Sights, Sounds & Spirit of the Season

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Experience 10 of Adams County’s “Can’t-Miss” Holiday Celebrations

By Karen Hendricks  |  Photography Courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

From miniature gingerbread houses to decked-out historical homes, holiday food tours and classic Christmas theater, time-honored traditions, plus new celebrations—even wine and cookies—Adams County offers a multitude of merry celebrations.

This list of 10 can’t-miss events hits this year’s holiday highlights—and we hope it sparks some new holiday adventures for residents and visitors alike.

Whether you enjoy these 10 events or discover additional Adams County merriment, we invite you to share your festive photos: Post your holiday photos on our Facebook page or upload them to Instagram with the hashtag #celebrategettysburg. Showcase Adams County’s off-the-beaten-path holiday décor, smiles with Santa, cut-your-own Christmas trees, and more. We look forward to sharing the joy of the season!

Tree Festivities

Gettysburg Christmas Tree Lighting / Nov. 23 / gettysburgretailmerchants.com
New Oxford Christmas Tree Lighting / Nov. 24 / newoxford.org/tree-lighting

Route 30 intersects both Gettysburg’s and New Oxford’s iconic town squares where traditional Christmas trees reign. “When I think of Christmas in Adams County, it’s this Americana type of event,” says Stacey Fox, vice president of Destination Gettysburg. The Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (GARMA) organizes Gettysburg’s tree lighting, while the New Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce develops New Oxford’s.

New Festival with Historic Roots

Gettysburg Christmas Festival / Dec. 1 / agettysburgchristmasfestival.com
Gingerbread Celebration / Nov. 29-Dec. 1 / adamsarts.org

Fox says the newly-created Gettysburg Christmas Festival “came about very organically,” spearheaded by Roger Lund, owner of The Christmas Haus, New Oxford and Gettysburg. Fox serves on the festival’s committee, which encouraged Gettysburg’s shop and business owners to work together within their blocks to create themed festival experiences. These include:

A Roaring 20s Christmas (Chambersburg St.)

A Colonial Christmas (York St.)

A Victorian Christmas (Steinwehr Ave.)

Christmas on Stage & Screen and The Arts! (Carlisle St.)

Our Christmas Heritage (North end of Baltimore St.)

A Civil War Christmas (South end of Baltimore St.)

Additionally, the festival encompasses the Gettysburg Christmas parade—offering a new afternoon timeframe and adjusted route—Breakfast with Santa at the Gettysburg Hotel, and the final day of the 9th Annual Gingerbread Celebration and Holiday Mart presented by the Adams County Arts Council.

“I think many of us have nostalgic memories of Christmases past when we made a gingerbread house with our mother or grandmother,” says Chris Glatfelter, executive director of the Arts Council. “The creativity that the bakers exhibit is amazing…they are every bit as creative as artists creating paintings.”

The Gingerbread Celebration moves to a new venue this year—the former ACNB Bank building now called the Grant Building. Admission is free and includes children’s events and more; attendees vote for their favorite gingerbread creations with quarters and proceeds benefit the nonprofit arts council.

Land of Lights

The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg / theoutletshoppesatgettysburg.com

More than 100,000 white lights twinkle along Main Street at The Outlet Shoppes of Gettysburg, casting a magical glow on shoppers as they search for holiday gifts among 60 shops. “We start installing lights beginning on Oct. 1 with completion scheduled by Nov. 12,” says Linda Wellborn, marketing director at the Outlets. “We use two 45-foot aerial lifts…and we light about 100 trees. Each tree has between 300-600 lights. There are over 14,000 roof and gutter lights.”

Additionally, there are gazebo lights, lit fountains, 24 lit wreaths, about 40 lit trees lining the entrance and road, and many more twinkling light displays. Wellborn says two different crews of workmen devote a combined total of hundreds of hours to the holiday displays.

“Each holiday season, thousands of families and friends enjoy complimentary carriage rides down our quaint Main Street on Friday and Saturday evenings,” says Wellborn. “This has become an annual tradition for so many and truly puts shoppers in the holiday spirit.”

In addition to free carriage rides, the Outlets offer visits with Santa, strolling holiday characters, and additional holiday events. “The enchanting twinkle of lights, the cheerful sound of jingle bells and hooves, and of course that gratifying feeling of finding the perfect gifts for all of the special people on your list are a few reasons to unwrap the holiday season at The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg,” Wellborn says.

