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Morning Call: Lehigh Valley Holiday Events: 13 Great Options

December 13th, 2018 |

Written by Jodi Duckett

The holiday season officially kicks off this weekend with retail madness and Christmas tree lightings. But truth be told, many holiday events already are under way. Christkindlmarkt, ArtsQuest’s annual German-style holiday market, opened last weekend, as did the Lehigh Valley Zoo’s spectacular holiday light display. Santa is already settled in at the Lehigh Valley Mall. And as we charge toward Christmas Day, the next five weeks in the Lehigh Valley are packed with entertaining events — concerts, plays, historic tours and more. Here are a baker’s dozen of not-to-miss events. For more events, see and check the Go Guide every week:

1. Light displays

There are a number of holiday light displays but the heavyweights are the Lehigh Valley Zoo Winter Light Spectacular and Allentown’s Lights in the Parkway.

The zoo features a walk-through display of more than a million lights with tunnels; themed sections, including a new “Toy Story” area; animated displays, music and photo opportunities. Meet mascots, Princess Belle and Princess Elsa sing on an outdoor stage. There are arts and crafts, fire pits, live reindeer, inflatable snow globes, holiday movies and treat stations with hot chocolate, s’mores and more. The display runs runs 5:30-10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, through Dec. 31. Info:

Lights in the Parkway is a mile-long drive-through display in the Lehigh Parkway featuring animated displays including tunnels and holiday scenes set to music. New for the 21st year are the addition of the famous wooden soldiers from Hess’s department store. Visit 5:30-10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, through Dec. 31, with additional days during Christmas week. Info:

2. German-style shopping markets

Chriskindlmarkt celebrates 25 years with the biggest event ever at the SteelStacks campus in south Bethlehem. There are about 150 artisans and vendors each weekend inside heated tents, including 25 new artists. The market also features live music, food, ice carving demonstrations, photos with Santa and an expanded children’s crafts area. The market is open Thursday through Sunday, through Dec. 23. Info:

In downtown Bethlehem, Christmas City Village features about two dozen wooden huts lining Main Street, dressed for the holidays and housing vendors. Shop the Weihnachtsmarkt for kiffles, rustic wood furniture, photography and natural body products. Christmas City Village is open Friday through Sunday, through Dec. 23. Info:

Ride the free Christmas City Trolley to experience both downtowns.

3. Christmas in the Christmas City

Historic Bethlehem showcases the history and beauty of the city during the holiday season.

Discover the story of Bethlehem’s beginnings in 1741 during a stroll through the downtown during the day (through Jan. 7) or a bus ride at night (through Dec. 31). Or take in the sights and sounds of the downtown on a horse-drawn carriage ride, through Dec. 31.

Explore numerous putzes, miniature depictions of the Nativity story with ornate figurines, animals, and building scenes at several churches and historic venues, including Central Moravian Church, East Hills Moravian Church and Edgeboro Moravian Church.

The Live Advent Calendar, the only one of its kind in the country, runs Dec. 1-23 at the 1810 Goundie House. At 5:30 p.m. daily, visitors gather outside the door and one walks up and knock. When the door opens, a guest from a local business or organization will appear, offer a short program and distribute treats. Members of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem will give a short concert Dec. 1 to kick off the event.

The “Trees of Historic Bethlehem” exhibit, running through Jan. 14, features trees at six historic sites decorated by the Bethlehem Garden Club that spotlight the traditions of countries around the world.

A new Christmas City Combo Ticket provides admission to Christkindlmarkt, “Trees of Historic Bethlehem” and six Historic Bethlehem attractions. Info:

4. The Nutcracker

Angels, flowers, snowflakes, a Mouse King, soldiers, a prince, a Snow Queen and a Sugar Plum Fairy all come to life in “The Nutcracker,” a beloved holiday ballet adapted from a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann and with an unforgettable score by Tchaikovsky. Two local dance companies and an internationally touring group present “The Nutcracker” in the Lehigh Valley every December.

