If you’re feeling a little bit Scroogy this season there is help for you. I’ve compiled a list of my ten favorite things to do in PA that are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit.
10. Take the family to a tree farm and pick your own fresh Christmas tree. It’s a family tradition that never gets old. No matter how nice those pre-lit practically pop-up artificial trees are, they cannot compete with the wonderful smell of pine that radiates from a fresh tree. Thanks for the memories Frog Hollow Evergreen Farm.
9. If you long for a less-secular emphasis on Christmas, there is no better place to make the nativity story come to life than Sight & Sound’s inspirational production of “The Miracle of Christmas.”
8. Join your neighbors and friends at one of the community tree lighting ceremonies. A thermos of hot chocolate is a take-along must. Check out this list of light up nights and other holiday events in PA.
7. The Nutcracker is the only ballet my husband ever sat through…and enjoyed. This timeless Christmas Classic with its beautiful sets can make tickets hard to come by. If you get a chance, see George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker by the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia. Amazing!
6. Bellefonte’s Victorian Christmas celebration is three days of old-fashioned holiday cheer. 2011 is the 30th year for the event and it just keeps getting better. Carriage rides, home tours, strolling musicians and a professional Dickens troupe of actors enhance the already beautiful Victorian architecture.
5. One of my fondest Christmas memories from my childhood is when the whole family would pile in the station wagon to go look at Christmas lights. I always wanted to sit the whole way in the back where there were no seats so I could see the lights even as we were driving away. So pack up the kids and hit the road – just make sure they’re securely belted in; this isn’t the 70’s.
4. Koziar’s Christmas Village in Bernville is a child’s Christmas dream. There are dazzling displays everywhere you look. Apparently, Santa likes it a lot because he’s always there. I know I’m not doing this place justice. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.
3. Wanamaker’s (now Macy’s) Christmas Light Show in Philly. The light show has been a Philadelphia tradition since the mid-50’s. The National Historic Landmark, Wanamaker Pipe Organ fills the air with special holiday music to make the experience even more festive.
2. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is called Christmas City for good reason. It was on Christmas Eve, 1741 that the Moravian settlement was named Bethlehem by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany. Today you can take one of the Lantern Tours of the historic city and immediately be transported back in time. There is so much going on in Bethlehem during the holiday season that it would make an ideal weekend getaway.
…and the #1 sure-fire, bet your bottom dollar, Scrooge-proof way to put you in the holiday spirit (insert drum roll)
The National Christmas Center in Paradise, Lancaster County. Seriously folks, if you come out of this place still feeling like Scrooge, I don’t know what to say. The 20,000 square-foot museum is the life-long collection of Jim Morrison aka Santa Jr. You simply cannot spend any amount of time around Mr. Morrison or his treasures without feeling like a kid at Christmastime. The displays here will take you back to your childhood no matter how young or old. My favorite display at the NCC is the Toyland Exhibit which includes a huge decorated Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling meant to recreate the magic of laying underneath the tree as a child. You can read my 2008 interview with Jim Morrison of the National Christmas Center here.
Oh, and one more thing. This post was meant to showcase things in PA that will make your Christmas, well, more Christmassy. One thing I have always found to be true, giving of yourself by helping others in need is the fasted way to find true joy at any time of the year.