Christmas in Boston turns the city into a festive wonderland of lights, spectacular decorations, special holiday music and shows, and plenty of good cheer.
The winter holiday season is 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 free Blink! light and music show.
Attend The Nutcracker or Black Nativity . . . enjoy a Holiday Pops concert at Symphony Hall . . . take part in special Boston Christmas Eve cruises . . . or attend Christmas Eve midnight mass or church services . . . or just walk around and enjoy all the dazzling lighted trees, serenading carolers, and maybe even snow.
Blink! combines 350,000 flashing LED lights and holiday music to set Faneuil Hall Marketplace ablaze every evening through early January.
Catch the free show, which runs numerous times between 4:30pm and 10pm from late November through early January as you stroll around the country's open-air marketplace, site of the largest Christmas tree in New England. The show, which changes year-to-year, is especially fabulous this year.
Faneuil Marketplace also offers excellent shopping opportunities - lots of unique "only in Boston" boutiques mixed in with larger national chains where you'll often see "40% off" signs.
If you're looking specifically for events on Christmas Eve, 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.
Don't forget that Boston discount passes can save you up to 50% and more on top attractions during the holidays. They also make nice holiday gifts. Using a discount card is the easiest way to save money in Boston!
Christmas Shopping in Boston
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 our recommendations for the best places for Christmas shopping in Boston, especially if you want to accomplish a lot in a short time.
Boston's Christmas Markets & Winter Festival Markets
Enjoy hot mulled wine, Bailey's hot cocoa, and plenty of other good things to sip and nibble on while you explore SoWa's festive winter shopping village - it's the biggest Holiday Market in Boston this year!
You'll get to see live ice sculpting, holiday workshops, 130+ vendors, galleries, artist studios, and boutiques - plus it's the perfect way to get all your holiday shopping done in one place at this family-friendly event.
Dates/Hours: December 6, 6pm-10pm, Dec 7, 10am-8pm, and Dec 8, 10am-6pm | Free admission | 460 and 500 Harrison Ave, in Boston's South End. from 11am to 7pm Monday through Saturday, and 11am - 5pm on Sundays.
An Irish Christmas Carol Cruise - Get into the holiday spirit with Slainte, the Northern Lights' house Irish band. Raise your glass as you join in singing some merry Irish holiday ballads on this 90 minute Harbor cruise - Find out more
Cocoa & Carols Holiday Cruise - Join in singing your favorite Christmas holiday songs led by the Blue Motion Jazz Quartet on this cozy 90 minute Harbor Cruise on the Northern Lights with drinks and snacks available for purchase at the yacht's Main Deck Bar. - Find out more
Holiday Sunset Cruise - As the ship's captain points out highlights of passing landmarks and soft music plays in the background, watch the ever-changing sunset colors as the sun sets behind Boston's city skyline on this relaxing 90 minute cruise around the Harbor. Find out more
Holiday Jazz Cruise - Relax to the sounds of jazzy Christmas tunes performed live by Blue Motion Jazz Quartet, and enjoy an adult beverage on this 90 minute romantic evening cruise past iconic attractions along the Boston waterfront - Find out more
Holiday Brunch Cruise - See historic sights and panoramic views around Boston Harbor as you enjoy this 2 hour narrated cruise including hot chocolate and brunch (Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and spiked hot chocolate available at the bar) - Find out more
Cocoa & Blues Holiday Cruise - Enjoy Boston's sparkling skyline at night along with spiked hot chocolate or a glass of champagne as City of Four, Northern Lights' house R&B/funk band, plays contemporary versions of holiday classics inspired by Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and the Temptations - Find out more
Carolers - Where to Enjoy a Performance
One of the serendipitous delights about walking around Boston in December is happening upon a group of Christmas carolers.
Some perform in predictable places like Faneuil Hall Marketplace and in Downtown Crossing near Macy's, but others appear in random places, singing just for the sheer joy of sharing traditional holiday music and Christmas carols.
Walk around Beacon Hill on almost any evening as Christmas draws near, and you're likely to hear a caroling party or two singing as they wind their way around the narrow streets, carrying candles and spreading holiday cheer.
Want to participate? Gather a few of your friends, neighbors, and family members, light a few candles, and form your own caroling party.
Christmas in Boston - The Movie
The holiday season brings the perfect excuse to watch Christmas in Boston (#ad), 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.
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.
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 (hint: one place to find Globe Santa is in the Rotunda at Faneuil Hall Marketplace every Wednesday through Sunday 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!
Visiting Boston for Christmas? Fun Ways to Explore the City
Christmas Eve Midnight Services & Special Music, Plus Hanukkah Services
If you're visiting Boston and want to attend Christmas Eve services, Midnight Mass, Christmas Day church services,or Hanukkah or Shabbat services, you'll find a warm welcome from our famous churches and synagogues, regardless of your personal beliefs or religion.