First is Repertory Dance Theatre’s “Nutcracker,” at 2 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10 at Miller Symphony Hall, accompanied by the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts Choir. Returning as professional guest artists are Madeline Jazz Harvey and Mathew Harvey from the Carolina Ballet Theatre, and Felicia Cruz from DanceSpora. For the second year, Repertory Dance also will present “Let’s Go Nutz,” a confection of tap, contemporary and jazz accompanied by live music at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Symphony Hall. Info:

For its 25th anniversary, the Moscow Ballet presents a super- sized tour of its “Great Russian Nutcracker” 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at the State Theatre in Easton. The tour features leading soloists from prestigious ballet theaters in Russia, along with hand-painted sets and breathtaking scenic design. Local children perform in roles such as Party Children, Mice, Snowflakes, Snow Maidens and more. Info:

Pennsylvania Youth Ballet presents its 49th annual “Nutcracker” at 1 and 4 p.m. Dec. 16, and 2 p.m. Dec. 17 at Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem. It features a cast of more than 100, several professional guest dancers and a 48-piece orchestra, the Southside Sinfonetta. Info:

5. Holiday theater

Regional theaters add artistic enjoyment to the holidays with seasonal productions, classic and contemporary, serious and silly.

It’s the 28th year of Civic Theatre of Allentown’s “A Christmas Carol,” adapted by William Sanders and Lee Glassman from Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption. (Dec. 1-16).

For the second year, Civic also presents “The Santaland Diaries,” a one-man show by humorist David Sedaris about his experiences as a Christmas elf at Santaland at Macy’s Department Store in New York City. (Dec. 8-17)

Pennsylvania Playhouse in Bethlehem presents “The Happy Elf,” a family musical comedy by Grammy Award-winner Harry Connick, Jr. It tells the story of Eubie the Elf, a lovable fellow who wants to spread Christmas joy throughout the town of Bluesville. (Dec. 1-17)

With its production of the classic “White Christmas” at Scottish Rite Cathedral in Allentown, Munopco takes a musical ride back to the 1950s. The show is a song and dance extravaganza featuring music by Irving Berlin. (Dec. 2-3 and 9-10)

Touchstone Theatre’s “Christmas City Follies” brings mischief, merriment and melodies to Bethlehem with its 18th annual vaudeville-style show of sketches, characters and songs. (Nov. 30-Dec. 22)

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future get the hip-hop treatment as they visit Ebenezer Scrooge in “X-Mas Karol,” an original take on the holiday classic written by Lafayette College students and presented at Buck Hall. (Dec.9)

6. Regional destinations

If you’re willing to drive an hour or an hour and a half or so for a holiday adventure, the rewards are spectacular. Here are two great destinations:

Head west to Koziar’s Christmas Village, a winter wonderland with more than a million lights decorating buildings, gift barns, a lake and landscape in a valley in Bernville, Berks County. The walk-through attraction features trains, food and Santa Claus, through Jan. 1. Info:

Head south to Chester County and you’ll find Longwood Gardens, one of the premier horticultural display gardens in the United States. The beautiful A Longwood Christmas celebration is inspired by the splendor of France’s Versailles. Inside are fanciful topiaries, imaginative wreaths, ornate mirrors and more than 50 trees trimmed in classic holiday hues and sparkling crystal ornaments. Outside, colorful fountains dance to holiday music, strolling carolers herald the season with song and a half-million lights twinkle. There’s a fine dining restaurant, beer garden, train display and performances. A Longwood Christmas continues through Jan. 7. Info:

7. Holiday train displays

There’s something about model trains and Christmas, so every year model train organizations get creative with displays spotlighting local towns and businesses. Here are a few of the best:

Nazareth Area Society of Model Engineers annual open house, through Jan. 7 at 212 Main St., Stockertown.

Lehigh and Keystone Valley Model Railroad Museum holiday open house, through Jan. 7 at 705 Linden St., Bethlehem.

Black Diamond Society of Model Engineers Railroad Days, Dec. 2-Feb. 11, 900 E. Macada Road, Bethlehem.

There also are holiday displays in Allentown inside the America on Wheels museum and the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown.

8. Holiday house tours

There’s no better time to show off your decorating skills than Christmas, and if you want to see how others do it check out two holiday house tours.

