Imagine - crisp sea air spiced with wood smoke drifting through a historic village’s cobblestoned streets lined with glittering trees and brightly lit shops while, in the distance, church bells chime familiar carols… the holiday season on Nantucket is truly magical.
Affectionately named Nantucket Noel, the holiday festivities begin the day after Thanksgiving with the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Community Caroling. Everyone gathers at the top of Main Street to watch over 100 Christmas trees come alive with color and light. Caroling follows, filling the air with sounds of an old-fashioned Christmas. School children, youth groups and non-profit organizations join with island businesses to decorate the trees in time for Christmas Stroll the following weekend.
Now in its 40th year, Christmas Stroll Weekend is held two weekends after Thanksgiving. The 2013 Christmas Stroll will take place from December 6 through December 8. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on Saturday via Coast Guard vessel and are escorted up Straight Wharf by the Town Crier to a waiting horse and carriage. They parade up Main Street and across Centre Street to the historic Jared Coffin House where they meet with eagerly awaiting children. Children of all ages are entertained by the Magical Talking Tree at the top of Main Street, while carolers in period costume, student choirs and more (new last year- a capoeira demonstration showcasing Brazilian Martial Arts skills) perform on Main Street. Holiday craft shows, exhibitions and performances – including the popular annual Christmas House tour on Friday evening – add to the joyful festivities. Don't miss the 20th Annual Festival of Trees running throughout December at the Whaling Museum.
Two years ago, a European style "Christmas Marketplace" was introduced at the corner of Easy and Main streets (by Straight Wharf), with great success! Last year, twenty-three non-profit organizations offered a variety of delicious food, hot drinks, craft and merchandise sales, informational tables, and games. The Marketplace will be open from 10 AM-3 PM on Saturday, December 7.
To truly enjoy all the island has to offer during Christmas Stroll, be sure to catch a ride on the Nantucket Sleigh Ride (formerly the Holiday Hop On/Hop Off shuttle service). Departing on Saturday, December 7 from 10 AM-5 PM from in front of the Whaling Museum on Broad Street (last bus leaves from the Museum location at 4 PM, but will continue circling to pick people up), visitors can make a loop around the island, disembarking at various locations to enjoy cooking demos, activities and shopping discounts (over $150 value!) wherever they wish and catch the next shuttle that comes around. Islanders with their own transporation are encouraged to buy a ticket as well so they can claim discounts and take part in special activities. For more information about the offerings of individual shops, check out the flyers handed out by Sleigh Ride volunteers on Stroll Saturday.