Last-minute ways to get in the Christmas spirit

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

Christmas traditions come in many forms, from holiday movie marathons to gingerbread-decorating competitions.

All have something in common: the creation of Christmas spirit, that heartening sensation so unique to the season.

Fill the four days until Dec. 25 with tradition-making and Christmas-spirit-creating.

Here are a few suggestions.

Gaze at lights

A 35-feet-tall evergreen and countless candles will illuminate Duke of Gloucester Street during the annual Christmas Tree Lighting presented since 1959 by Colonial Williamsburg and the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg.

Starting 5 p.m. on Saturday, Christmas Eve, the community will gather near the Historic Area's Courthouse, receiving candles and programs, with a Fifes and Drums performance and cannon volley soon to follow.

The event includes a reading of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from Colonial Williamsburg's Stephen Seals, caroling and candle-lighting. The event culminates in a countdown from Mayor Paul Freiling to the lighting of the tree in Market Square.

Expect an appearance from a special guest, too.

If you're looking for more lights, events-focused website Williamsburg Families has compiled a list of some of the best Christmas lights decorations in Greater Williamsburg—from the "Winter Wonderland" of more than 200,000 lights at 112 Timberwood Drive to the more than 13,000 bulbs synced to music at 3544 Meester Way.

The full list is available at williamsburgfamilies.com/best-christmas-lights-in-williamsburg.

Enjoy a movie

A mainstay of Merchants Square, Kimball Theatre offers escape from cold weather and crowds outdoors and into the theater's cozy, vintage setting. Though closed Christmas Day, the Kimball will screen Christmas classics right up to the holiday's eve.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without George Bailey's quest for meaning in "It's a Wonderful Life," with showings at 5 and 8 p.m. on Dec. 23. Another holiday favorite, "Miracle on 34th Street," is scheduled for 4:15 p.m., Dec. 22. Tickets to both films are $5.

A newer film, though a classic tale, "The Polar Express" (2004) will transport viewers to the North Pole with showings at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., Dec. 22, and 2:30 p.m., Dec. 23, with tickets for $5.

The Kimball also includes free holiday film showings for children and families from 12-2 p.m. on Dec. 23 and 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Dec. 24. Films include "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966) and "The Year Without a Santa Claus" (1974).

At Movie Tavern on High Street, lean back, sip some coffee and order a few cookies as you watch "It's a Wonderful Life" on the big screen. On Wednesday evening, the movie will show at 7:30 p.m.

See a show

For those with a love of live performance, Virginia Theatre Machine's two-man twist on Dickens' classic Christmas tale is a holiday favorite, and there are a few final chances to catch the 30-minute production. "A Christmas Carol," featuring Ed Whitacre and Mark Lerman, will wrap up its 2016 season in Merchants Square with performances at 3:30 and 5 p.m., Christmas Eve.

And new this year to the VTM roster is a free performance in Virginia Beer Company's outdoor beer garden. "A Very VA Christmas Carol" at 401 2nd St. will occur from 7-8 p.m., Dec. 22.

The Kimball Theatre offers more than just movies this week with "Crystal Carols," a performance of traditional and contemporary holiday favorites on a variety of global instruments. Check this out Christmas Eve at 7 and 9 p.m. for $12.

On Thursday at 7:30 p.m., the York River Concert Band will take the Williamsburg Library Theatre stage in a free holiday performance from a group of all-ages musicians. Another musical option might be the Historic Organ Recitals at the College of William and Mary's Wren Chapel. Rebecca Davy of Bruton Parish performs at 10 a.m., Dec. 22-24.

Visit Santa

Chances are, Santa already knows the contents of kids' wish-lists throughout Williamsburg. If you want to make doubly sure, or even if you just want to see the jolly guy, there are plenty of chances to see Santa through Christmas Eve.

At Yankee Candle Village on Richmond Road, Santa greets children in the store every day, with a professional photographer on hand to capture the moments. Though he takes a break from 2-3 p.m., Santa will sit in the store from 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Dec. 21-23, and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

In Merchants Square, Father Christams can be found "strolling the square," greeting passersby and spreading cheer. Wearing a long robe and a wreath in his hair, Father Christmas is a more traditional figure than the red-robed Santa, though rest assured, he's no less spirited. Visitors can run into Father Christmas between 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Dec. 21-24.

Other favorites

The largest light display in North America, according to Busch Gardens' website, is found within the theme park's popular Christmas Town attraction, filled with more than eight million Christmas lights. The park remains open from 2-10 p.m. every day through Jan. 2, except Christmas Day.

Grab a cub of hot cocoa, lace up some skates and take a few frigid laps around Liberty's Ice Pavilion in Colonial Williamsburg, now in its second year on Duke of Gloucester Street. The skating rink will be open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every day, including Christmas.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

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