Happening holidays

The local holiday season kicks off with the Gordonsville memorial tree lighting Sunday, Dec. 1 in front of town hall. 

In his classic holiday tune, Andy Williams croons, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” That may be true, but he just as easily could have declared, “It’s the busiest time of the year,” as well. 

That’s certainly true in Orange County, where dozens of holiday activities light up the first few weeks of December, ranging from tree-lighting ceremonies to holiday bazaars and open houses.

The “beginning” of the holiday season is a moving target and many would suggest it keeps getting earlier and earlier. So, there’s no definitive beginning. However, for the sake of a starting point, we’ll stick with the calendar and select Dec. 1, when the Town of Gordonsville hosts its annual memorial tree lighting ceremony in front of town hall, beginning at 5:45. The annual event features stories and songs from Gordon-Barbour Elementary School students and performances by the Brushwood School of Dance before the names added to the tree are read and participants engage in a candlelit vigil followed by Christmas carols and a visit with Santa Claus.

Holiday and church bazaars abound Saturday, Dec. 7, with events scheduled at Orange Baptist Church, Orange Presbyterian Church, Trinity United Methodist Church and St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Orange, as well as at Somerset Christian Church, among others.

The Orange Elementary School PTA will hold a vendor and craft fair Saturday, Dec. 7 and the Lake of the Woods Lions Club will continue its holiday tradition with the ceremonial lighting of its Tree of Love Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Route 3 and Route 20 in Locust Grove.

Later that afternoon, at 5 p.m., Orange Seventh Day Adventist Church will present a festival of praise from around the world, with a freewill offering to benefit the Orange County Free Clinic.

In the evening, at 7:30 p.m., the Orange Community Chorus presents its holiday concert at Orange Presbyterian Church, offering sacred and secular holiday selections. The Orange Community Band will perform its holiday concert, Sunday, Dec. 22, at 3:30 p.m. at Orange County High School.

Sunday, Dec. 8, the Town of Orange will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its memorial tree lighting with a new tree in Taylor Park. The event, hosted by the Orange Rotary Club, follows the club’s annual holiday parade, which begins at 4:30 p.m. and features a “Lights, lights, lights, Christmas lights” theme.

“For me, I get a great feeling of community after the Christmas parade and a sense of belonging and history after the names have been solemnly read at the rededication ceremony,” Orange Rotary Club President Jamie McConnell said. “Traditions are part of the holidays, and these two traditions are a great start to get you into the Christmas spirit.”

Prior to those two events, Sunday, Dec. 8, the Orange Downtown Alliance is offering a new event it’s calling “Music and Merriment,” with a holiday concert, visit from Santa, food and drink in downtown Orange between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Other holiday concerts include the popular Singing Christmas Tree at Orange Baptist Church Dec. 14 - 15, and the annual singing of Handel’s “Messiah” at St. Thomas Episcopal Church Tuesday, Dec. 17.

Those interested in a historical look at the holidays can visit James Madison’s Montpelier for an open house holiday event Saturday, Dec. 7, or discover a 19th century Christmas at Ellwood Manor Saturday, Dec. 14. The Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum in historic Gordonsville will host a Christmas event Saturday, Dec. 21, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Other, less date-specific holiday activities include Orange County Parks and Recreation sponsoring its annual gingerbread house contest (displayed at The Arts Center In Orange) and its tacky lights tour, featuring gloriously (or ingloriously) illuminated homes throughout the holiday season.

While most of those events are occurring, the volunteers of the Orange County Children’s Toy Box will be busy collecting toys and gifts for those in need this holiday season.

“The toy box is about neighbors helping neighbors in a time of need,” organizer Donna Waugh-Robinson noted. “We get to help out Santa, help our neighbors and, most importantly we don’t let the children in our community go without, come Christmas morning.”

For a listing of local community and church events, visit www.orangenews.com.

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