’Tis the season for racking up a huge electric bill powering all those holiday decorations. Before you get all bah humbug about it, though, get some inspiration from the professionals at area menorah and tree lighting ceremonies. There are lots of opportunities to get into the spirit of the holidays before the big days – Dec. 12 for Hanukkah and Dec. 25 for Christmas – arrive. What’s more, most celebrations come with more than twinkling lights. Taste traditional Hanukkah sufganiyot, or doughnuts; hot chocolate; and Christmas cookies, and get your holiday groove on with some festive tunes. Here are 17 ways – in date order – to add sparkle to your season.
Photo: U.S. Army Garrison Red Cl via flickr
2017 Light Up
Fairfax Corner kicks off the holiday season with Santa and the Missus, horse and carriage rides ($3 per ride, to be donated to Women Giving Back), and entertainers such as balloon animal makers. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to the Women Giving Back, which supports local women and children in crisis.
When: 6 p.m.-9 p.m. on Nov. 17
Where: 4100 Monument Corner Dr. (Fairfax, Va.)
Tysons Corner Tree Lighting and David Cook Performance
See the former “American Idol” contest perform during WASH-FM’s “Kick Off to Christmas” and the annual lighting of the area’s biggest mall’s 51-foot tree. Santa will be there along with personalities from the radio station. Before the event, reserve a spot to check out Santa HQ, a digitally enhanced visit with the man in red. Note: The outdoor ice rink will be open for business if you’d like to glide around before or after the lighting.
When: 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Nov. 17
Where: 1961 Chain Bridge Rd. (Tysons Corner, Va)
City of Alexandria Tree Lighting Ceremony
Take a break from noshing Thanksgiving leftovers and check out the tree lighting at Market Square. The event includes a welcome by the town crier, the mayor and other city officials, plus a visit from – wait for it – Santa and performances by the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center.
When: 6 p.m.-9 p.m. on Nov. 24
Where: 301 King St. (Alexandria,Va)
Tree Lighting and Sing Along
Make your way to Reston Town Center to see Santa and Mrs. Claus head down Market Street to the tree in Fountain Square. Sing along to “O Christmas Tree” with The Reston Chorale and a brass quintet, and stick around for a 30-minute holiday songfest. Note: The Conservatory Ballet will perform a scene from “The Nutcracker” at the square at 5 p.m.
When: 6 p.m. on Nov. 24
Where: 11900 Market St. (Reston, Va)
Photo: Ted Eytan via flickr
CityCenterDC’s Holiday Tree Lighting
The posh mixed-use neighborhood will get the season started with performances by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., and the Cardinal Shehan School Choir from Baltimore. NBC 4’s Eun Yang will emcee the countdown to the lighting of the 75-foot tree. Little ones can enjoy balloon artists, face painters and holiday activities.
When: 6 p.m. on Nov. 25
Where: 825 10th St., NW
Norwegian Christmas at Union Station
A 21-year tradition, Norway will present a tree to Washingtonians as a symbol of gratitude for the United States’ help during World War II and of appreciation for the countries’ strong relationship today. This year’s theme is on Norway’s positive effect on the U.S. economy. Guests include Norway’s ambassador to the United States and Santa.
When: 6 p.m. on Nov. 29
Where: 50 Massachusetts Ave., NE
Photo: Anthony Quintano via flickr
2017 National Christmas Tree Lighting
Presented by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, this tree lighting marks the 95th anniversary of the annual event. This year’s performers include the Boys II Bow Ties Steppers, a group of 9- to 12-year-olds who have stepped nationwide, and Mannheim Steamroller, created by Grammy Award-winner Chip Davis, the highest-selling Christmas artist in history. Can’t make it in person? Catch it Dec. 4 on the Hallmark Channel. Note: The tree will be lit every day from about 4:30 to 10 p.m. and open for viewing starting at 10 a.m. Dec. 1
When: Nov. 30
Light Up the Wharf
Make the Wharf’s first Christmas special by heading to the waterfront for the tree lighting, hot chocolate and s’mores by the fire pit, holiday crafts and live music. While you’re there, check out the restaurants, shops and recreation options, or catch a show at the new Anthem music venue.
