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'Tis the Season 

click to enlarge The Poughkeepsie Celebration of Lights takes place on Friday, December 2.
  • The Poughkeepsie Celebration of Lights takes place on Friday, December 2.

Classical Italian carols. Afternoon tea with the Claus family. Shimmering, lush mansions with ornate Christmas trees. Puppet shows of your treasured childhood stories. Holiday music from the Baroque period. And is that the Mouse King scurrying down the hallway?

During everyone’s favorite time of the year, the Hudson Valley mixes and mingles the best parts of Christmastime from the second that Thanksgiving leftovers are gone and December kicks off. Charming towns host twilight tours and candlelit walks. Specialty stores peddle delightful handmade stocking stuffers. Kids gets a dose of the stories that parents have loved for generations, thanks to performances of “The Nutcracker” and rides on the Polar Express. Plus, there’s a new few tricks up the sleeves of event planners this year—ice carvings, gingerbread monuments, and cozy trolley rides.  Whether you’re craving traditional carols, a gourmet meal, interactive tours or glittery, glistening pine trees, the Hudson Valley will keep you busy all throughout December.

Poughkeepsie Celebration of Lights
On Friday, December 2, Poughkeepsie hosts its annual winter celebration with tree lightings, parade, and fireworks. The festivities kick off at 4:30 pm in front of the Salvation Army at 19 Pershing Avenue for the first tree lighting. The parade begins from Main and Garden Streets to the second tree lighting at Main and Market Streets at 6:30 pm. There are two more tree lightings, and fireworks viewable from the Walkway over the Hudson at 7:15 pm. A free concert on the Bardavon’s Wurlitzer pipe organ at 7:30 will be followed by a screening of Richard Donner’s adventure comedy The Goonies (1986) at 8 pm. Seats are $5.

Christmas Music in Rhinebeck
George Conrad and Joel Flowers will perform their first-ever holiday concert, “Cathedral to Carol: A Holiday Celebration,” on December 29 and 30. Songs will include well-known holiday carols plus classical pieces like “Pieta Signore” and “Gesu Bambino.” On December 22 and 23, guitarist David Temple will perform holiday music that spans five centuries, from the Renaissance to modern times. Shows start at 8 pm. Tickets are $18. Center for Performing Arts, Rhinebeck. (845) 876-3080;

Holiday Events at Boscobel
Santa Claus believers will flip out over Children’s Tea with Mr. and Mrs. Claus on Sunday, December 11. The Missus will read storybooks aloud while Santa listens to the Christmas wishes of your little ones. Sandwiches, sweet treats, cambric tea, and hot chocolate will be served. Starts at 2:30 pm; open to children ages 5 to 12, accompanied by an adult. Admission is $25 per person. Holiday House Tours are held every day in December, except for Tuesdays, from 10am to 3pm. Guides will take you through the 19th-century home and explain yuletide traditions of long ago. Tours are one-hour long; reservations not required. (845) 265-3638 x.115;

Cold Spring by Candlelight
Bundle up for the self-guided walking tour of historic homes and sites during the 9th annual Cold Spring by Candlelight. Too much of a chill in the air? Dip into a boutique to get toasty and pick up holiday gifts or hop on the trolley to tour the sites in comfort (rides are only 50 cents each). Caroling and holiday music, storytelling and a visit from St. Nick himself will get you in the Christmas spirit. Don’t miss the ice carving demonstrations from 1 to 4 pm. Saturday, December 3, noon to 5 pm. Proceeds from “Candlelight” will go to help fund programs and services with people with developmental disabilities in Putnam County. (845) 278-7272;


Support local art, music, and business at the sixth annual Frozendale Festival in Rosendale. Take the kids to one of the two free showings of Mary Poppins at the Rosendale Theatre and then to the Old Man Winter puppet show at the Black Bird Puppet Theatre. Live music includes performances by Carl Welden and the Voce Ensemble, Emily Curtis, Andrea Maddox, and the Szelrosza band at the Rosendale Cafe, and blues by Karl Kelbaugh and the Big Blues Band. Don’t miss Light Up the Trestle at 6pm. Hayrides, Santa and his elves, a library book sale, handmade gifts at the craft crawl and cookie making round out this packed, festive day. Main Street, Rosendale. December 10, 11 am to 6 pm.

