Traditions abound this season and bring to life beloved musical works and plays to brighten the spirits in this time of year when sunlight is limited and the world seems dark.
In fact two popular seasonal presentations were born in a personal darkness but became bright holiday gifts that lift the spirit.
“A Christmas Carol” easily comes to mind. The 1843 story of a cold-hearted miser who, after a personal journey, sees the inner light and opens his heart and wallet to others, is rooted in Charles Dickens’ own personal experience with poverty. It also touches on the horrors of the child labor laws of his era.
And the 18th century “Messiah” was born during a dark time in the composer George Frideric Handel’s life. When he started working on his 1741 masterpiece, originally written for an Easter presentation, the composer was dealing with both a sagging career and a serious illness. But when he completed the famous “Hallelujah” chorus section, he sensed that something an awakening and wrote, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.” When the work became a critical and box office success, he gave the money to charities to help the infirm, incarcerated, and orphaned. “I have myself been a very sick man and am now cured,” he said. “I was a prisoner, and have been set free.”
And while the personal testimony by the works’ creators makes these beloved works essential components of the holidays, it is the artistry of the presenters that brings them and other holiday offerings to life.
So have a look at the bounty of performances presented by world-class artists that make this region one of the most culturally rich areas in the state — a holiday gift that continues all year.
Yule Time Carols & More
Boheme Opera of New Jersey highlights its connection to Trenton — where it was founded more than 31 years ago — with a presentation of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at Immaculate Conception Church in Trenton’s Chambersburg section on Saturday, December 7, at 6 p.m. Gian Carlo Menotti’s 1951 Christmas opera of a disabled boy’s encounter with the Three Magi is noted for being the first opera created especially for national television broadcast. Read more on the opera’s history here.
The Boheme production features young professionals working on various regional stages. Trenton native and company co-founder Joseph Pucciatti conducts the Boheme Opera NJ Chamber Orchestra and Chorus. Also on the program is Antonio Vivaldi’s sacred choral work “Gloria.” $25. Immaculate Conception Church, 540 Chestnut Avenue, Trenton. www.bohemeopera.com
The Newark Boys Chorus brings its “‘Tis the Season Holiday Concert” to Princeton’s Nassau Presbyterian Church, on Saturday, December 7, at 4 p.m. The internationally respected urban choir program includes American composer Stephen Mager’s “Tapestry of the Holy Birth” along with holiday favorites. Its leader, Paul Chapin, was a longtime educator in the Princeton Public Schools before taking the Newark job. Admission is a free will offering. Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street, Princeton. www.nbcs.us
Bravura Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual holiday concert at Princeton Alliance Church takes place on Sunday, December 8, at 7 p.m. Founder Chiu-Tze Lin leads the orchestra of professional, amateur, and student musicians through a program featuring selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” Rimsky Korsakov’s “Christmas Eve Suite,” and a Christmas and Hanukkah music sing-a-long. A highlight is 18-year-old violinist Mia Huang’s presentation of the introduction to Saint-Saens’s “Rondo Capriccioso.” $15 to $30. Princeton Alliance Church, 20 Schalks Crossing Road, Plainsboro. www.bravuraphil.org
The Princeton University Chapel opens its doors to the community to hear solemn and joyful seasonal music — and an opportunity to sing as well. First, the annual Vespers Concert this year is “The Courage to Say Yes — The Audacity of Mary,” scheduled for Sunday, December 8, at 2:30 p.m. The Princeton University Chapel Choir and orchestra perform a program of music and poetry on the theme of Mary and mothers. Admission is free.
Next, on Monday, December 9, at 7:30 p.m., the community is welcome to make a “joyful noise” by singing selections of Handel’s “Messiah” in the annual “Messiah Sing.” Traditionally conducted by chapel music director Penna Rose, the event involves members of the chapel choir and organ, string, and brass accompaniment. Scores are available at the door, but participants are invited to bring their own. Admission is $5 for the general public.
