Community activities to ignite the holiday spirit
By Mary Thurwachter
Haven’t leaned into the ho-ho-ho state of mind yet? Here are some activities that can spark your interest in the most wonderful time of the year. From boat parades to tuba concerts to a living Nativity program, coastal residents looking to welcome the holiday season have many options.
Christmas at Cason Cottage
Back for the seventh year, Christmas at Cason Cottage invites visitors to gather ’round the Christmas tree inside its historic 1926 bungalow and listen to a classic story read by one of the Delray Beach Historical Society’s popular elves.
“The campus and gardens will be decorated for the holidays so visitors can wander the garden paths and enjoy the beauty,” says Winnie Diggans Edwards, executive director of the historical society.
Event begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at 3 NE First St., Delray Beach. $5 admission. www.delraybeachhistory.org/events/christmas-at-cason-cottage/
A jolly, hand-waving Santa will be on board for local boat parades, long-standing waterway events not to be missed. Boats large and small will be adorned with twinkling lights and other festive décor.
Boynton Beach’s Holiday Boat Parade starts at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8, forming at the Ocean Avenue bridge in Lantana near Old Key Lime House and traveling south to the C-15 Canal in Delray Beach (south of Linton Boulevard).
The parade partners with the Marine Industries Association and Sea Tow to collect new, unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots. Boats traveling with the parade will stop at individual docks along the route to collect toys. Just wave a flashlight and a boat will come directly to you for pickup.
Boca Raton’s annual Holiday Boat Parade lights up the Intracoastal Waterway beginning at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the C-15 Canal, traveling south to the Hillsboro Boulevard bridge. Visit www.myboca.us/1464/Holiday-Boat-Parade
The holidays wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the magnificent municipal Christmas trees in our neck of the woods. Among the most stunning is the 100-foot sparkler at Old School Square in Delray Beach. This year marks the tree’s 30th anniversary.
While you’re there, stick around to enjoy musical performances, culinary creations, crafts and holiday village with carousel, ice skating and mini golf. Hours, which continue through the end of the year, vary. See www.delraybeachfl.gov/our-city/things-to-do/100-ft-christmas-tree for details.
In Boca Raton, the Christmas tree is in Mizner Park, which has been transformed into a holiday wonderland with 50,000 LED lights decorating 75 palm trees throughout the park.
Visit www.myboca.us/1466/Holiday-Tree-Lighting for details.
Boynton Beach’s trees can be found at Centennial Park and Amphitheater. Two banyan trees on East Ocean Avenue have trunks and branches wrapped with 25,000 LED mini lights, and a kapok tree on East Ocean and Seacrest Boulevard has its trunks and branches wrapped with 20,000 LED lights.
A 30-foot custom lighted holiday tree can be seen at Centennial Park just east of City Hall. Gracing each side of the holiday tree are a menorah and a kinara display. See www.boynton-beach.org/Calendar.aspx?EID=636
A favorite holiday event at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Boynton Beach, the Living Nativity uses costumed actors to bring the story of the birth of Jesus to life. In this case the actors are children, who couldn’t be more earnest and adorable. Considering the pandemic, the program was held outdoors in past years, but it’s back in the church again.
Called the Spontaneous Christmas Pageant, the show starts at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. “Cast members are chosen, dressed and placed in position for our Christmas tableau as we tell the Nativity story, with periodic breaks for Christmas carols and dressing the characters in costume,” says the Rev. Marty Zlatic, whose wife, Dee Zlatic, is the children’s minister coordinating the event.
“We also have the 6:30 p.m. contemporary service on Christmas Eve with our Live Hymnal Band,” he says. “Then our choir and organ, supplemented with brass instruments and timpani, provides a mini concert at 9:30 p.m. followed by our midnight- like service at 10 p.m.”
All three of these services include the lighting of candles and singing of Silent Night.
On Christmas Day, the church has a service with congregational carol singing beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Let’s hear it for tuba players, those big brass stars who gather throughout the world each year to oompah-pah their way through Christmas carols via the organization Tuba Christmas. The musicians, some of whom perform Dec. 3 in Mizner Park, make no apologies for tooting loudly. Many wrap their instruments in tinsel and battery-powered Christmas lights.
The Mizner Park players are volunteers brought together by Marc Decker, director of athletic bands at Florida Atlantic University. “It’s always quite fun,” Decker says.
Bring chairs and blankets and be prepared to sing along. Concert begins at 5 p.m. at Mizner Park Amphitheater in Boca Raton. Free. www.fau.edu/artsandletters/music/events/tubachristmas/
Old-fashioned street parades remain part of local holiday traditions. In these cases, Santa rides on a float instead of a boat.
Boynton Beach’s parade takes place 4-6 p.m. Dec. 2. Attendees will see a spectacular parade with eye-catching entertainment, award-winning marching bands, local schools and community organizations. The route extends from downtown on Federal Highway between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Woolbright Road.
Boca Raton’s parade, with floats, bands and community groups, will be 7-9 p.m. Dec. 6 starting on Federal Highway at Southeast Fifth Street and traveling north to the Mizner Park Amphitheater. Visit www.myboca.us/1465/Holiday-Street-Parade
To mark Hanukkah, the Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century, Delray Beach is hosting a festival and menorah lighting 5-7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Old School Square. The free festival will feature live music, game trucks, holiday snacks and crafts.
Photos with Santa
In years past, going to the mall to have your children’s pictures taken with Santa was something everyone did. But malls aren’t what they used to be — and there aren’t as many malls. Town Center in Boca Raton touts a “Santa Experience.” You can still go see Santa for free, but the mall is promoting reservations that (for a fee) allow families more time (15 minutes) with Jolly Ol’ St. Nick, a professional photo, story time and a personal phone call from Santa. Arrangements can be made to have Santa photographed with pets, too.
Let’s hear a “Hallelujah” for the Masterworks Chorus of the Palm Beaches, an all-volunteer 60-voice chorus bringing Handel’s Messiah to the Royal Poinciana Chapel at 7 p.m. Dec. 10. The three-hour performance has become a yuletide staple and definitely warrants a drive to Palm Beach. General admission is $35.
’A Christmas Carol’
If you’re lucky enough to score tickets, you can see actor Timur Kocak playing every role in A Christmas Carol, a one-man version of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, at the Delray Beach Playhouse. Tickets to the show, which begins at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 15, are $49 and include lunch.