(no grinches allowed)
Mark your calendar for these five, fun, festive celebrations of the holiday season! From sharing tea with characters from The Nutcracker, to listening to carols in a historic church, to experiencing a procession honoring the birth of Jesus, there is a wide variety of things to do.
Winterhaven Festival of Lights
The Winterhaven Festival of Lights is one of the longest running holiday celebrations of its kind in the country! Held annually since 1949, it is visited by thousands of people from all over Southern Arizona. It’s hard to believe that nearly 70 years have passed since CB Richards purchased the first set of Christmas lights and donated them to the neighborhood. He was inspired to create the festival after visiting a similar display in Beverly Hills, California, in the 1930s. He purchased theadder may have sufficed 69 years ago, putting lights up in the mature Allepos now requires the assistance of Aleppo pines (still thriving today) from a local nursery that was going out of business. They were planted at regular intervals throughout the neighborhood with electrical hook-ups near each tree. Every year, visitors and residents delight in the magic of seeing these elder Aleppos lit up by hundreds of twinkling lights. Although a simple lCOX Cable and Tucson Electric Power, now a proud sponsor of the event. “It’s pretty amazing,” says this year’s chairmen Mariel Hall, of the massive undertaking. Contrary to popular belief, the Winterhaven HOA does not require residents to put up lights. However, Hall says it’s hard not to, “You just get the fever.” Aside from bringing a little Christmas cheer to the Tucson community, the main focus is to raise funds and food for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, a partnership that has been flourishing since the ’80s. In fact, the Winterhaven Festival of Lights is the largest fundraiser they have, and last year $23,820 was raised, along with 49,631 pounds of food! Visitors are welcome to experience the festival on foot or, for a more whimsical experience, reserve a hayride, party bike or trolley limo. There also is a drive-through night on Dec. 26. Donation stations are set up at all four entrances to the neighborhood — open 24 hours a day.
69th Annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights
6-10 p.m. every day Admission free, but donations are encouraged.
For more information visit WinterhavenFestival.org
18th Annual Sugar Plum Tea
This delightful annual tradition features live music and dance performances, shopping and scrumptious treats, all to benefit Ballet Tucson — our city’s only professional ballet company. Ballet Tucson’s Sugar Plum Tea will offer a dazzling array of delicious nibbles to accompany the tea and hot cocoa. Adult guests will have the opportunity to try to outbid one another during a silent auction for fabulous prizes, or enjoy shopping the Holiday Boutique for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. Live music of the season will be performed by pianist Jeff Haskell, vocalist Katherine Byrnes and harpist Christine Vivona. Characters from The Nutcracker will appear at the event, and Ballet Tucson’s dancers will perform selections from the well-know holiday classic. Proceeds benefit Ballet Tucson, which was established in 1986, and presents a full season of high-quality professional dance productions, with works ranging from historical classics through contemporary pieces, many created by the company’s own choreographers. TucsonLifestyle.com is a media partner.
18th Annual Sugar Plum Tea
1 p.m. Tucson Marriott University Park Hotel Tickets:
$75 per person
24th Annual Parade of Lights & Festival
Downtown Tucson’s premier holiday event — the Parade of Lights & Festival — brings together Tucsonans from all walks of life to celebrate not just the spirit of the winter season but also the unique culture of our community. Mark the date on your calendar, Saturday, Dec. 15, and make plans for a festive evening for the entire family. The grand scale procession will weave throughout an illuminated and decorated downtown, and you can expect to see a cavalcade of colorful floats, Folklórico dancers adorned with brilliant lights, marching mariachis and … parading pups! The parade is adjacent to Jacome Plaza, where a fabulous festival will be held. You’ll enjoy live entertainment as well as a smorgasbord of foods from local vendors. And … be ready for some Snow!! The parade — presented by Carondelet Health Network and Downtown Tucson Partnership — starts at the intersection of Church Avenue and Alameda Street. For additional information go to downtowntucson.org.
24th Annual Parade of Lights & Festival
Saturday Time: 6:30 p.m.
Parade Start: Church Avenue and Alameda Street
Students from Carrillo K-5 Magnet School invite Tucsonans to participate in Las Posadas, an event featuring music, dance, food and fun, which begins at 5 p.m. on Dec. 14. Las Posadas (translated in English as “the inns”) is a nine-day Mexican Christmas tradition based on the Biblical journey of Mary and Joseph and their search of a safe place, or “inn,” to stay before the birth of Jesus. The Carrillo event was started in 1936 by teacher Marguerite Collier, who brought the custom to the school to instill pride of culture in the children of Mexican heritage. Today, the school children join in an after-school program to practice songs, learn the meanings of the characters they play, and even help create props for the procession. From 20 to 40 children usually participate, with “roles” ranging from peasants, “the knocker boy” (who knocks on doors) and pink, blue and white angels. Las Posadas begins at the school, where music, food and folklórico dancing are enjoyed. The children then lead the procession through the streets near the school DEC. Las Posadas 14 (blocked off by TPD for safety), where several “white angels” carry a nativity scene (La Nacimiento). The “knocker boy” will approach several homes, asking “if there is room at the inn.” When they finally reach the fifth, representing the inn at Bethlehem, the nativity scene is placed, and the procession returns to the school for more multi-cultural songs and a distribution of candy. In some years, nearly 300 Tucsonans are part of the procession! This is the 82nd time Carrillo K-5 Magnet School has staged Las Posadas. No TUSD funds are used in staging. It is self-funded by teachers and parents who volunteer to help; the school also holds fundraisers specifically to defray costs. Teachers, parents and support staff members help to decorate, sell food, get ready and clean up following the visit. Proceeds from food sales will go toward next year’s procession. The children also will perform Las Posadas at Presidio San Agustín as part of their Luminaria Nights event on Dec. 8, which runs from 4 to 7:30 p.m.
5 p.m.; procession begins at 7 p.m.
Carrillo K-5 Magnet School
4405 S. Main Ave.
Admission is free, food is sold
Patronato Christmas at San Xavier
Alandmark setting, two choruses that are renowned for their talent, and a repertoire that is guaranteed to provide comfort and joy add up to a series of concerts that even angels would stop to hear. For Julian Ackerley, director of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, one of the choirs that participates in this remarkable concert, it has been a more than two-decade commitment. “We’re going into our 22nd year of doing it, and it has evolved into a really good format,” he observes. “The Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus is integral in the centuries-old tradition of liturgical music using men and boys’ voices. We do a lot of shared repertoire with the Sons of Orpheus, and then both groups are highlighted with individual music.” Four works that will be performed by the boys chorus this year during these concerts at Mission San Xavier del Bac are, “He Is Born,” by Barry Talley, “Candlelight Carol” by John Rutter, “Hark The Herald/Praise His Holy Name (Gospel Style)” by Keith Hampton, and “Carol of the Bells” by Mykola Leontovich. The concert is a fundraiser for the Patronato San Xavier, which works to conserve the mission, construction of which began in 1756. “The historic nature of the building makes it an incredible environment, and the acoustics are very favorable to the music,” notes Ackerley. “But just looking around at all the icons and the statuary, and being amongst that in a packed house seven times during the week is a very special thing for an 11 or 12 year old to experience. I tell the boys about the history of the mission and we take a little tour of it so that every year they know they aren’t just going to sing in some church. I think that they really value the longevity of the building and its significance in Arizona culture.” TL