating businesses will offer free nibbles and beverages if you show them your Merry Madness glass. A portion of all Merry Madness ticket sales benefits the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, so you can brighten the holidays for local kids while having a heck of a good time of it.
Nov. 30 through Dec. 10. Various locations, Kennebunkport. christmasprelude.com
This year is the 36th anniversary of Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport, so it's safe to say they've got it down. Some events are free, and some require tickets. We suggest you wassail your way onto their website and make your own schedule. A few events we'll shine a Christmas star on: the Prelude Ale Release Party on Nov. 30, the Golden Chariot Ride & Cocktail Party on Dec. 1, the tree lighting ceremony in Dock Square and lobster trap tree lighting in Cape Porpoise on Dec. 1, the 12th annual Hat Parade on Dec. 2, Santa's arrival by lobster boat on Dec. 3, Fire + Ice on Dec. 8 and a whole bunch of craft sales.
Staff photo by Gregory Rec
Dec. 1-3. Downtown Freeport. sparklecelebration.com
Sure, there's plenty of shopping in downtown Freeport, but on this weekend you'll also see – and hear – a talking Christmas tree. Sparkle Weekend also features a holiday decorating contest, discovery forest and model train village at L.L. Bean, visits with Santa and his reindeer, horse-drawn wagon rides, parade of lights, a tuba concert and the jingle bell walk/run, among several other jolly options.
Staff photo by Derek Davis
Sweetgrass Holiday Gingerbread House Competition
Entries must be delivered between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 and 9. Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery, 347 Carroll Road, Union, free to enter and attend event. sweetgrasswinery.com
Calling all bakers, architects and creative folks, this is the Christmas contest for you. Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery is hosting a holiday gingerbread competition, and you have until Nov. 30 to register. The houses will be judged based on originality, overall appearance, choice and use of materials and difficulty of design. The winner will be selected based on people's choice in combination with a critique by an industry professional. So put your thinking – and chef's – cap on and get to work. Everyone is welcome to come to the winery's annual holiday open house on Dec. 9 and 10 between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see all of the submissions. Just don't sneak bites of roofs and doors!
Picnic Holiday Sale
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 10. Brick South Building, Thompson's Point, Portland, free. picnicportland.com
Once a year, the Yeti comes out to play and pose for photos during the Picnic holiday sale, which is marking its first year at the new location of Thompson's Point. Picnic is a juried craft fair with handmade indie crafts and vintage goods, along with a DJ, local food and drink vendors and, of course, photo-ops with the fun-loving Yeti.
Photo courtesy of PICNIC
Vintage Bazaar: New England Holiday Edition
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 17. Brick South Building, Thompson's Point, Portland, $8 to $13. eventbrite.com
Have yourself a very vintage Christmas by hitting the Vintage Bazaar New England Holiday Edition fair, which is making its Portland debut this year. There will be more than 85 vendors peddling vintage finds, repurposed goods and handcrafted wares. There will also be an array of food vendors and an abundance of retro holiday cheer.
'The Victorian Nutcracker'
2 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17. Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater St., Westbrook.
7:30 p.m. Dec. 22, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23. Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland, $23 to $58. porttix.com
Portland Ballet Company's "The Victorian Nutcracker" tells a familiar and timeless holiday tale, and it's set in Victoria-era Portland with sets and costumes inspired by the Victoria Mansion. You'll see professional dancers from the Portland Ballet supported by a cast of talented local youth. The Portland Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Robert Lehmann, will provide the music, and performances will be held in Westbrook and Portland.
Photo by Justin Day
Boat Parade of Lights
4:30 p.m. Dec. 16. Casco Bay, Portland, $10 for ferry ride on Casco Bay Lines. cascobaylines.com
Ten (dollars) if by sea, and free if by land. Either way, the Boat Parade of Lights is a spectacular event. Boats of many shapes and sizes will be festooned with holiday flair, and you can watch the parade from the shoreline — the Maine State Pier makes for a sweet viewing spot. Or, you can climb aboard a Casco Bay Lines ferry and watch it all from the salty sea. The ferry embarks at 4:30 p.m., and the parade starts 15 minutes later. Ahoy and ho ho ho!
Staff photo by Jill Brady