And finally there’s the Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols on Wednesday, December 11, at 7:30 p.m. The event features a combination of spiritual readings and seasonal songs performed by the Chapel Choir, Glee Club, and university a cappella groups. Admission is free. Princeton University Chapel. 609-258-3654 or www.princetonchapelchoir.com
The Capital Singers of Trenton present “Winter Songs XIII,” at Sacred Heart Church in Trenton on Sunday, December 8, at 4 p.m. Conductor Vinroy D. Brown Jr. leads the semi-professional chorus and orchestra through a program that includes classic songs, holiday carols, and music by Handel, Vivaldi, and others. $15 to $22. Sacred Heart Church, 343 South Broad Street, Trenton. 609-620-0160 or www.capitalsingers.org
The Westminster Community Orchestra under the direction of Ruth Ochs presents its annual “Holiday Sing-along” on Wednesday, December 11, at 7:30 p.m. The program includes a variety of songs, carols, and styles and features a “fun” sing-through of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” As always, the admission is a free-will donation of non-perishable food that will be sent to area food pantries. Robert L. Annis Playhouse, Westminster Choir College, 101 Walnut Lane, Princeton.
One of Westminster Choir College’s signature and area-unique events, “An Evening of Readings and Carols,” returns to the Princeton University Chapel for three performances: Friday, December 13, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, December 14, at 3 and 8 p.m. The internationally respected Westminster Chapel Choir, Concert Bell Choir, and Symphonic Choir will join forces and be guided by the artistry of accomplished faculty members and conductors James Jordan, Joe Miller, Kathleen Ebling Shaw, and Tom T. Shelton Jr. Guest organist Ken Cowan and the Solid Brass ensemble add to powerful celebration of voice, song, and spectacle. $40 to $70. Princeton University Chapel, Princeton Campus.
Westminster Choir College’s nationally known Concert Bell Choir will present “Love Came Down at Christmas” on Sunday, December 15, 4 p.m. This year the group under the direction of conductor Kathleen Ebling Shaw — and performing with “the world’s largest range of handbells and Choirchime Instruments” — will share “the true meaning of the Christmas season through original works, transcriptions of light classics, and beloved Carols.” $20 to $25. Bristol Chapel, Westminster Choir College, 101 Walnut Lane Princeton. 609-921-2663 or www.rider.edu/events
The Hopewell Valley Chorus’ 60th season holiday concert, “The Marvel of This Night,” is set for St. James Church on Friday, December 13, at 7:30 p.m. The concert features 20th-century British composer Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols,” contemporary American composer Eric Whitacre’s “Five Hebrew Love Songs,” nationally noted Lutheran music composer Carl F. Schalk’s “Before the Marvel of This Night,” and the traditional Spanish lullaby “El Rorro.” $10 to $15. St. James Church, 115 East Delaware Avenue, Pennington. 609-737-3177 or www.hopewellvalleychorus.org
The Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s traditional “Holiday POPS!” turns on the holiday spirit when it returns to Richardson Auditorium with two performances on Saturday, December 14, at 3 and 6 p.m. Conductor Nell Flanders leads the musicians and audience through a program featuring seasonal favorites and a community sing along. Adding to the festivities are the Princeton High School Choir and the New Jersey Tap Dance Ensemble. $10 to $60. Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University. 609-497-0020 or www.princetonsymphony.org
The Princeton Singers’ return with “A Rose in Winter” at Trinity Church in Princeton on Saturday, December 14. Under the musical direction of a Steven Sametz, this “holiday gift to the community” is a winning mixture of graceful music, candlelight, and readings by McCarter Theater artistic director and playwright Emily Mann and actor Christopher Coucill in the Gothic-inspired structure. $20 to $40. Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton. 800-838-3006 or www.princetonsingers.org
Princeton Pro Musica, another of the region’s musical treasures, presents the “Messiah and More” at Patriots Theater of the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton on Sunday, December 15, at 3 p.m. The concert directed by Ryan James Brandau includes the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah” and Brandau’s arrangement of “Joy to the World,” a suite of music featuring seasonal works by Bach, Handel, and others. $25 to $60. Trenton War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton. www.princetonpromusica.org
