Holiday Festival Calendar

No matter where you find yourself in Maine this month, you’ll never be more than a snowball’s throw away from a sleigh ride or cup of cocoa.

Mainers know how to celebrate the holidays — outdoors (bundled up), with family and friends, good food and drink, and a whole bunch of colorful lights. Cheer on the parades, munch the cookies, and maybe find some holiday deals with help from this list of statewide events, arranged alphabetically by town. Be sure to check the web or call ahead if you plan to travel from a significant distance, since times, locations, and other specifics may change.

Bangor

The Bangor Rotary Club presents its annual Festival of Lights Parade, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on December 6. “Light Up the Season” is this year’s theme, and the tree lighting at the end of the parade will do just that. The Bangor Band keeps things peppy for those lining the sidewalk beforehand. Before Santa hops on board his float, put in a good word with him and Mrs. Claus (and get your picture taken) at Santa’s Workshop at Bagel Central on Central Street from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. 207-947-0307. bangorrotary.com

Bar Harbor

Santa’s sleigh pulls up to Bar Harbor’s village green on December 5 for the 14th annual Village Holidays celebration. After Saint Nick lights the tree at 5 p.m., head to the Mount Desert Island YMCA for crafts, games, pics with Santa, and a ride on the sleigh. The adults can play after 8 p.m., when Midnight Madness takes over the town with discounts at many Bar Harbor stores (and bars and restaurants) until midnight. 800-345-4617. barharborinfo.com

Bath

The City of Ships celebrates the season with An Old Fashioned Christmas. The Patten Free Library hosts story time and ornament workshops starting at 11 a.m. on November 29, then Santa lights the tree at 3 p.m. in the gazebo at Library Park. From there, join Santa and Mrs. Claus on a Jingle Bell Walk to City Hall, where families can enjoy caroling, cookies, and a visit with the North Pole’s first couple. The Maine Maritime Museum hosts a Festival of Trees on December 9–10, with an “Over the River and Through the Woods” theme. On December 5, 12, and 19, jump on the trolley at City Hall and go caroling through the streets of Bath from 5 to 9 p.m. The Candy Cane Train leaves the Bath train station four times a day on December 13–14. It’s a scenic round-trip to Wiscasset, and you’ll never guess who’s aboard — yep, Santa (with elves). On December 12, have yourself a merry little shopping spree during the Downtown Bath Open House. Stores and restaurants open their doors from 5 to 8 p.m. to host music, swap some Christmas cookies, and spread holiday cheer. 207-442-7291. visitbath.com

Belfast

Rise and shine for the annual Downtown Belfast Early Bird Sale from 6 to 9 a.m. on December 6. Get early deals at dozens of local businesses and grab breakfast in the restaurants and cafes of the midcoast’s most happening downtown. In the evening, downtown galleries open up for an art walk, and the lighting of the town tree is at Post Office Square around dusk. Warm up with cookies, cocoa, and caroling, while Santa, the mayor, and one lucky child chosen from the crowd light up the tree to start off the season. 207-323-9100. ourtownbelfast.org

Bethel

Country Christmas in Bethel gets rolling even before the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone. Start the holiday cheer (and holiday shopping) on Black Friday with a trip to the Local Crafts and Wares Fair, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bethel Inn Resort’s Conference Center. Browse the work of several dozen local crafters slinging everything from quilts to pickles. On December 6, the Bethel Historical Society reenacts a candlelit Christmas at the 19th-century Mason House. Head over to the town common at 4 p.m. that afternoon to schmooze with Santa, tie some elf-style bells to your shoes for the Jingle Bell Run, then watch the lighting of the town tree. 207-824-2282. bethelmaine.com

Boothbay Harbor

Celebrate with some nautical flavor at the 29th annual Harbor Lights Festival. Don’t miss Santa and Mrs. Claus’s arrival by boat on December 6, followed by the tree lighting, caroling, and lighted boat parade. The following weekend, December 12–14, the Opera House at Boothbay Harbor hosts the annual Gingerbread Spectacular (with a Friday night Dough Ball kick-off gala), where gingerbread architects show off their creations (and you can bid to take them home). 207-633-2353. boothbayharbor.com

Camden

The holiday season officially arrives in Camden on Thanksgiving night, when the giant star at the Mount Battie summit is lit up for all to see. The following weekend (December 5–7) marks the beginning of Christmas by the Sea, Camden’s annual celebration of all things holly and jolly. Festivities includes a parade, tree lighting, musical performances, Christmas story time at the Camden Public Library, and of course, Santa’s arrival by lobsterboat (what, you thought he had a sleigh?). 207-236-4404. mainedreamvacation.com

