This article was written by Allyson Plessner & Kristina Atsalis
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.
In just a few short lines, Robert Frost aptly captures the spirit of a winter season – especially on Cape Cod. Along with quiet beauty, a Cape Cod winter holds a multitude of holiday wonders. This issue of Cape Cod LIFE takes readers on a journey of the many holiday traditions that make this season on the Cape and Islands so special.
Start off your holiday season in true Cape Cod fashion with the annual lighting of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, taking place November 22. Last year, the monument was decorated with more than 3,100 lights. A great accompaniment to this event has been the lighting of the Provincetown Lobster Pot Tree, which normally occurs Thanksgiving evening in Lope’s Square at the heart of town. With the recent passing of this event’s beloved creator, local artist Julian Popko, the future of this unique celebration is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, the 13 successful years of this event is a feat to be admired, with last year’s tree including over 100 borrowed lobster pots, 120 red bows, 58 buoys, 46 plastic lobsters, and over 3,000 lights.
Skip the stress of Black Friday by doing some local shopping. You’ll find one-of-a-kind gifts at the 21st Annual Thanksgiving Weekend Artisans Festival in West Tisbury, November 24 and 25. Meet artists from throughout the Vineyard, learn about their creative process, and pick up treasures from handmade sweaters and soap to furniture made from reclaimed wood.
On the Upper Cape, don’t miss Heritage Museums & Gardens’ event, “Gardens Aglow,” featuring 12 and a half miles of holiday lights. The 2,000 strands of lights are accompanied by music and dance performances, holiday crafts, and a model train exhibit made of natural materials. Running through December, the event is one of many in Sandwich’s month-long “Holly Days,” which includes breakfast with Santa, caroling, a tree lighting, and Shop Small Saturday in support of local businesses, among many other events.
If you just can’t get enough of holiday lights, check out Mashpee’s annual Christmas parade on December 9. This evening parade features floats illuminated with festive lights and live music. The parade winds through Mashpee Commons and ends at South Cape Village.
Not to be left out of the holiday fun, Nantucket has its own special traditions. This Thanksgiving, the Nantucket Whaling Museum is hosting a Festival of Wreaths November 22, 24, 25 and 26, when the walls of the old candle shop will be adorned with handcrafted wreaths. From quilted wreaths and ring buoys to backdrops of fresh greens, the Nantucket community has busily crafted for this week-long silent auction. It’s a great way to support the Nantucket Historical Association, and add some local décor to your holiday collection. Also be sure to check out the Nantucket Festival of Trees, with over 80 creatively decorated trees, at the Whaling Museum from December 1 to 31.
In the Lower Cape town of Orleans, “A Seaside Christmas” kicks off on November 25 and runs through December 31. The town-wide celebration has all the holiday fun you could possibly want, from a pancake breakfast with Mrs. Claus to a holiday 5K complete with a costume contest.
For something relaxing between all these activities, check out “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” on Nantucket, playing from November 23 until December 9. Step back in time and experience the golden age of radio. The White Heron Theatre Company performs the beloved tale of George Bailey as a 1940s live radio broadcast with a touch of comedy. With a dynamic cast of only five members, this innovative show is sure to renew your holiday cheer.
The Holidays by the Sea Weekend in Falmouth, set for December 1-3, features caroling at the historic Nobska Lighthouse, a Jingle Jog 5K, lighting of the Village Green and Santa’s arrival by boat. The weekend wraps up with the biggest small-town Christmas parade in all of Southeast New England.
Nothing lifts spirits like music, so join the talented Nauset Regional High School Honors Chorus in singing your favorite holiday tunes on the Eastham Windmill Green, and warm up with refreshments from Hole in One Donut Shop, on Saturday, December 2, from 5-6 p.m.
Need some holiday décor inspiration? On Sunday, December 3, head over to Barnstable, where for the second year, the Barnstable Historical Society has put together an afternoon of historic home tours along picturesque Route 6A. This event will feature six houses elegantly decked for the holidays, complete with interior tours and a brief history by homeowners and volunteers.
What started as an attempt to keep islanders from fleeing to the mainland for holiday shopping has since become an integral part of the Nantucket holiday season for over 40 years. The Nantucket Christmas Stroll, on the first full weekend of December, features hundreds of decorated trees lining the streets, costumed carolers, and events such as art shows and special dinners at local restaurants. See a 20-foot-tall magic talking tree at the top of Main Street, and on Stroll Saturday, follow the town crier, dressed in full regalia, as he rings in the event and leads everyone to the wharfs to see Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on a Coast Guard cutter.
Merge the holidays with history by experiencing seven beautifully decorated inns and museums on Chatham’s Historic Inn and Museum Tour, Saturday, December 9. It’s part of the annual Chatham Christmas by the Sea Stroll, which kicks off December 8 and includes caroling, tree trimming and more.
A sweet tradition in Yarmouth is the annual Holiday Cookie Stroll to support the South Yarmouth Library, this year taking place on Saturday, December 9. Ticket holders collect special cookies at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod and Bass River homes in the heart of the Old Quaker District, and then enjoy hot cider and cranberry bread at the South Yarmouth Library.
The Hillport Gallery in Sandwich was opened in 2015 by professional woodcarver Doug Amidon as a place for local artisans to display their work. On December 10, see the gallery for yourself at their open house. Try your hand at woodcarving, listen to fun music, and enjoy some tasty refreshments.
For your next favorite holiday tradition, hop over to the Vineyard and embrace being on island time. Every year, Christmas in Edgartown puts together a fun-filled weekend that raises money for island-wide charities and nonprofits. The event will celebrate its 36th year December 7 through 10 with lightshows, a “Bah Humbug Walking Tour,” a lighting of the Harbor View Hotel Lighthouse, a family dance, a cookie contest, a Christmas parade and more. It’s a great way to enjoy island holiday spirit and support the local community.
The end of the year has come, and you need to celebrate. First Night in Chatham is a great family event, and this year the theme is “Oh Those ’60s,” celebrating the infamous decade with 1960s-themed performances. Purchase a button that gets you into all the events, start your day at noon with the town photo at Chatham Lighthouse, then head out to enjoy music performances, storytellers and even circus acts throughout town. The event culminates at midnight with fireworks at Oyster Pond.
Sandwich First Night is a similar family friendly (and alcohol-free) affair, with button holders enjoying a variety of art and multicultural activities, music and dance performances. While you’re there, don’t miss glass artist Michael Magyar’s “Giants,” gorgeous oversize light-studded figures found throughout Sandwich and East Sandwich during the holiday season.
Imagine starting 2018 on an island 30 miles out at sea. Nantucket really knows how to ring in the New Year, with events like the lavish New Year’s Eve Snow Ball at the glittering Nantucket Hotel. It’s a great reason to dress up in remembrance of the past year and in celebration of the one ahead. There’s a host of other events offered over the weekend, from nature walks to special menus at participating restaurants.
A brand-new year is finally here, and with it the Cape Symphony’s popular New Year’s Day Party, led by Conductor Jung-Ho Pak. Accompanied by confetti, balloons, and no doubt a few surprises, this sparkling event will feature singer/songwriter Jimmy Webb and vocalist Ashley Campbell as they honor the memory of Ashley’s father and Jimmy’s musical partner and friend, the late Glen Campbell. Let these talented musicians show you what the Cape Cod spirit is all about – and start 2018 in style.
Download and share these holiday events and lots more in our Cape & Islands Guide to the Holidays at ccl.social/holiday-guide17