The New Jersey Symphony Chamber Orchestra brings its annual presentation of Handel’s “Messiah” to Princeton on Friday, December 20, at 8 p.m. Roderick Cox, recipient of the prestigious 2018 George Solit Conducting Award, leads soprano Sarah Shafer, mezzo-soprano J’nail Bridges, tenor Frederick Ballentine, bass-baritone Douglas Williams, and the Montclair State University Singers through the seasonal classic. Come early for the 7 p.m. singalong of holiday favorites and the Montclair University Singers’ rehearsal of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” $20 to $80. Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University. 609-258-2787 or www.njsymphony.org
Voices Chorale, with musical director David A. McConnell, presents “Out of Darkness, Into Light” at Pennington Presbyterian Church on Friday, December 20, at 8 p.m., and at Trinity Episcopal Church on Saturday, December 21, at 4 p.m. The program features mainly new choral music by Latvian composer Erik Esenvalds, Britain’s Bob Chilcott, American Kyle Pederson, and the premiere of a new work by Voices assistant conductor Laurel Christensen. $10 to $20. Trinity Episcopal Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton. Pennington Presbyterian Church, 13 South Main Street, Pennington. www.voiceschoralenj.org
The Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey closes 2019 with its annual New Year’s Eve Celebration Concert at the Trenton War Memorial on Tuesday, December 31, at 8 p.m. Hosted by WWFM radio manager David Osenberg, the concert conducted by CPNJ music director Daniel Spalding mixes the tradition of welcoming the New Year with music from Vienna with music made popular by Hollywood, including “A James Bond Medley,” Gershwin’s “An American in Paris,” Richard Strauss’ opening of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” made popular by “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Sing Sing Sing,” arranged by the late Trenton composer and arranger Bill Holcomb. Noted young organist Brett Miller provides a pre-concert show on the theater’s grand 1928 Moeller Theater Pipe Organ at 7:10. $45 to $75. Trenton War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton. www.capitalphilharmonic.org
Stages of Magic
McCarter Theater’s traditional “A Christmas Carol” gets center stage treatment in Princeton from December 10 through 29. Based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 ghostly Christmas tale, McCarter’s production takes the author’s introduction statement to heart: “I have endeavored in this ghostly little book, to raise the ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
That idea, Dickens explained elsewhere, was to create “a sledgehammer blow” against child labor laws and economic disparities. But McCarter’s production is more an awakening of the heart, thanks to director Adam Immerwahr’s affecting approach and love of stage magic. $25 to $80. McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, Princeton. 609-258-2787 or www.mccarter.org
Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick is also presenting “A Christmas Carol,” December 5 through 15. But this one is a revival of the 1994 musical adaptation by Broadway and film composers Alan Menken and lyricist Lynn Ahrens. Broadway and Crossroads veteran actor Count Stovall leads the multi-cultural musical celebration. $25 to $65. New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, 11 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. 732-545-8100 or www.crossroadstheatrecompany.org
The Bucks County Playhouse’s “Ebenezer Scrooge’s Big Playhouse Christmas Show” is back in New Hope, December 6 through 29. Using Dickens’ story and giving it a fun, contemporary, and localized treatment, the company wants to keep writers Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen’s three-year-old production fresh. So, as producing director Alexander Fraser says, audiences should look out for a new cast, new finale, and a “special musical twist for the 2019 production.” $55 to $60. Bucks County Playhouse, 70 South Main, New Hope, Pennsylvania. 215-862-2121 or www.bcptheater.org
Bristol Riverside Theater’s annual “An American Christmas Songbook” musical celebration fills the air from December 12 through 22. At the show, conceived by musical director Keith Baker and featuring the BRT Concert Band, audiences will get an extra helping of carols and holiday hits. $15 to $47. Bristol Riverside Theater, 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, Pennsylvania. 215-785-0100 or www.brtstage.org
Passage Theatre Company, Trenton’s only nonprofit professional theater, presents “Santaland Diaries” at the Mill Hill Playhouse on Saturday, December 14, from 5 to 9 p.m. A holiday fundraiser to support Passage’s mission of producing new works, the event features playwright, actor, director, and former Passage Theater associate director David Lee Write in a presentation using David Sedaris’ accounts of working at a Macy’s Santaland. Passage artistic director C. Ryanne Domingues is the director. The event includes a reception, performance, and dessert. $50. Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 East Front Street, Trenton. 609-392-0766 or www.passagetheatre.org.
