Blink! holiday lights and music celebration transforms Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Christmas in Boston turns the city into a festive wonderland of lights, spectacular decorations, special holiday music and shows, and plenty of good cheer.
It's a wonderful time to visit!
Stop by Boston Common for a round of ice skating or walk over to Faneuil Hall Marketplace to see the performers.
Attend The Nutcracker or Black Nativity or a Radio City Rockettes show . . . enjoy a Holiday Pops concert at Symphony Hall . . . take part in special Boston Christmas Eve events . . . or just walk around and enjoy all the shining Boston Christmas trees, serenading carolers, and maybe even snow.
By late November and early December, Boston sparkles with beautifully decorated and festively lit Christmas trees.
Lighted Christmas tree on Boston Common - special gift from the people of Nova Scotia
Two of the biggest trees stand proudly in Boston Common and Faneuil Hall Marketplace, site of the Blink! holiday lights and music show.
You can find another huge tree perched above Macy's in Downtown Crossing - plus plenty more in shopping areas, hotel lobbies, restaurants.
Lighted christmas trees in Boston's Downtown Crossing across from Macy's
Want to actually see the Christmas lights turned on? Holiday tree lighting events take place in late November - early December.
For exact dates and details, check:
Holiday lights cover the trellis in Christopher Columbus Park in the North End
Boston hotels deck their halls - and their lobbies - with lavish seasonal splendor throughout December and the holiday season.
Better yet, they get into the spirit of giving by offering special holiday packages.
- Millennium Bostonian Hotel - "Holiday Shopping at Faneuil Hall Marketplace Special" - find best rates
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Don't forget that Boston discount passes can save you 50% and more on top attractions during the holidays - using a discount card is the easiest way to save money in Boston!
Blink! combines 350,000 flashing LED lights and music from the Hallelujah Chorus to set Faneuil Hall Marketplace ablaze every evening through January 5.
Catch the free show, which runs 12 times between 4:30pm and 10pm, as you stroll around the country's open-air marketplace, where you'll also find the largest Christmas tree in New England.
Speaking of finding - I've benefitted from some terrific 40% off sales here this year, making for very jolly shopping experiences.
Holiday decorations in Beacon Hill
If you're looking specifically for events on Christmas Eve in Boston, you'll find an excellent mix of music, entertainment, and religious services.
Keep in mind that many businesses close early, some restaurants will be open only for lunch while others may close all day, and stores will be packed full of last minute shoppers. Some attractions and tours may also be closed for part or all of Christmas Eve.
Boston Holiday Pops Concerts in Symphony Hall throughout the Boston Christmas season provide the perfect chance to sing along with old favorites, be photographed with Santa, and hear the special holiday music conducted by Keith Lockhart. Holiday Pops Tickets
Lots of other special musical performances also take place throughout December - here's a sampling:
- The Nutcracker - Boston Ballet at Symphony Hall
- Handel's Messiah - Boston Baroque at Jordan Hall; Handel & Haydn Society at Symphony Hall
- New Year's Celebration - Boston Baroque at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University - Dec 31 and Jan 1 - Get half-price tickets from Goldstar
- A Christmas Carol on stage
- A Christmas Celtic Sojourn with Brian O'Donovan at the Cutler Majestic Theatre - Half Price tickets available from Goldstar
Black Nativity is another huge Boston Christmas musical event. Tickets sell out fast - you need to move fast to get them, and be flexible about seating. More about Black Nativity tickets
Discount and half price tickets start to become available for some performances about 4-8 weeks before the event. They go fast - so if you see tickets you want, grab them!
- The Messiah - Boston Baroque - Jordan Hall - Dec 12-13 - Half Price tickets @ Goldstar
Another beloved Boston Christmas tradition is going to a show with a mixture of splendid music, dazzling dancers, and exciting performances.
As usual, The Nutcracker and Disney on Ice top the list of favorites, and are joined this year several other shows, including Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The Musical
If you are planning to come to Boston for the holidays, consider staying in one of the Boston Theatre District hotels and enjoying all the festive lights. You can walk Faneuil Marketplace in 5 minutes, or head over to the ice skating rink at Frog Pond, just a block or two away.