Christmas in the Nifty Fifties

An Eisenhower Christmas at the Eisenhower National Historic Site /
Dec. 1-31 / nps.gov/eise

Think vintage 1950s décor with a holiday twist: The Eisenhowers’ Adams County home is decorated exactly as it was during their presidential years including the same china and silver used for Christmas dinner. National Park Service rangers provide holiday stories about “Ike,” Mamie, and the first family, as the Eisenhowers’ Christmas albums provide musical ambiance.

Downtown Cheer

12 Tastes of Christmas Holiday Walking Food Tour / Dec. 1, 8, 9, and 15 / savorgettysburgfoodtours.com

In its second year, the 12 Tastes tour is like an insider’s guide to Gettysburg’s eateries, downtown wineries, and boutique shops, says organizer Lori Korczyk.

“The food offered on the tour is very much comfort food including Gluhwein, which is a traditional Christmas punch made with red wine, available at the Christmas Haus,” she says.

Additional tour stops include A&A Treasures, Lark, and more. Korczyk says the 3.5-hour tour does not involve a lot of walking. Tickets are $69 and include shop coupons, historical facts, and stories along the way.

Holiday Hospitality

Inns of the Gettysburg Area Holiday House Tour and Tasting / Dec. 8 / gettysburgbedandbreakfast.com

Gettysburg area B&Bs have been decking their halls for 23 years’ worth of tours! This year’s lineup includes historic bed-and-breakfasts plus private properties, including The Little Round Top Farm, Doubleday Inn, Hickory Bridge Inn, Tillie Pierce House, and more, each offering tours and refreshments.

“One of the highlights of this year’s tour is the Dobbin House, beautifully decorated in Colonial décor,” says Eileen Hoover of the Inns’ special events committee.

Tickets are $20 per person; guests at the Inns of the Gettysburg Area properties receive complimentary tickets—in addition to off-season lodging rates. Event proceeds are donated to South Central Community Actions Program (SCCAP).

“Not only tourists but many residents from a 30-40 mile radius return every year, making the tour part of their holiday tradition,” says Hoover.

Exploring East Berlin

Christmas House Tour, East Berlin Historical Preservation Society / Dec. 9 / ebhpspa.org

Doors of historical, architectural gems swing open for East Berlin’s annual Christmas House Tour, showcasing six privately-owned homes, two churches, plus three of the society’s properties: the Church Schoolhouse, Swigart’s Mill, and Red Men’s Hall. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 the day of the tour at Red Men’s Hall.

“This is an event that gives back,” says Fox. “It helps the historical society keep their schoolhouses and other historic buildings in tip-top shape the rest of the year.”

Celebrating Scrooge

Totem Pole Playhouse Presents “A Christmas Carol” at the Majestic Theater in association with the Gettysburg Community Theatre / Dec. 14-23 / gettysburgmajestic.org

The family-friendly Christmas classic “A Christmas Carol” captures the true meaning of the holiday through iconic characters Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. A partnership of the area’s theater groups, this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ enduring tale is in its fourth year on the Majestic’s stage.

Brass Tones of Tubas

Annual Holiday Tuba Carol Fest / Dec. 14

Dozens of tuba players of all ages, hailing from throughout the country, gather on Lincoln Square for this unique, free musical event, organized by retired longtime area music educator Ben Jones.

“Hundreds of people gather at any given time, coming and going throughout the evening,” says Fox of Destination Gettysburg, a sponsoring organization that provides nearly 30 gallons of hot chocolate with the help of the Gettysburg Hotel.

In case of rain, the event moves to Prince of Peace Episcopal Church, Baltimore and High Streets. All tuba players are welcome; registration is at 5:30 p.m. at Prince of Peace with rehearsal at 6 p.m. and the performance at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Ben Jones (jonesbl@embarqmail.com, 717-334-7719).

Winery Wonderland

Adams County Winery Holiday Cookie Pairing Flights / Dec. 15-16 / adamscountywinery.com

Tucked into Adams County’s rolling hills, Adams County Winery offers a unique holiday experience now in its third year. “There’s an emotional connection with wine; it’s normally coupled with an experience, dinner, or celebration,” says Melissa Roth, the winery’s PR director. She notes some people are intimidated by wine pairings, but cookies make this a fun, approachable event.

Wine flights, $11.99, include three types of holiday cookies paired with three wines. Visitors are welcome to stop by; no tickets or registration necessary.

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