Kelsey Theater’s popular “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” now in its 20th year, returns for its annual weekend production, December 6 to 8. Based on the beloved holiday poem by American writer Clement Moore and adapted for the stage by Virginia-based theater director Bruce Craig Miller, it is recognized as the story that brought Santa Claus into America’s collective imagination. Performances are set for Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m. $11 to $13. Kelsey Theater, Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor. 609-570-3333 or www.kelseyatmccc.org
Actors’ NET in Morrisville’s “The Christmas Carol Conspiracy: Scrooge’s Revenge,” is another spirit spoof, running December 6 through 22. Written by Actors’ NET producer Joe Doyle, the story starts when Scrooge realizes that his reforming was the end result of a scheme cooked up by his nephew and the Cratchits. $10 to $22. Actors’ NET, 635 North Delmorr Avenue, Morrisville, Pennsylvania. 215-295-3694 or www.actorsnetbucks.org
Music Mountain Theater, the community theater in Lambertville, is also presenting the Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens musical version of “A Christmas Carol.” Look for it Fridays through Sundays through December 15. $25. Also on stage are the Saturday matinees of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” through December 21. $8. 1483 Route 179, Lambertville. 609-397-3337 or www.musicmountaintheatre.org
‘Tis the Season for Dance
The American Repertory Ballet continues to bring its annual production of “The Nutcracker” to regional venues. Starting as the Princeton Regional Ballet, the company is currently marking its 56th year of presenting the ballet featuring Tchaikovsky’s colorful and moving score.
Movement and music will come together during the company’s stop at the State Theater of New Jersey in New Brunswick, where the dancers perform with a live orchestra and the Princeton GirlChoir on Friday, December 13, at 8 p.m., Saturday, December 14, at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, December 15, at 1 and 5 p.m. $25 to $65. State Theater, 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. 732-246-7469 or www.statetheatrenj.org
The company concludes its “Nutcracker” presentations with another long-held tradition, a presentation at the elegant Trenton War Memorial Building on Saturday, December 21, at 2 p.m. $25 to $45. Trenton War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton. www.arballet.org
Roxey Ballet in Lambertville is also in the midst of presenting its annual “The Nutcracker” at the College of New Jersey, Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8, at 2 p.m. It’s the 26th year of the company’s own adaptation that mixes Tchaikovsky’s score, a magic nutcracker, 150 performers, hundreds of costumes, and Santa Claus himself. $25 to $56. Kendall Theater at the College of New Jersey, 2000 Pennington Road, Ewing. 609-397-7616 or www.roxeyballet.org
Princeton Youth Ballet presents a weekend of “The Nutcracker” at the Princeton High School Performing Arts Center on Saturday, December 7, at 4 p.m., and Sunday, December 8, at noon (a sensory friendly showing for the young or individuals with sensory sensitivities) and 4 p.m.
And Kelsey Theater provides its annual Dance Connection production of the abridged and narrated “The Nutcracker.” Designed with young audiences in mind and presented by young dancers ages 5 to 18, the presentation is all about building both audiences and performers to maintain the holiday performance tradition. Friday, December 13, at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, December 14 and 15, at 1 and 4 p.m. $14 to $16. Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor. 609-570-3333 or www.kelseyatmccc.org
Deck the Halls
Palmer Square in Princeton is livening up the season with its new outdoor skating rink behind the Nassau Inn. It’s open mainly on nights, weekends, and holidays through February. The $10 cost per skater includes the skate rentals, although skaters can bring their own skates.
