The Yorktown Christmas celebration started in 1945 when a local minister held a community tree lighting ceremony. That one occasion eventually morphed into an annual two-weekend event in early December.
“People really enjoy coming to our holiday events. We provide a unique experience, being on the waterfront, with all the restaurants and shops around,” said Kevin Ritchie, events planner for York County Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Christmas Tree Lighting
The Christmas tree lighting kicks off the Christmas season for Yorktown. The event begins at 7 p.m. Dec. 1, at the Victory Monument, 803 Main St., with a performance by the Fifes and Drums of Yorktown. At 7:30 p.m., the Fifes and Drums will lead a procession through the historic village to Riverwalk Landing where music will continue and the tree will be lit around 8 p.m. Children and parents will want to stick around for the arrival of two surprise guests.
Christmas Market on Main Street
Come back on Dec. 2, for the annual Christmas Market on Main Street. The market is held in historic area of Yorktown from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
“It really brings the historic area to life,” says Mark Medford, market manager for Yorktown Market Days.
About 75 vendors will be on hand to show their wares, including holiday gifts, wreaths, arts and crafts, and some food vendors. Carolers will stroll among the booths singing Christmas carols to get people in the holiday spirit. And Santa Claus arrives in an antique fire truck to entertain the young ones.
Lighted Boat Parade
After shopping all day at the Christmas Market, make your way to the waterfront for a bite to eat and stay for the annual lighted boat parade at 6 p.m. Dec. 2. This well-attended event is in its 21st year in Yorktown, according to Ritchie. Fishermen, sailors and even the Coast Guard decorate their boats in hopes of capturing the Best-in-Show pennant.
Normally, between 20 to 25 boats line up for the parade.
“They go all out. It’s cool to see how creative they get,” says Nancy Eason, former event coordinator.
Besides the parade of floating lights, a beach bonfire with caroling, music, and hot cider round out the evening.
Eason said the event is “Norman Rockwell-ish. It still has that small town, hometown feel.”
The following weekend a special market is planned by the Yorktown Market Days. The market will include more than 35 local farmers, artists and other vendors. Holiday music is supplied by Ron Herrick while shoppers view the artwork and stroll through the booths. The market is open from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 9.
The Toyland Parade is held each year In conjunction with the Holiday Market. Now is the time for residents to show off their decorated wagons, strollers, bikes, pets — even themselves. Participants gather by the Riverwalk Fountain at 1 p.m. for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff as the parade winds its way around the Riverwalk.
The Polar Express, a trackless train pulled by a tractor, will give rides to children and other children’s activities will be held during this time.
“It is a really neat community event. It is a family event,” Ritchie said.
All of these events — and parking — are free.
Other holiday events
Christmas in Yorktown exhibit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sundays throughout the month at The Gallery at York Hall. The exhibit is free.
A Colonial Christmas from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily Dec. 1-31 except Christmas Day, at the American Revolution Museum. A fee is charged for this event.
The Wreaths Across America ceremony is at noon Dec. 16 at the Yorktown National Cemetery.