The Christmas season is upon us, along with Hanukkah and other seasonal holidays. There are plenty of expensive events and activities to attend during this season – attending a play at a live theater or perhaps a symphony concert from your city’s professional orchestra. These are lovely ways to celebrate the season, but at $20 per person and up they can add up fast if you are trying to enjoy the activity with family.
Luckily, there are countless ways to celebrate the season with family activities that don’t break the bank.
Tree lighting ceremonies.
Pretty much every community in North America puts up a city tree. Each one typically has a ceremony to light up the tree, complete with entertainment and much holiday spirit. New York City’s Rockefeller Center ceremony is one of the biggest.
I’ve never seen a charge to attend a tree lighting ceremony.
On a bigger scale, The Country Club Plaza in Kansas City Mo lights up 15 city blocks with thousands of lights – which are switched on with due pomp, ceremony and entertainment on Thanksgiving evening.
Holiday choirs at local shopping areas.
Crown Center, in Kansas City, MO has multiple different choral groups scheduled to stroll through the center singing the entire month.
The Candadian Pacific Holiday Train travels across Canada and parts of the US, providing rolling holiday concerts and entertainment.
Gingerbread houses at local hotels.
Chateau on the Lake in Branson, MO displays multiple intricate and unique gingerbread houses made by the chef and kitchen staff. There are 500 pounds of sugar, candy and gingerbread in them.
The display is free to the public and is inside the beautifully decorated lobby of the hotel.
Tours of historical homes decorated for Christmas.
In Calgary visit the Heritage Park. For a small fee, they invite you to:
“Join us for a wagon ride, singing carols or visiting jolly old Saint Nick himself. Experience the magic of Christmas past as some of our historical family homes open their doors to share their Yuletide traditions.”
In Regina, you can take a horse drawn wagon ride through Edwardian Gardens, visit the Amedee Forget Museum and participate in Victorian type festivities like cookie decorating and caroling.
Christmas movie marathon night.
Who doesn’t have a favorite Christmas movie? Whether it is Winter Wonderland, Home Alone, Scrooged or any of the myriad of other traditional holiday shows, you can stage an at home get together (or pajama party for the little ones) to pop some corn and have a movie marathon right on your own TV.
Christmas kids shop.
If you live in a close knit neighborhood, or have a special group of friends, you can get together and host a shopping experience for the children to buy gifts to give. Collect items from each participating household, whether they be new or gently used, food, toys or adult type items and price them so the little ones can afford to buy. Set up a register, staffed with older children to ring up the sales and a gift wrap station to help or let the little ones put the wraps on their finds. Donate the proceeds to the charity of the children s choice.
Many cities have zoos that have special holiday events. For example, Calgary Zoo has an annual Christmas light display. There is a fee for this one.
Free symphony concerts with holiday music.
Our city has an orchestra composed of volunteer musicians – called the “Civic orchestra”. Each year they give a free symphony Holiday concert around Christmas time.
Local garden events.
Many horticultural gardens have events and light displays set up for the season.
In St. Louis, ‘The Garden’ (aka Shaw’s garden) has beautiful indoor displays.
Regina Garden has a Christmas tour.
Local library events & performances.
Most public library events are free and many local libraries bring in special performers, such as puppet shows, concerts or readings during the holiday season.
Regina public library has numerous holiday related activities in December.
Church & Club events.
In Regina, the German Club has a Christkindl Markt which is free to attend, although you can spend money on the wonderfully smelling foods of the season as well as shopping.
Drive through light tours.
As with many areas, Calgary has a festival of lights. For the price of a gallon or so of gas and a bit of time you can view displays, which are sometimes set to music as well.
What would the Christmas season be without ice skating. Most cities have rinks which charge admission, but in Calgary you can go ice skating for free at one of several outdoor rinks.
What’s your favorite free Christmas activity?