Boston's Theatre District with holiday lights and decorations
Boston stores deck their halls - and walls, windows, aisles - with holiday decorations designed to put you into the spending, and of course giving, spirit.
Just seeing all the decorations can be lots of fun.
But if you're serious about shopping, read my tips for the best places for Christmas shopping in Boston, especially if you want to accomplish a lot in a short time.
One of the things I love best about walking around Boston in December are the Christmas carolers.
Christmas carolers at Faneuil Markeplace
Walk around Beacon Hill on almost any evening as Christmas draws near, and you're likely to hear a caroling party as they wind their way around the narrow streets, carrying candles and spreading holiday cheer.
If you're visiting Boston during this special time, I hope you get to hear carolers and enjoy their music as much as I do.
The holiday season brings the perfect excuse to watch Christmas in Boston, a light-hearted chick-flick movie. The plot is silly but sweet - pen pals since middle school, Gina and Seth have never met ...until finally Seth needs to make a Christmas week trip to Boston where Gina works.
The problem? All these years, they've been exchanging photos ... but of their best friends rather than of themselves. You can probably guess what happens - but still, it's fun to watch.
Note - don't watch this movie with your young kids unless you want to explain a non-culinary use of chocolate syrup.
The Boston part? Wonderful scenes of Back Bay and the giant Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall Marketplace. More about fun Boston Christmas movies
Boston has plenty of Santas to grant Christmas gift wishes - or at least listen to your child's fantasy gift list.
You'll get some great photos - a perhaps a few surprises as you hear the wish list unfold.
Globe Santa in Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood
But to get into the real spirit of Christmas in Boston, watch for Globe Santa, who appears at various places throughout the city during the holiday season. This is a special Santa, one who really does make wishes come true for the city's neediest families. When you see him (or her) - give generously!
If you're visiting Boston and want to attend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day church services, you'll find a warm welcome from our famous churches, regardless of your personal beliefs or religion.
Here are Boston churches with Christmas Eve services and strong ties to Boston history. Check their websites for service times:
- Arlington Street Church (Unitarian Universalist; 351 Boylston Street, Back Bay; 617-536-7050, www.ascboston.org) - Renowned for its music and Tiffany windows
- Cathedral of the Holy Cross (Roman Catholic; 1400 Washington St, South End; 617-542-5682; www.holycrossboston.com) - Gothic Revival style; largest in New England); midnight mass on Christmas Eve
- Emmanuel Church/Center (home to Episcopal and Boston Jewish Spirit congregations; 15 Newbury Street, Back Bay, 617-536-3355; www.emmanuel-boston.org) - Famous for Bach cantatas presented during Sunday services
- King's Chapel (Ecumenical; corner of Tremont and School Streets, Historical Downtown Boston; 617-227-2155; www.kings-chapel.org) - Founded in 1686, Freedom Trail site, renowned for its music
- Old North Church (Episcopal; 193 Salem Street, North End; 617-523-6676; www.oldnorth.com) - Freedom Trail site where Paul Revere arranged for 2 lanterns to be hung; built in 1723; oldest standing church building in Boston; carols on Christmas Eve
- Old South Church (Congregational; corner of Dartmouth & Boylston, Copley Square, Boston; 617-536-1970) - The congregation dates back to 1669 and the second generation of Boston's founders; the magnificent Northern Italian Gothic building is the congregation's third home (you can visit the first, the Old South Meeting House, on the Freedom Trail)
- Park Street Church (Evangelical; One Park Street, across from Boston Common; 617-523-3383; www.parkstreet.org) - Freedom Trail site
- Trinity Church (Episcopal; 206 Clarendon St, Copley Square; 617-536-0944; www.trinitychurchboston.org) - World-famous architectural masterpiece by H.H. Richardson; afternoon and midnight services, with special organ music.