The Governor Wolf Historical Society presents its 37th annual House Tour Dec. 2. Eleven homes and structures in the Bath area are decked out in their holiday finest. The event also includes a free family day on the historical society campus, with an antique jacquard coverlet show, kids activities, hearth cooking, colonial craftsmen and fresh wreath sale. Info:

The Bethlehem Historic District Association presents its semi-annual Holiday House Tour Dec. 9. Featured are nine properties, from Victorian townhouses to Civil War-era brick homes, plus exclusive access to Hotel Bethlehem rooms and entrance to the main floor of the Kemerer Museum. Guides will be on hand to provide the histories of the homes.

Immediately following the house tour is the 20th annual New Bethany Ministries Luminaria Night in many Bethlehem neighborhoods, including the Historic District.


9. Bethlehem Christmas Pageant

See a fully costumed re-enactment of the events surrounding the birth of Christ in the 39th annual Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant at 2 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10 at the Bethlehem Rose Garden Band Shell. The event is free.

You will see Joseph accompany the Virgin Mary, who will ride a donkey to the stable where Christ is born and laid in a manger. The angels appear and summon the shepherds who come with their offerings of sheep and other animals. The Wise Men and camels, with an escort of soldiers on horseback, arrive. Singers and a narrator tell the story.

10. Traditional Christmas concerts

The renowned Bach Choir of Bethlehem, founded in 1898, presents its annual Christmas concerts Dec. 9 and 10 at the First Presbyterian Churches of Allentown and Bethlehem, respectively. This year’s concerts feature the first live performance of the choir’s CD, “A Child’s Christmas in Bethlehem,” which offers spoken word and choral music from many centuries and cultures centered on the story of the Nativity. Info:

Lehigh University Choral Arts also continues a tradition with its “gift to the community,” its free Christmas Vespers candlelight concerts at 4 and 8 p.m. Dec. 10 in Packer Memorial Church. More than 150 singers of Lehigh Choral Arts are joined by brass, harp and organ. The program includes the celebratory and contemplative, hymns, readings and spirituals. Info:

11. Symphony on Ice Holiday Spectacular

For the second year, the Allentown Symphony Orchestra takes over the ice at the PPL Center in Allentown Dec. 14 for a holiday extravaganza. The orchestra and singers from local schools perform holiday favorites such as “Frosty the Snowman” and “Silent Night” and other works such as selections from “Swan Lake” while skaters from the Penguin Club perform. The performance benefits Phantoms Charities, which benefits youth and adults in the Lehigh Valley. Info:

12. Holiday concerts

The State Theatre in Easton has a big lineup of holiday concerts for every taste:

Jackie Evancho, the 17-year-old classical crossover singer, returns to perform “Hits and Holidays” Nov. 29.

The “Christmas Wonderland Holiday Spectacular” Dec. 2 and 3 features a cast of actors and high-kicking chorus girls in glittering costumes that will take you on a nostalgic journey full of favorite holiday songs such as “Winter Wonderland” and “Jingle Bells.”

Ten Tenors brings “Home for the Holidays,” which features Australia’s premier classical-crossover group in contemporary and classic songs from its album “Our Christmas Wish” Dec. 7.

“Merry Christmas Darling, Carpenters Christmas” celebrates holiday and other hits of one of the most successful recording acts of all time. The show on Dec. 14 is led by Michelle Berting Brett accompanied by a 7-piece Nashville band.

Lehigh Valley’s Wizards of Winter, featuring former members of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra and other rock powerhouses like Rainbow, Alice Cooper Band and Ted Nugent Band, return to rock in the holiday Dec. 17.

Dave Phelps, the signature voice from the Gaither Vocal Band, returns to perform Christmas songs backed by a full band Dec. 22.

And at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center, rockin’ singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge presents her holiday show “Merry Christmas, Baby” Dec. 7.

13. PeepsFest

The holiday season wraps up with New Year’s Eve celebrations, including ArtsQuest’s free annual family extravaganza PeepsFest Dec. 30 and 31. There will be music, performers, crafts and other activities inside and outside at the SteelStacks campus in Bethlehem, culminating in the dropping of a 200-pound lit Peeps Chick. Info:

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