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River Towns: Holiday Events 

click to enlarge Marchers in the Poughkeepsie Celebration of Lights parade.
  • Marchers in the Poughkeepsie Celebration of Lights parade.

The nights get longer, store windows offer an inviting mix of frosty confection and soft yellow light, and a dusting of snow coats the sidewalks: It’s the holiday season in the Hudson Valley. Enjoying the season’s festivities doesn’t require much more than just looking around. Crackling fires complement cold-fogged breath, and sweeping forest-green branches are studded with colorful lights. Whether an active participant or an interested observer, there’s lots to see and do this season.

Celebration of Lights
Poughkeepsie’s Celebration of Lights parade, tree lighting, and fireworks on November 30 offers a festive start to the holiday season. The whole community comes out to take part in the parade, including Poughkeepsie Mayor John Tkazyik, the Amerscott Highland Pipers, the Poughkeepsie High School Jazz Ensemble and Middle School Choir, members of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, and, of course, Santa. A screening of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure will be held at the Bardavon after the parade and fireworks.

Cold Spring by Candlelight

Start December with Cold Spring by Candlelight on the first of the month. Twelve houses and historic sites will be open for tours—either self-guided walking tours or by way of an old-fashioned trolley. Cold Spring’s stores will stay open late for holiday shopping and village restaurants will offer specials to attendees. Sidestreet carolers, holiday music concerts, visits from Old St. Nick, ice-carving demonstrations, and storytelling round out the day’s festivities. All proceeds from the event go to Partners with PARC, which provides funding to programs and services for children and adults with developmental disabilities throughout Putnam County.

Locust Grove Candlelit Tours

The candlelit tours continue at Poughkeepsie’s Locust Grove, designed in 1851 for Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph. On December 7 and 8, enjoy a twilight tour by candlelight through the mansion and grounds, and end with a historically inspired four-course holiday dinner presented by Chef Charles Fells from the Artist’s Palate. The menu will consist of recreated recipes from the archives at Locust Grove, with dishes dating back to the 1900s. Through the month of December, Locust Grove will also host decorated house tours. The theme this year is “Christmas Around the World,” and each room will represent a different country’s holiday traditions. On Sunday afternoons, children—armed with a world map—can search for clues to learn about the varying traditions celebrated at Christmas around the world.

Boscobel Festivities
The historic holiday events continue at Boscobel in Garrison, the Federal-style mansion of the wealthy Dyckman family. Twilight Tours will be held during the last weekend in November, and Holiday House Tours through December. The tour guides, dressed in authentic period costume, will share stories about traditional 19th-century customs to give an authentic taste of the holiday season of times past. While at Boscobel, catch one of the nine performances of “A Christmas Carol,” put on by the renowned Hudson Valley Shakespeare Company in the grand entry hall of the mansion. Cookies and hot mulled cider will be served at the matinee shows, and a holiday feast will follow the evening performances. Mr. and Mrs. Claus come to Boscobel for two dates in December offering seasonal sweets, fireside storytelling, and a chance for children to tell Santa what’s at the top of their Christmas lists. Vanderbilt Mansion, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Springwood estate, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill estate will also host holiday open houses at the decorated mansions.

Sinterklaas
For one of the more encompassing holiday events in the region, visit Rhinebeck during the first week of December. In honor of the Hudson Valley’s Dutch heritage, the town puts on a secular festival that brings to life the myth of Sinterklaas—a red-caped, jeweled-staffed saint—and his slew of sidekicks. The weekend is a joyous explosion of food, games, dancing, caroling, storytelling, and more. The Children’s Starlight Parade, where community members carry handmade stars to create a moving constellation in the streets, caps off the weeklong, citywide celebration.

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