Ellsworth

Start the holiday season Down East with Ellsworth’s annual Downtown Christmas Parade, beginning at 11 a.m. on December 6. This year, the parade theme is “Candy Canes & Christmas Cards” — two of everybody’s favorite holiday traditions. That night, dress up for the 23rd Poinsettia Ball at the Ramada Inn from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Proceeds from this yearly night of dinner and dancing benefit the Maine Coast Memorial Hospital. 207-667-5584. ellsworthchamber.org

Farmington

You will not be stunned to learn that earmuffs were invented in Maine. Each year, on Chester Greenwood Day, Farmington pays tribute to their hometown hero inventor. This year’s celebration takes place on December 6, with a parade, chili cook-off, and (yum!) a cookie walk. Also that day, the Farmington Rotary Club presents its annual Festival of Trees fundraiser at the Old North Church. Bid for beautiful Christmas trees decorated by local organizations and businesses and share in the holiday glow. 207-778-4215. franklincountymaine.org

Fort Kent

The Greater Fort Kent Area Chamber of Commerce welcomes shoppers to the 34th annual Arts and Craft Fair, November 29–30, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and December 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More than 100 Maine vendors are expected to display their one-of-a-kind wares in this juried exhibition at the University of Maine-Fort Kent Sports Center. When the fair closes on November 29, Fort Kent rings in the season with a visit from Père Noël and a Christmas tree lighting at 6 p.m. at the Fort Kent Public Library. 207-834-5354. fortkentchamber.com

Freeport

A busy Main Street in Freeport is nothing new, but it’s rarely as shiny as during the 21st annual Sparkle Weekend, December 5–7. The Parade of Lights begins at 6 p.m. on December 7. The fun continues with visits from Santa, a talking Christmas tree, horse-drawn wagon rides, train rides on the Sparkle Express, and a tuba concert (naturally). 207-865-1212. sparklecelebration.com

Houlton

Small Town Saturday on November 29 draws Houltonites downtown for sales at local shops, horse-drawn carriage rides, ornament-making workshops, and other kids’ activities, starting at noon. Then the annual Holiday Light Parade gets rolling at 6 p.m., culminating at Houlton’s Market Square with a tree lighting and visit from Santa. 207-532-4216. greaterhoulton.com

The Kennebunks

On the strength of the Kennebunks’ Christmas Prelude festival, HGTV once called Kennebunkport the #2 Christmas Town in America (we’re still gunnin’ for you, New Orleans). This year’s celebration runs December 2–14, with the tree lighting ceremony in Dock Square at 5:30 p.m. on December 5. And at 7 p.m., watch a different kind of tree light up the night at the Cape Porpoise lobster trap tree lighting. Other Prelude events include a live nativity, bonfire, holiday music, shopping, craft fairs and workshops, historic tours, seashore trolley rides, raffles, art shows, breakfasts (and photo ops) with the Clauses, and a full menu of festive food: from lobster bakes and whoopie pies to a blueberry pancake breakfast. 207-967-0857. christmasprelude.com

Lewiston-Auburn

The Lewiston Holiday Celebration Committee and Auburn Business Association join forces to present the Twin Cities Holiday Celebration. The main event is the Parade of Lights, which begins at 6 p.m. at Festival Plaza in Auburn on December 3. Festive floats and marching bands make their way into Lewiston, culminating with a lighting of the tree and menorah, carolers, free cocoa and treats, photos with Santa, wagon rides, and more. 207-513-3000. lewistonmaine.gov; auburnmaine.org

Lincolnville Beach

Santa never forgets this sandy spot on the midcoast — he’ll be pulling up to the beach in a fire truck at 4 p.m. on December 6. Stick around for a tree lighting, bonfire, and sing-along. 207-236-4404. lincolnvillemaine.com

Ogunquit

Ogunquit’s holiday sparkle makes it a natural pick for our cover: the town whose name means “beautiful place by the sea” is only more so during the holidays, when it’s lit up and draped with soft swells of snow. For 27 years, Ogunquit has rung in the holidays with three days of Christmas by the Sea, and this year’s event finds holiday entertainment spread out across town from December 12–14. On December 12, the holiday parade takes to the streets from Main Beach at 3 p.m., culminating in the lighting of the town’s festively gaudy tree at Perkins Cove (stay for caroling, cider, and cookies). Santa arrives for pictures at the fire station on the morning of December 13. Other Christmas by the Sea events include a live nativity and concerts at the Ogunquit Baptist Church, a polar plunge at Main Beach, wandering carolers and minstrels, and multiple arts and craft fairs on Saturday — one at the town fire station and another next door at the Dunaway Center. 207-646-2939. visitogunquit.org