Here are Boston churches, synagogues, and places of worship with Christmas Eve and Hanukkah services, and strong ties to Boston history. Please check their websites for service times and possible weather-related updates:
- Arlington Street Church (Unitarian Universalist; 351 Boylston Street, Back Bay; 617-536-7050, www.ascboston.org) - Renowned for its music and Tiffany windows
- The Boston Synagogue - (Unaffiliated post-denominational egalitarian Jewish shul with a lay-led congregation; 55 Martha Road, West End, http://bostonsynagogue.org) - The only synagogue in downtown Boston; Shabbat and Holiday services every week; award-winning modern building built in 1971
- 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 - Saint Leonard Church (Roman Catholic; 320 Hanover Street, North End; 617-523-2110) - Founded in 1873 and the first Roman Catholic Church built by Italian immigrants in New England. Close to the Freedom Trail
- 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.
- Vilna Shul (Jewish cultural center and historic synagogue; 18 Phillips Street, Beacon Hill neighborhood, Boston; 617-523-2324; www.vilnashul.org) - Built in 1919 but home to a traditional Jewish synagogue of Lithuanian immigrants formed in the 1890s. Beautiful murals are currently undergoing restoration. Hosts Hanukkah events and special Shabbats. Although Vilna Shul is officially closed for renovations, some special events including Chanukah celebrations are being held.
More Christmas and Hanukkah Celebrations in Boston Earlier in December
Menorah lights glow on the 32-foot tall menorah in Copley Square during each night of Hanukkah (begins December 10, 2020). Sponsored by Chabad of Boston. You'll see more menorahs at the Massachusetts State House, Faneuil Marketplace, Boston Common, and other locations.
Chanukah A Cappela Concert and Young Adult Chanukah Latke Toppings Taste-Off Brunch take place at Vilna Shul (18 Phillips Street, Beacon Hill neighborhood).
Chanukah Cantata - A Light Through the Age celebrates Hanukkah's spiritual meaning through story and song; Sunday, December 15, 4pm-6pm at Central Reform Temple of Boston, 15 Newbury Street (Emmanuel Church), Back Bay neighborhood; free and open to the community - More info: www.centralreformtemple.org
Friday Night Chanukah Dinner & Music - December 17, 6:30pm (to be confirmed for 2020) at The Boston Synagogue (55 Martha Road in Charles River Park/West End), plus dinner with latkes, sugfganiyot, and drinks; rsvp required by Dec 4; $15 members, $18 non-members - More info: http://bostonsynagogue.org/dinners
Old North Church Advent Christmas Concert - Sunday, December 8th, 5pm, 193 Salem Street in the North End. Arrangements of familiar Christmas carols and Christmas-inspired works for choir and orchestra. $10 offering suggested at the door; advance tickets not required. More information: 617-523-6676.
Hanukkah Festival of Lights at Museum of Fine Arts - (date, time TBD) - 10pm (free admission begins at 4pm). An evening celebrating Hanukkah, with a gallery tour of MFA's collection of Judaica, musical performances, candle-lighting ceremony in the Shapiro Family Courtyard, and other special exhibitions. On other days, you can get free MFA admission if you have a Boston discount pass)
Old South Ringers Christmas Concert - The church's resident handbell choir presents a program of Christmas music; free admission; December 6 at 4 pm; Old South Church in Boston (Corner of Dartmouth and Boylston Streets, Back Bay, Boston); more info: www.oldsouth.org
"An English Christmas" - Old South Ringers Handbell Concert - The handbell ringers presents a program of Christmas music; $20 admission; December 11 from 7:30-9:30pm; First Church Boston (66 Marlborough Street, Back Bay, Boston); get tickets ($15-$20) at www.backbayringers.org
Noel - Holiday Concert by the Boston Choral Ensemble celebrating the season, including old and new traditional and secular carols, plus the world premiere of a new composition by Nell Shaw Cohen; Old South Church (Copley Square, corner of Dartmouth & Boylston, Back Bay, Boston), Sunday December 12, 3pm (pre-concert organ recital at 2:30pm) - for tickets ($15-$25), Boston Choral website
Chorus Pro Musica - Candlelight Christmas Celebration featuring Old South's Skinner Organ with traditional seasonal classics, new works, and a sing-along rendition of Joy to the World; Friday, December 13, 8pm; Tickets $10-$40; Old South Church (Copley Square, corner of Dartmouth & Boylston, Back Bay, Boston; 617-267-7442; www.choruspromusica.org)
Secular Entertainment on December 24
Try these suggestions for secular entertainment on Christmas Eve (make reservations as early as possible):
Matzo Ball at the Royale (279 Tremont Street, Theatre District) - Music and dance beginning about 9pm on December 24 and ending 2am December 25 for the nation's largest Jewish singles event (according to the sponsors) - 279 Tremont Street; 617-338-7699 - tickets required; always sells out; check for ticket availability in early November: http://matzoball.org
Loews Boston Common Theater - 19 screens of entertainment (175 Tremont Street, across from Boston Common); call 888-262-4386 for shows and times.
Chinatown restaurants - Many, although not all, are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Santa-Themed Fun Fund-Raisers: Santa Speedo Run & More
Numerous Christmas-themed Boston fund-raising events during December provide help for those who might not otherwise have happy holidays.
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.
Boston Attractions on Christmas - Open or Closed?
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?
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 plus a number of others, 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.
New Year's Eve Cruises
Welcome the New Year aboard the elegant yacht Northern Lights on these special New Year's Eve and New Year's Day cruises around Boston Harbor:
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