A Gilded Age Christmas at the Staatsburgh Historic Site
The Mills Mansion gets a rich, lavish makeover for Christmastime. House tours run Thursday to Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm. Evening hours on Friday, December 16 from 6 to 8 pm. Tours run thru December 31; closed on Christmas Day. Solve the Holiday Whodunit with your kids on Sundays from 1 to 4 pm. The “History-Mystery” lets kids explore the mansion and interact with costumed actors. $8 for adults, children 12 and under get in free. Reservations aren’t required. Old Post Road, Staatsburg. (845) 889-8851.

Hawthorne Yuletide Fair
This year’s Hawthorne Yuletide Fair includes a Gingerbread Contest and Auction. But these aren’t your regular ol’ run-of-the-mill gingerbread houses. Entries are as varied as airplanes, the Empire State Building, and my personal favorite, a house of gingerbread cards. Plus, you can browse more than fifty vendors and artisans, munch on delicious snacks, watch puppet shows, and sign your kids up for children’s activities. Saturday, December 3, 10-4pm. 330 County Route 21C, Ghent. Free admission. (518) 672-5808.

Holiday Events at Locust Grove
What’s better than a holiday tour of a beautiful, historic home? A four-course dinner to wind down the night. A Twilight Holiday Tour will be held on Saturday, December 3 at 5:30 pm. After strolling the grounds by candlelight, find your way to the Museum Pavilion for a historically inspired meal by Charles Fells of the Artist’s Palate. Tickets are $110; parties of eight are $800. Decorated Mansion Tours will be held Saturdays in December and the week following Christmas. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children under 12. Kids can search the mansion for the Nutcracker Prince, the King of Mice, and the Sugar Plum Fairy on Sundays in December. Once all the clues are found, storytelling, cookies, and cider will be held in the Museum Pavilion. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children. The “Nutcracker” event is held every hour, on the hour from noon to 4 pm. (845) 454-4500.

Polar Express
Ride the Polar Express along with Santa Claus and his elves on Saturday, December 3, from noon to 4 pm at the New York State Trolley Museum’s Santa Run. Hop on the Express again on Monday, December 19th from 5 to 7 pm. at the Hyde Park Station. The evening includes a reading of the “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” crafts, and refreshments.

Unison Annual Arts and Crafts Fair
The Unison Arts Center will be holding its 21st Annual Craft Fair on December 3 and 4 from 10 am to 5 pm. Handmade work will be shown by 50 local artisans, ranging from ceramics to clothing. Finish your Christmas shopping without breaking the bank—just about every vendor has affordable prices. Stoneware, hand-dyed jackets, furniture, and mixed-metal jewelry will all be on deck. Chat with a contemporary clockmaker, glassblower or leather artist, and pick up Christmas tree ornaments, handcrafted greeting cards and rustic wreaths. Keep it green by purchasing natural soaps and organic body products, hand-spun yarn, and heirloom seeds. Take a coffee break while shopping to nibble on everything from baked goods to Japanese food. Admission is $3 and includes a raffle ticket. New Paltz Middle School, New Paltz.
(845) 255-1559;

Winter Solstice Laser Installation
On December 22, a solstice celebration at Beacon’s Roundhouse featuring a laser installation by Linda Law at 6pm. As the Greenwoman, Law will welcome the return of the sun around a fire as a symbol of the Sun that will be lit with a traditional Native American fire starting ceremony. A number of other artists will join with the Greenwoman to offer ritual celebrations, including Norman Lowrey, Dean of Music at Drew University and his Singing Masks  and Evan Pritchard, Micmac Indian, musician and writer, who will tell stories, drum and sing traditional songs. A candlelight parade to the Roundhouse will culminate with the lighting of the lasers, creating a light sculpture on the falls below. The lasers will remain lit until New Year’s Day. Free.


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