Old Orchard Beach

Holiday cheer abounds at Christmas by the Sea on December 7. The parade begins at 1 p.m. on Old Orchard Street, and after Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on a fire truck, there’s more fun to be had: hayrides, trolley rides, face painting, hot chocolate, a bonfire, caroling on the beach, and a chance to say hi to Santa’s pals Frosty and Rudolph. 207-934-2500. oldorchardbeachmaine.com

Portland

Portland gets into the spirit with Light Up Your Holidays, a month-long celebration that starts with the Christmas tree lighting at 5:30 p.m. on November 28 in Monument Square. Even better than Black Friday is Shop for a Cause Day on November 29, when 40 to 50 businesses in downtown Portland donate a portion of their sales to fight substance abuse with Maine’s Day One organization. That weekend also kicks off a month of free horse-drawn carriage rides around downtown from Monument Square on Saturdays (2 to 6 p.m.) and Sundays (1 to 5 p.m.). Wrap up holiday shopping while enjoying some cheer at Merry Madness on December 11 from 5 to 10 p.m. Stop by a heated tent on Congress Square to grab a filled wine glass (and enjoy some live music and refreshments), then hit Portland’s downtown shops, and the merchants will keep your glass filled. On December 5, Congress Street closes to traffic in the Arts District from 6 to 8 p.m. for a special holiday edition of the First Friday Art Walk (cue the snowball fights). 207-772-6828. portlandmaine.com

Presque Isle

Kick off Christmas in The County with the 25th annual Holiday Light Parade at 6 p.m. on December 6. Enjoy music, floats, and hot chocolate as the parade moves from University of Maine at Presque Isle to where North Street meets Main Street. 207-764-6561. pichamber.com

Rangeley

Start your lakeside holiday in Rangeley on December 5, when the Lakeside Theater shows a slate of cinematic holiday classics. Then, get up early for breakfast with Santa on December 6 from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Wilhelm Reich Museum. At 5 p.m. that evening, bid on wreaths, trees, and other items at the Festival of Trees silent auction and community party, organized by the Rangeley Chamber of Commerce and the Rangeley Rotary Club. And don’t forget to shop local during Mountain Holly Days (December 11–14), when merchants offer holiday specials and everyone can enjoy raffles, open houses, refreshments, caroling, and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. 207-864-5571. rangeleymaine.com

Rockland

Rockland Main Street sponsors this lobster town’s annual Festival of Lights Celebration from November 28–30. Watch Santa arrive at the public landing by Coast Guard boat at 12 p.m. on November 28. At 6 p.m., Santa will light the lobster trap tree (cocoa and cookies abound). On November 29, there are hayrides during the day and a few dozen lighted floats parading down Main Street from 6 to 8 p.m. (the float that solicits the most donated canned goods will be crowned the parade’s best). If you want to put in a good word with Santa, join him for breakfast at the Chowder House on Sunday morning. 207-593-6093. rocklandmainstreet.com

Wells

Hosted by the Wells Chamber of Commerce, the annual Southern Maine Christmas Parade is taking a second shot at its 29th running, after last year’s event was snowed out. The resurrected theme is “A Storybook Christmas,” and things get rolling at 2 p.m. on December 14. The parade proceeds north on Route 1, from Wells Plaza parking lot to Wells Junior High School. Don’t forget to look out for an appearance by Santa Claus — plus marching bands, the Gym Dandies unicyclists, elves with candy, and more. 207-646-2451. southernmaineparade.com

Yarmouth

Yarmouth is lit with Yuletide excitement starting on December 6. First, the town kicks off the holidays with a craft fair during the day at North Yarmouth Academy. Then, make your way to the 34th annual tree lighting at 5 p.m. on Yarmouth’s Town Hall Memorial Green. Once the tree is sparkling, sing carols with the Yarmouth High School choir, and visit with Santa from 6 to 7 p.m. 207-846-2406. yarmouthcommunityservices.org

York

One of the state’s more classic holiday kick-off events, the annual Lighting of the Nubble on November 29 starts at 5 p.m. at Sohier Park. Revelers can enjoy cookies, hot chocolate, music, and a visit from Santa before the countdown to the lighting begins. On December 6, the 23rd annual Festival of Lights offers a full day of holiday shenanigans, including breakfast with Santa, craft fairs, church suppers, and a holiday parade. 207-363-1040. gatewaytomaine.org


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