The good, the fun and the festive: A sampling of Christmas events around the state

Special to the Sunday News
November 26. 2017 7:05PM
Families can walk through thousands of lights, warm up by fireside and have their pictures taken with the Budweiser Clydesdales at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights, which continues through Dec. 30 in Merrimack. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

While it's true that many New Hampshire towns are imbued with a certain quintessential charm, there's something about this time of year that turns that feeling up a notch.

Maybe it's the glow of holiday lights dotting Main Street or the warm flush of a gulp of hot chocolate on a cold night out with family and friends. Or maybe, just maybe, it's all the opportunities throughout November and December for neighbors to gather together and enjoy not only the beauty and pageantry of the season in New Hampshire, but the warmth of each other's company.

To that end, here are just a few of the family-friendly events being offered throughout New Hampshire this holiday season.

Brewery lights

The Anheuser-Busch Merrimack Brewery again shares holiday cheer with the gift of lights and, for the adults, beer.

"This is our second year," said Carla Reardon, assistant tour supervisor at the brewery. "And we're even bigger and better this year. We're excited to have the holiday spirit in the community and give people a place to come during the holidays."

Throughout the season, visitors can come to the Brewery and Tour Center for a holiday experience featuring thousands of sparkling lights.

The brewery will also feature live music, an expanded selection of fire pits, s'mores stations and an all-new hot cocoa bar. Every Friday evening, guests can meet and have their picture taken with the Budweiser Clydesdales. And the brewery will collect toys for the Toys for Tots Foundation through mid-December.

Brewery Lights runs every Thursday through Sunday (except Dec. 24 and 25) through Dec. 30 from dusk to 9 p.m. (The tour center and Biergarten restaurant open at 11 a.m.)

The brewery is located at 221 Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack. Admission is free and parking is available for guests. More information can be found at

Starry Starry Weekend

As the tag line says: "One weekend. Two villages. Three days of events."

The villages of Contoocook and Hopkinton will host their 14th annual Starry Starry Weekend Dec. 1-3. The event kicks off Friday with the Hopkinton Historical Society's Annual "Last Chance Night" Art Show, from 5 to 7 p.m. Here the public is given one last chance to view and purchase original works from more than 40 regional artists.

The weekend also will include several holiday themed pop-up shops, a cookie walk, a gingerbread house workshop, and a special reading of the book "Polar Express" - with hot chocolate on the historical society's vintage Pullman train car.

Meanwhile, local shops will have special treats for visitors. Marklin Candle will have candle factory tours and Gould Hill Farm will be open all weekend with fresh apple cider, warm baked goods, Christmas trees and wreaths.

The 2017 Starry, Starry Weekend runs Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1 and 2, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information and details on events visit

"The Nutcracker"

Northeastern Ballet Theater will be presenting this holiday classic in both Durham and Wolfeboro this year. Directed by former Boston Ballet prima ballerina Edra Toth, this full-length follows the classic story of Clara and her trusty nutcracker as they venture into the land of sweets.

This version is fast-paced so that young children can easily sit through the whole thing, said Northeastern Ballet's Nancy Langfeld. This production is based on the old Boston Ballet choreography.

"The atmosphere at our 'Nutcracker' is always festive and there is excitement in the air," Langfeld said. "Children often dress up and usually have stars in their eyes after watching the performance."

Performances are Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. at Oyster River High School in Durham, and Sunday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Kingswood Arts Center in Wolfeboro.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $17.50 for students/seniors and $60 for a family pack of 4. Group rates are available, too. For tickets and more information visit or call 834-8834.

Santa's Holiday Express

The big man in red takes to the rails from North Conway aboard Santa's Holiday Express on the Conway Scenic Railroad. Santa will be on board, along with his mischievous elves, and available for photos.

"Santa and the elves take their time walking through the passenger cars with hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies, pausing for photos along the way," said Susan Logan, manager for marketing and events with the Conway Scenic Railroad.

"Our elves are teenagers who love kids and interact with them with lots of enthusiasm. Parents love seeing their children so excited to see Santa."

