A significant part of the holiday season – at least for children – can be tied to the simple concept of lists. Long before the internet made lists popular, a jolly man in a big red suit spent much of his time reading hand-written ones from children all over the world.
Here is where this blogger segues into his own list - one that has nothing to do with gifts, but everything to do with joy. Here are my best bets for finding the holiday magic that makes Christmas on Cape Cod so unique.
1. CHRISTMAS PARADES
Marching bands, festive floats and costumed characters, including Santa, can be found in village centers throughout Cape Cod this time of year. There’s even one – this Saturday's Santa’s Boat Parade (December 2) in Hyannis Harbor – that takes advantage of the Cape’s proximity to the water. Join the crowds at 4:30 pm at Bismore Park in Hyannis to cheer on Santa's arrival and the procession of festively lit boats.
For a quintessential Cape Cod experience, be one of the thousands who line the streets of Falmouth for the 54th annual Falmouth Christmas Parade, considered the largest holiday parade in Southeastern Massachusetts. Falmouth’s parade begins this Sunday (December 3) at noon, with themed floats, lively performers and even a few Clydesdale horses making their way from the corner of Route 28 and Dillingham Avenue down Main Street to the Falmouth Village Green. Mashpee's Christmas Parade (December 9) is another to add to your list. The illuminated parade kicks off at 5:30 pm from Deer Crossing (aka “Reinder Crossing”), traveling through South Cape Village and coming to an end in Mashpee Commons.
2. HOLIDAY LIGHTS
There is something enchanting about Christmas lights. Whether it’s done tastefully or over-the-top like Clark Griswold, you will definitely see Cape Cod in a whole new light this holiday season. With its public display consisting of charming Christmas dioramas and Santa on his sleigh, the Falmouth Village Green decks the halls each December as part of the town's annual Falmouth Holidays by the Sea weekend. The lighting of the Village Green, which includes caroling led by the Falmouth Brass Choir, is this Saturday (December 2) at 7 pm.
On the opposite end of the Cape is Provincetown’s famed Lobster Pot Tree. Consisting of more than 100 lobster traps and nearly 3,500 lights, the tree will remain lit until the New Year. Multiple strands of light at the nearby Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown add to the festive scene. With 12 miles of holiday lights adorning its exquisite grounds, the Gardens Aglowexhibit at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich is an absolute must-see. Open every weekend through the end of December, Gardens Aglow features music and dance performances, family pictures with Santa in Heritage’s vintage Model T, gingerbread houses, and a special indoor model train exhibit. Before or after your visit to Heritage, make sure to take a ride down Route 6A to view artist Michael Magyar’s giant lighted sculptures. Over two dozen have been made, the majority of which can be found in Sandwich.
And on your way to doing some evening holiday shopping at Mashpee Commons, you can't miss the spectacular display of twinkling lights at the Mashpee Rotary, a welcoming sight each Christmas season.
3. JINGLE JOGS & HOLIDAY STROLLS
This Christmas on Cape Cod, you can dress up or dress down to shed those unwanted holiday pounds. The more daring runners should head to Provincetown for its Santa Speedo Run this Saturday (December 2) as part of the town's Holly Folly Weekend. The 1.7-mile run begins at 10 am, starting at Fanizzi’s and ending at The Crown & Anchor on Commercial Street. Also getting into the act are Orleans and Falmouth, which will host their own holiday 5Ks, encouraging participants to dress up in their jolliest attire. Both the Santa Stampede 5K and Family Fun Run (starting from The Barley Neck Inn in Orleans) and the Jingle Jog (starting at Falmouth Harbor on Scranton Avenue) will be held this Saturday as well. Falmouth’s event also includes an Elf Run for kids.
If a casual stroll is more your speed, you’re in luck. Throughout the Cape, there are several that give you an opportunity to frequent local businesses as festive music fills the air. Among them are this Saturday's Hyannis Village Christmas Stroll(December 2), which will include ice skating, ice sculpting, a reindeer scavenger hunt, a cookie stroll contest, retail promotions and several opportunities to meet Santa throughout the day. Carolers, performers, trolley rides and bustling village shops will greet you at the Chatham Christmas Stroll on Friday, December 8 from 6 to 9 pm, with festivities also including a tree lighting in the downtown area. Along historic Bass River, sample a variety of cookies on Saturday, December 9 (10 am to 3 pm) as part of the South Yarmouth Holiday Stroll. On Sunday, December 10, face painting, hayrides, Christmas music and tree lightings make up the fun at the Dennis Village Stroll.
4. LIVE PERFORMANCES
This weekend, the Cape Symphony offers plenty of good cheer with a Holiday on the Cape concert at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center featuring the Chatham Chorale, a children’s chorus, and visits from Ebenezer Scrooge and Santa. Singing along is encouraged, not only at the Cape Symphony’s performances, but at Sandwich’s Holiday Tree Lighting this Friday evening, where Jim Ellis, the Festival Brass and the Mostly Dickens Carolers will lead attendees in traditional carols. Sandwich’s Holly Days will continue on Saturday with a special performance by musician Steve Gregory at the Sandwich Town Hall at 7 pm.
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" has been adapted for the stage by The Academy Playhouse in Orleans, which will perform the show on weekends through December. And the music to that holiday special will be coming to the Cotuit Center for the Arts on Sunday, December 10 as part of a free holiday show. Guests are asked to bring a gift card (minimum of $10) to a local supermarket that will be given to Housing Assistance Corporation’s Angel House shelter, which serves mothers with substance abuse issues and their children. The Cotuit Center for the Arts will also play host to a series of five hilarious short holiday comedies written by playwright Matt Hoverman; the piece was a winner of the 2009 Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival.
5. SANTA CLAUS
His home may be the North Pole, but Santa Claus will spend plenty of time on Cape Cod this coming month. Whether it be at Harwich’s Doane Park, Mashpee Commons, Cape Cod Mall or Ring Bros. Marketplace in Dennis, there will be numerous opportunities around the region for children to share their Christmas lists with Santa. Families are guaranteed to encounter Mr. Claus – along with dancing elves and hot cocoa – aboard the captivating Train to Christmas Town out of Buzzards Bay. And in true Cape Cod fashion, don't miss Santa's arrival by boat. He'll be docking in Falmouth Harbor this Saturday, with a return appearance in Chatham Fish Pier on Sunday.