Our Family’s Winter Celebrations 2017 – In and Around Boston
December -with its month-long celebration of several holidays, is my kind of month.
This is what has been on our December Holidays list over the years (all links and dates updated for 2017:
First December weekend was about tree lightings and holiday street marches – as far as Stockbridge (the Berkshires) and Kennebunkport (Maine) to mark the beginning of holiday month. I promise to start early next year and let you know about these events ahead of time.
Our month of celebrations traditionally starts with The Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet (At Boston Opera House, November 24- December 31). Last year we attended media Dress Rehearsal and had a chance to witness the creative process and see the dancers up close and personal. (Read our report here). (This year we missed the dress rehearsal as we were getting into winter holiday spirit at Skate America in Lake Placid, NY (read our report here).
Watching the Nutcracker with the spirited holiday audience in a festively decorated Opera House, was a lot of fun as well.
The Nutcracker to the music of Tchaikovsky is a perfect “starter” ballet with good amount of “accessible” theatrical action, yet, according to Boston Ballet artistic director (and choreographer of Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker) Mikko Nissinen, “technically challenging” which allows dancers to “grow with the company and explore variety of roles and characters.” Last Sunday, December 3, principal dancers Eris Nezha (The Nutcracker Prince), Lasha Khozashvili (Drosselmeier), and Junxiong Zhao (Indian Dancer) were on stage, but production includes the full Company of 56 dancers, 10 Boston Ballet II dancers and 250 Boston Ballet school dancers. Each performance is accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s renowned score performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra, led by three conductors: Principal Guest Conductor Beatrice Jona Affron and guest conductors Kenneth Hsieh and Geneviève Leclair.
Did you know that Nissinen’s Nutcracker marks the first time Boston Ballet built a production entirely from “scratch” – or rather sketches by designer Robert Perdziola- by craftsmen from all over the United States?
This year, there is a special New Year’s Eve at The Nutcracker: Sunday, December 31 at 7 pm with a special, one-night-only version of the ballet, all-star cast and added twists and treats to the Boston Opera House stage and patron experience. Tickets at bostonballet.org.
On Thursday, December 7, from 10:30am-12:30pm, Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker will be visiting LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston. Activities will include story time with the Sugar Plum Fairy, photo ops with the Nutcracker Bear and more. If you can’t make it, the Center is having special holiday activities planned for the entire month of December (be sure to check out their newly displayed gigantic lego-built slide).
As to the Nutcracker , there are several versions happening in Boston, including the Urban Nutcracker (December 15-25, John Hancock Hall).
The fans of the popular TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will be delighted by the stage adaption Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: the Musical on stage at Boston’s historic Shubert Theater this weekend (December 14-17).
Update: We saw Rudolph the Musical on the opening (media) night of December 14 and my 8-year old daughter was very engaged during the entire 90-minute show (one intermission). She has not watched the original animated television special, but was easily able to follow the adventures of the misfit Rudolph and his friends. She told me that she loved “the energy” of the production. My ever-technical husband noted that they “did a very good job with the staging – the sets, the effects, the costumes- all worked very well together”. (for tickets, visit bochcenter.org, or call 866-348-9738; discounted deals – via bostix).
Gardens Aglow at the Heritage Museum in Sandwich
We love our summer and fall trips to the Cape so much that we were willing to drive out of town for the Gardens Aglow celebration at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich. On December weekends through Dec. 30, 4:30-8:30 pm (be sure to check the link above for exact dates) the holiday lights transform this largest Southern New England garden into winter wonderland with the distinct New England “heritage” flair.
Last year we visited on the opening weekend and saw the model train passing through Cape Cod Canal in the special exhibit gallery, admired traditional holiday table designs by local artists, climbed the antique car in the permanent exhibit hall, and of course rode the historical carousel until closing time. For details and tickets, check the website.
Holiday Pops Kids Matinees
Beloved Boston Pops Orchestra performs special holidays concerts with traditional sing-alongs and post-concert photo opportunities. Here is our report from our Boston Pops Kids Matinee last December (for December 2017 dates, check this listing: on Saturdays and Sundays through December 24th). For discounted tickets, try bostix deal.