Other Palmer Square events include the Holiday Jam with Princeton University on Friday, December 6; Wreath Decorating with McCarter Theatre, Saturday, December 7, gingerbread displays and events around the Square, starting on December 7; Gingerbread Decorating and Skating event with the Yankee Doodle Tap Room & Cranbury Station Gallery, Saturday, December 14; Breakfast with Santa at the Nassau Inn on Sunday, December 15; Hanukkah Celebration with the Jewish Center of Princeton; Thursday, December 19; and Christmas Eve Caroling with the Arts Council of Princeton on Tuesday, December 24. www.palmersquare.com/holidays
Christmas at the Kuser Farm Mansion in Hamilton returns on Friday, December 6, with the opening of the annual Winter Wonderland festival. From 5 to 8 p.m., Hamilton Township’s Kuser Park comes alive with lights and music by veteran area guitarist Dick Gratton and vocalist Linda Lee. The occasion also starts the holiday tours of the opulently decorated historic Victorian era mansion — and the mesmerizing New Jersey Valley Model Railroad display in the basement.
Things literally gets switched on with the December 6 tree lighting at 6 p.m. The festival continues on Saturday, December 7, also from 5 to 8 p.m. Then the 45-minute mansion tours continue Sunday, December 8, 4 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, December 11, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, December 11, 12, and 13, 6 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, December 14, 4 to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, December 15, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
And it’s “All Aboard!” for the model train display showings on Sunday, December 8, 4 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, December 11, 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, December 14, 4 to 8 p.m., and Sunday, December 15, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then look for the visits and photo ops with Santa on Sunday, December 8, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, December 11, 6 to 9 p.m. Free. 390 Newkirk Avenue, Hamilton. 609-890-3630 or www.hamiltonnj.com
Trenton’s Mill Hill district’s 53rd annual Holiday House Tour opens its doors on Saturday, December 7, from noon to 5 p.m. Between 15 to 20 residences in this 19th-century neighborhood participate by opening up their opulently decorated homes — with several stops taking visitors to another era. The event is organized by the Old Mill Hill Society as a way of generating funds for neighborhood historic preservation. $25. Start at Artworks, 19 Everett Alley and South Stockton Street, Trenton. 609-815-1359 or www.trentonmillhill.org.
Pennsbury Manor’s annual Holly Nights are Thursday and Friday, December 5 and 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. Set in the reconstructed Colonial-style home of William Penn, it is a walk into the 17th century with open fires, carolers, colonial crafts, Yule Logs, hot cider, and history. $8 to $14. 400 Pennsbury Memorial Road, Morrisville, Pennsylvania. 215-946-0400 or www.pennsburymanor.org
Howell Living History Farm’s annual “Christmas on the Farm” is Saturday, December 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s a visit to the early 20th century where families can sing carols in the barn, cut and decorate an old fashioned tree, take wagon rides or barn tours, hear live music, and even greet Santa Claus when he arrives in his sleigh. Free. 101 Hunter Road, Titusville. 609-737-3299 or www.howellfarm.org
Rockingham Historic Site in Rocky Hill has set its annual day of candlelight Christmas tours on Sunday, December 8, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event commemorates Washington’s residency in the house where he learned the British had signed the 1783 agreement that officially ended the Revolutionary War. Themes, music, and activities are usually part of the day. Suggested donation is $5 per person or $10 per family. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 609-683-7136. Tours are usually offered at least every half-hour with 3:30 being the last tour. 84 Laurel Avenue, Kingston. www.rockingham.net
Morven Museum & Garden’s Festival of Trees — continuing to January 5 — is the annual holiday showcase of trees and mantels throughout the museum located in one of Princeton’s most historic homes. Selected by a jury, this year’s tree collection “invites visitors to enjoy the newly reimagined first and second floor galleries, featuring trees inspired by 18th through 20th century decor,” staff members say.
Area designers, artists, garden clubs, businesses, and nonprofit organizations have adorned the museum “with exquisite and whimsical holiday decorations.” Groups contributing their talent to tree trimming are the Contemporary Garden Club, Garden Club of Princeton, Green Haven Garden Center, Keris Tree Farm & Christmas Shop, Morven Museum & Garden, Mount Laurel Garden Club, Stony Brook Garden Club, and West Trenton Garden Club. Teams decorating the halls and mantels include the Hiltonia Association, Historical Society of Princeton, and Princeton University Press. Morven is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission $8 to $10. 55 Stockton Street, Princeton. 609-924-8144 or www.morven.org
Drumthwacket, New Jersey’s official “First House” or mansion for the governors, is opening the 19th-century Greek revival-style house to visitors. Available dates are Thursday, December 5; Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8; Tuesday, December 18; Thursday, December 19; and Saturday, December 21. Entry times are set for 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and noon. Visits are confined only to the first floor and are unguided, but docents are available to answer questions.