These special train trips are available weekends through Dec. 10 and daily from the 16th to the 23rd. Departures are at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. from the station in North Conway village. Fares vary, but children younger than 4 ride free in coach. For more information call 800-232-5251 or visit

"Miracle on 34th Street"

The classic Christmas movie comes to life in a live musical adapted especially for The Majestic Theatre in Derry. The story, for those who don't know, concerns one little girl's belief in Santa Claus. Majestic's "Miracle on 34th Street" is directed by Michele Bossie of Milford with musical direction by Keith Belanger of Londonderry and stars an ensemble cast of all ages.

"What makes this particular 'Miracle' different from the ones we have done before, is that we are bringing it back to the original 1947 era, with all the old nostalgic costumes and that old Yuletide feel," said Bossie.

They have also added carolers between some scenes singing classic carols as well as a few more recent Christmas songs such as "Believe" from "Polar Express," "Where Are You Christmas" and "Grown Up Christmas List."

"This is the perfect show to get everyone in the Christmas spirit," Bossie said. "We are also going to coordinate having a canned food box set up at each of our shows. This will be a great way for us to give back to this wonderful community."

"Miracle" runs Friday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9 at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. Performances will be held at the Derry Opera House at 29 West Broadway. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors 65 and older and $12 for youth 17 and younger. For tickets and more information, call 669-7469 or visit Tickets will also be available at the door.

A New England Christmas

For a different take on the holidays, Portsmouth's Pontine Theater is offering "A New England Christmas." The stage show, which will be performed at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, uses Victorian Paper Theater (also known as two-dimensional puppetry), three-dimensional puppetry and illustrations to tell seasonal stories, all of which were written by local authors.

"They are brand new stories," said Pontine Theatre Co-Artistic Director, M. Marguerite Mathews. "We spent a lot of time doing research to find stories that have a slightly different twist that have something new to say and also are connected to the culture of where we live."

The show is recommended for school-age children and their parents. There also will be homemade Christmas cookies at intermission.

The show runs Friday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. The Seacoast Science Center is located at 570 Ocean Blvd. in Rye. Tickets are $24 and may be purchased online at Tickets may also be purchased at the door a half hour prior to each show, based on availability.

Christmas at Canterbury

Christmas at Canterbury touts itself as a way to "experience the delights of Christmas in a simpler era." To that end, the event will take place inside historic buildings of Canterbury Shaker Village, where presenters will put on an old-time 19th-century magic show.

Visitors also will get to meet Santa and costumed characters, make Christmas cards for loved ones, decorate gingerbread cookies, create ornaments, admire a toy train display and listen to fiddlers. The event will be capped off with hot cider and Christmas carols as the Village Christmas tree is lit.

Christmas at Canterbury will be held Dec. 9 and 16 from 3-8 p.m. each day at Canterbury Shaker Village, 288 Shaker Road. Tickets are $18 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-17, and free for children younger than 5. For more information, visit

Currier and Ives Cookie Tour

This holiday favorite, now in its 13th year, takes visitors on a tour through 15 shops, six Monadnock Region towns and a range of sweet holiday treats.

Featured are shops in Peterborough, Dublin, Troy, Fitzwilliam, Jaffrey, and Rindge. At each stop - all specially decorated for the holidays - participants receive a homemade treat, refreshment, and recipe. A portion of this year's proceeds will be donated to Hundred Nights Inc. in Keene, which provides emergency shelter to anyone in need from Dec. 21 through March 31, the 100 potentially coldest nights of the year.

Participants who visit at least 10 of the 15 stops on the tour will be entered to win a gift certificate valued at $130 that can be redeemed at any participating location on the tour.

The tour is Saturday, Dec. 9 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. For a list of individual locations on the tour and their hours visit

For more holiday activities, visit

EntertainmentArtsMusicTheaterHuman InterestFoodHoliday or vacationGeneral NewsWolfeboroCanterburyContoocookDerryHopkintonMerrimackDublinFitzwilliamJaffreyPeterboroughRindgeTroyDurhamPortsmouthNorth ConwayPhoto Feature

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