Brookline’s Puppet Theater will have a holiday sing-along show for kids under 3 on December 20. For kids 5+, their school vacation week program offers Brothers Grimm’ Hansel and Gretel performed by National Marionettes Theater, the oldest continuously running marionettes theater in the country (we have seen several performances with them, they are amazing puppeteers brought up in the European puppetry traditions). For other holiday shows and showtimes, check full December calendar here.
Hanukkah at the Museum of Fine Arts
Hanukkah starts on December 12 (this year) and on the second night, December 13, Museum of Fine Arts Boston offers a free for all celebration night starting at 4pm with community candle lighting at 6:30pm. Enjoy musical performances, tours, Judaica collection, make art – in this one of a kind community celebration of arts and culture. Check full program here.
Blinking at Faneuil Hall
An updated FREE Holiday musical lights show Blink! will light up the Faneuil Hall Marketplace for five weeks beginning November 29, 2017 through January 1, 2018. The largest tree in the northeast, an 85-foot decorated tree has its lights synchronized to music – every night- every half-hour from 4:30 to 10pm!
This year there is also a new weekly series of performances held on four Saturdays in December in partnership with CBS Radio in Boston and local charitable organizations. (check Blink website for full listing of the concerts)
Frog Pond Skating at Boston Common is officially open!
Boston Common’s main Nova Scotia tree has been officially lit since December 1. When you come to America’s oldest public park during the holidays, be sure to stop at the famous Frog Pond for some skating lessons or just to watch from the boards. Check the website for schedule, rentals, and lessons (currently open!).
More Holiday Ideas:
Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations with over 100 historical properties throughout the state in their care make a special effort to prepare for the season. Here is a full list of holiday to do’s on trustees’ properties (including Boston Market events, Bradley Estate happenings and nature outings).
Christmas at Sturbridge Village
For families interested in learning about historical Christmas, Sturbridge Village (about an hour drive west of Boston) presents Christmas by Candlelight celebrations on weekends, December 2- through December 23.
Holiday at the Newport Mansions
Three of the famous gilded age mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, invite you to tour and admire holiday music and decorations. The three houses – Breakers, The Elms and Marble House (all are National Historic Landmarks) will be open daily for tours from November 18 through Saturday, January 1, 2018. Here is the link for tickets and schedules. And while you are in the city, go on a Newport Holiday stroll (weekend of December 10).
Boston Winter Wonderland at City Hall Plaza
One of Boston’s newest holiday venture at City Hall Plaza, complete with winter bazaar, skating path, chocolate and wine tastings. Entrance is free, but some of the tastings are fee-based (more here).
ZooLight holiday stroll in Stoneham Zoo (Stoneham, MA) promises a winter wonderland of trees and lights November 24-December 31 (5-9pm).
Edaville Railroad in Carver, MA, offers Christmas-lit train rides during its Festival of Lights (through through December 31). Trains run on an hourly schedule.
Skiing Day Trips
While a ski weekend with friends and family is always fun (read my 7 Tips for fun ski getaway) skiing day trip within 1-3 hour drive from Boston is a possibility. In the past winters, we enjoyed day trips to Loon and Gunstock Mountains in New Hampshire, and to the Wachusett and a “very” local Blue Hill reservation in Massachusetts (check snow conditions first, of course).
There is so much to do in and around Boston during the holidays, but if you get the cabin-fever over long holiday weekend and yearn go on a road trip, here is our Eastern Townships of Quebec winter weekend ideas; and several holiday ideas in New York City.
BOSTON’S FIRST NIGHT
In my family, we traditionally spend the New Year’s night at home. For families who like to ring the New Year on the town, the First Night/Day Boston on December 31, 2017- January 1, 2018 continues to be free and open for all and will feature fireworks and special cultural performances and celebrations throughout the city. The detailed schedule is on this website.
We are linking up with #Culturedkids and #TheWeeklyPostcard stories from around the globe