- Menorah lighting on Boston Common near the Park Street T Station, facing the State House; Chabad of Downtown Boston will conduct the public Menorah lighting from Tuesday, December 16 through Tuesday, December 23, 2014 (to be confirmed).
- Hanukkah Cantata - A Light Through the Age celebrates Hanukkah's spiritual meaning through story and song; Sunday, December 14 or Sunday, December 21, 2014 (date to be confirmed), 4pm-6pm at Central Reform Temple of Boston, 15 Newbury Street (Emmanuel Church), Back Bay neighborhood - www.alightthroughtheages.org
- Menorah lighting and Hanukkah celebration takes place at Faneuil Hall Marketplace - 2014 date and time to be confirmed. This family-oriented event features music, crafts, hot latkes, jelly doughnuts, chocolate gelt, dreidels, and games for children.
- Christmas Chimes in the City - Old South Ringers Handbell Concert - The handbell choir presents a program of Christmas music; free admission; date and time to be confirmed for 2014; Old South Church (Copley Square, corner of Dartmouth & Boylston, Back Bay, Boston)
- A Choral Holiday - Concert by the Boston Choral Ensemble celebrating snow, roses, and the holiday season, including traditional carols; Old South Church (Copley Square, corner of Dartmouth & Boylston, Back Bay, Boston), Sunday December 20, 2014, 3pm - for tickets ($9-$18), go to www.bostonchoral.org
- Chorus Pro Musica - Christmas Celebration in the tradition of Victorian England, complete with readings from Dickens' A Christmas Carol; Friday, December 19, 8pm; Tickets $22-$41; Old South Church (Copley Square, corner of Dartmouth & Boylston, Back Bay, Boston; 617-536-1970; www.oldsouth.org)
Try these suggestions for secular entertainment on Christmas Eve (be sure to check schedules and hours in advance):
Blue Man Group - Usually a couple of performances on Christmas Eve - Get schedule & tickets
Matzo Ball at the Royale - Music and dance beginning about 9pm on Christmas Eve - 279 Tremont Street; 617-338-7699 - tickets required; always sells out
Loews Boston Common Theater - 19 screens of entertainment; 175 Tremont Street - 888-262-4386 for shows and times
Chinatown restaurants - Many, although not all, are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. China Pearl (9 Tyler Street, 617-426-4338) features its famous 5-course dinner and comedy performace, Moo Shu Jew, at 6pm on December 24 - reservations are a must - always sells out
Numerous Christmas-themed Boston fund-raising events during December provide funds for those who might not otherwise have happy holidays. You'll see lots of Santas, such as this group heading into Game On! near Fenway Park, engaged in these fund raising activities.
Perhaps the most famous is the Santa Speedo Run, involving about 500 scantily clad Santas running a loop down Boylston Street and up Newbury Street. They warm the hearts of shoppers - and raise a significant amount of money for local charities.
Most theaters, stores, the Frog Pond ice skating rink, and museums will be closed on Christmas. So what can you do on Christmas Day in Boston?
Holiday lights on Boston Common near Massachusetts State House
Most Boston movie theaters will be open (be sure to check first), including AMC Loews Boston Common 19 (175Tremont Street, across from the Common).
Blink! at Faneuil Hall Marketplace - Stores will be closed for business but come watch the breathtaking light and music show - a beautiful finish to Christmas Day.
Many Boston restaurants, including most hotel restaurants, will be serving Christmas dinner. Reservations are a MUST on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, because this is a popular time to go out. If you don't plan ahead and can't get reservations, keep in mind that many Chinatown restaurants will be open, as well as most hotel bars where you'll usually find excellent bar menus.
Sometimes Christmas in Boston feels like it ends too soon - but no worries, Boston's gala First Night extravaganza is just around the corner.
So even if Christmas is still in the future, it's not too early to plan for NYE.
Most important, if you're coming into the city for the big event, make your hotel reservations NOW to avoid disappointment - check out all the Boston New Year's Eve hotel specials.
Holiday decorations in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood
Check out more Things to Do in Boston in December
Planning a visit and wondering what to pack? Check out our December weather tips
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