Cost: Free, although food may have a fee
When: 5 p.m.-8 p.m. on Dec. 1
Where: District Pier and District Square, 1100 Maine Ave. SW
Holiday Tree Lighting at Canal Park
Presented by the Capitol Riverfront business improvement district at the Canal Park Ice Rink, this event gives you a chance to skate with Santa, eat holiday treats, decorate ornaments and listen to carolers.
When: 5 p.m.-8 p.m. on Dec. 1
Where: 200 M St., SE
Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting
Leesburg is knocking out two holidays with one major lighting extravaganza. Local groups will perform. Come back the next week for Jingle Jam Concerts, Sounds of Christmas Downtown and the Annual Christmas and Holiday Parade. Check the website for more details and info on Rockin’ with Rudolph and Friends, a party for kids 8 and younger on Dec. 15.
When: 6 p.m. on Dec. 1
Where: 25 West Market St. (Leesburg, Va)
Festival of Lights and Carols
Head to Old Town Square to listen to live holiday music, eat s’mores and sip hot cider. Santa’s in the house a week later (Dec. 9) at the Sherwood Center (3740 Old Lee Highway) lunching with littles 10 and under for $6 apiece. Preregistration is required for that event, and tickets are on sale at the Parks and Rec office in City Hall, the Sherwood Center and Green Acres Center.
When: 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on Dec. 2 (tree lighting at 6 p.m.)
Where: 3999 University Dr. (Fairfax, Va)
5th Annual Tree Lighting at One Loudoun
While you wait for Santa to arrive (via firetruck, not sleigh), pick at refreshments and hot chocolate while the kiddos do crafts and listen to holiday tunes. After the tree lighting, Santa will be standing by for photos ahead of a fireworks show to close out the evening.
When: 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on Dec. 2 (tree lighting at 6 p.m.)
Where: 20626 Easthampton Plaza (Ashburn, Va)
Jingle Jubilee and Tree Lighting
Costumed characters, giveaways and performance by local musical groups punctuate the main event: Santa’s arrival and the tree lighting. There’s also a photo booth stocked with props, and a chance to snap a shot with Santa and some of his pals, including Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph, chief reindeer. Bonus: Bring donations of food, toiletries, cleaning supplies or cash to support homeless veterans in Montgomery County.
When: 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2
Where: 31 South Summit Ave. (Gaithersburg, Md)
Celebration of Lights
The 27th annual tree lighting ceremony offers lots of kid-friendly side attractions, including pony rides and a petting zoo, performances by local children’s choral groups, and the arrival of Santa and his wife by antique firetruck. Kids can stop by and give Santa their holiday wish lists after the lights go on. And did we mention that hot cider, hot chocolate and cookies will be provided?
When: 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on Dec. 3
Where: 754-C Walker Rd. (Great Falls, Va)
Photo: Elvert Barnes via flickr
National Menorah Lighting Ceremony
Presented by American Friends of Lubavitch, this annual event takes place on the Ellipse near the White House. It will feature performances by Dreidelman and the Macabees and the U.S. Air Force Band plus attendees will get hot latkes and donuts in addition to dreidels and menorah kits. Tickets are required for this free event, so go online to get yours.
When: 4 p.m. on Dec. 12
Menorah Lighting at the Wharf
The hottest new place in D.C. is kicking off Hanukkah by lighting the first candle to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
When: 5 p.m.-8 p.m. on Dec. 12
Where: District Pier, 1100 Maine Ave. SW
Light Up the Night! Community Menorah Lighting
Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia brings Hannukah to the community with a candle lighting, songs, entertainment, doughnuts and dreidels. Knock out some holiday shopping while you’re there at the ever-expanding mixed-use development known as Mosaic District.
When: Dec. 17
Where: 2901 District Ave., Fairfax
What lighting are you excited for this season? Tell us in the Comments section below.