Organized by the Drumthwacket Foundation, the holiday displays were created in partnership with the Garden Club of New Jersey, Allentown Garden Club, Bernardsville Garden Club, Essex Fells Garden Club, Greater Woodbury Garden Club, Keyport Garden Club, Mountain Lakes Garden Club, Seaweeders Garden Club, Warren Garden Club, and West Trenton Garden Club. Reservations are on a first-come-first-served basis. Free on-site parking. 352 Stockton Street, Princeton. www.drumthwacket.org/visit/open-houses
The Old City Hall Restoration Holiday Train Show Project in Bordentown has already left the station. Now in its ninth year, it’s on view Fridays through Sundays, through January 5 (except December 22). Free and open from 4 to 8 p.m., the show features model trains collected by community leaders and members of the New Jersey Free-MO Modular Trains, Southeastern Pennsylvania, and South Jersey Garden Railroad Society.
The old building in an old town will help transport visitors back to the days when holiday visits by train stirred the imagination — and with Bordentown being a stop for the nation’s first commercial railroads — it all fits. Old City Hall, 13 Crosswicks Street, Bordentown. 609-203-0541
The Johnson Ferry House’s one-of-a-kind Lantern Tour at New Jersey’s Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville happens on Friday, December 20, with tours available at 7 and 7:30 p.m. The two-hour sessions led by guides in period clothes include stops at three historic sites at the spot where Washington’s beleaguered army crossed the Delaware River. Wassail and hearth-baked refreshments are included during the final stop, the historic Dutch Farm-styled Johnson House. $5 to $10, reservations required, rain or shine. 355 Washington Crossing Pennington Road, Titusville. 609-737-2515 or www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html
Revolutionary War history comes alive in the area as the region remembers the decisive Battles of Trenton and Princeton. And for those wishing to join the fray, here’s a handy enlistment guide:
The Old Barracks Museum in Trenton’s British Occupation Day on Saturday, December 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., once again sets the stage for the Battle of Trenton with the arrival of the 17th Regiment of Infantry — a Colonial-era British troop. The event invites 21st-century Americans to step back into the daily life of a Colonial-era British soldier. Activities include daily troop drills, musket demonstrations, outdoor camp cooking, and winter uniform preparation and repairs. The regiment was established in 2002 to bring the experiences of the common British soldiers alive — and in fighting condition. $8 to $10. 101 Barrack Street, Trenton. 609-396-1776 or www.barracks.org
As always, the reenactment of George Washington’s Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River to take Trenton — at the very location the major historical event occurred — is one of the area’s big holiday attractions. And there are two opportunities to catch this one-of-a-kind area event.
The first is the dress rehearsal crossing on Sunday, December 8. A festive fundraiser, the occasion includes opportunities to visit historic buildings and meet re-enactors. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the crossing at 1 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children 5 to 11, and free for children under five.
Then there is the big — and free — Christmas Day crossing, now celebrating its 67th year. While the main event is at 1 p.m., visitors can arrive early and march with the troops, tour buildings, and join fellow festival lovers waiting for the cannon shot to signal the launching of the boats. An early arrival also helps secure a parking place or a good viewing spot. Washington Crossing Historic Park, Routes 32 and 532, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. 215-493-4076 or www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing/index.htm
Patriots Week returns to downtown Trenton on Thursday, December 26, with the biggest Revolutionary War re-enactment event anywhere. Continuing through December 31, the multi-day event includes tours of historic spots, camp reenactments, and the two-part Battle of Trenton, puppet theater performances, a Colonial-era ball, and more.
While many events take place at or near the Old Barracks, one of the area’s historical treasures, the two recreated battles — featuring re-enactors with era uniforms and weaponry — take place on the actual sites of the original battles. Most events are free. www.patriotsweek.com