It's that time of year again, the long Thanksgiving weekend, when the holiday- and Christmas-themed events in the Wilmington area start flowing like eggnog.
This isn't a comprehensive list of every single holiday or Christmas event in Southeastern North Carolina, but it does hit many if not most of the highlights. Some of these will sell out, so plan accordingly.
COMMUNITY EVENTS, FESTIVALS & ART SHOWS
All is Bright at Poplar Grove
All is Bright − A Holiday of Lights, Nov. 25-Dec. 30 at Poplar Grove: This former plantation at the New Hanover County/Pender County line will be lit up and decorated for the holidays. Guests can walk outside and enjoy the lights, and there's also a juried gift show for purchases, visits with Santa (Saturdays only), food and drinks and even a s'mores station. Tickets start at $5 for kids. 5-9 p.m. Nov. 25-26, Dec. 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 21-23 and 28-30. Details at PoplarGrove.org.
Holiday Train and Light Spectacular
Nov. 25-Dec. 30 at the Wilmington Railroad Museum: Annual display of lights and holiday-themed train sets at the only museum dedicated to Wilmington's extensive railroad history. $5 per ticket, 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 9-10, 16-17, 23 and 30. Details at 910-763-2634.
Fourth Friday Gallery Night
Nov. 25 in downtown Wilmington: The Friday after Thanksgiving is always a good time to check out this monthly crawl of downtown art galleries. Fourth Friday is an ideal place to search for gifts for the art lovers on your list and many galleries will have holiday-themed art on display, including New Elements Gallery on North Front Street, whose "A Walk in the Park" show features some of the best work of the artists they represent. For details on participating galleries, go to ArtsWilmington.org.
Downtown Tree Lighting
5:30 p.m. Nov. 25, foot of Market Street: It doesn't take downtown Wilmington long to get into the spirit of the holidays, at least not once this giant tree at Market and Water streets gets lit. Always draws a crowd, with live music, a "shopping village," an appearance by Santa and free hot chocolate (while supplies last, of course).
Lighting of the Lake
Nov. 25 at Carolina Beach Lake: Kickoff of Pleasure Island's annual, month-long Island of Lights series of events. Free to attend, starts at 7 p.m.
Holiday Train Expo
Nov. 25-Dec. 30 at Independence Mall: The Cape Fear Model Railroad Society of Eastern North Carolina presents this annual show with nearly three dozen train set-ups. Open noon-5 p.m. most days, closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tickets are $7, $5 for kids and the Expo is located in the Dillard's wing of the mall. Details at 910-470-2899.
N.C. Holiday Flotilla
Nov. 26 at Wrightsville Beach: This annual parade of lighted watercraft, now in its 38th year, has become the de facto kickoff for holiday events in the Wilmington area. Festival in Wrightsville Beach park runs 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Boat parade at 6 p.m. proceeds through Motts Channel and Banks Channel, and is followed by fireworks. Details at NCholidayflotilla.org.
Cape Fear Festival of Trees
Through Jan. 2 at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher: This longrunning local Christmas celebration and fundraiser for Lower Cape Fear LifeCare Foundation used to be held at the old Hilton hotel downtown (now Hotel Ballast), but in recent years has found a home in Kure Beach at the aquarium there. Dozens of trees are decorated for the season, and if you get tired of looking at those for some reason the trees are set up right next to the tanks filled with marine life native to the area. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Jan. 2. Details at NCAquariums.com.
All the tickets for this uber-popular Wilmington event at Airlie Gardens sold out long ago, like, immediately after they went on sale. Better luck next year! Unless, of course, you somehow hold tickets, in which case enjoy the show!
Island of Lights Christmas Parade
Dec. 2, Carolina Beach: Part of the Island of Lights festival, the parade starts at 7:30 p.m. and proceeds down Lake Park Boulevard (starting at Atlanta Avenue) to Federal Point Plaza. Featuring floats made by community groups, marching bands and, of course, St. Nick.
Dec. 3-Jan. 15 at the Cameron Art Museum: The eighth annual exhibit of light sculptures and lanterns made by artists from around the area, region and county. The opening day of "Illumination 2022," Dec. 3, is also the 13th annual Clyde's Holiday by the Sea event at Cameron, celebrating the rustic, often animal-centric work of North Carolina artist Clyde Jones. The museum has a number other holiday-themed events as well. For a full list, go to CameronArtMuseum.org.
Tree lighting, movie & ice skating
Dec. 3 at Riverfront Park/Live Oak Bank Pavilion: Previously held at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, this free event features music by the Cape Fear Chorale, a tree lighting, visits with Santa Claus and a screening of 2018 film "The Grinch." Also, for the first time in Wilmington memory, there will be an outdoor (artificial) ice skating rink. The Dec. 3 event runs from 5:30-9 p.m., but the rink actually goes up on Dec. 1, with skating available through Dec. 9. It's $5 for a 45-minute slot, to sign up for a spot click here.
Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla
Dec. 3, Carolina Beach: Boats decorated with lights cruise from Snows Cuts all the way down the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin during this well-attended annual event. The flotilla starts at 6 p.m., and winners are picked by a panel of judges as well as by popular vote. Details at PleasureIslandOfLights.com.
Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour
Dec. 10-11, downtown Wilmington: It's the 50th year for this event, a fundraiser for the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, in which luminaries mark the paths to historic downtown homes, churches and public buildings that have been decorated for the Christmas season. The tour is $50 and runs 4-8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 1-5 p.m. Dec. 11. Details at 910-762-0492 or LCFHS.org.
Burgwin-Wright holiday open house
Dec. 10 at Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens: This historic home in downtown Wilmington will be decorated for the season, and will look much as it may have appeared more than 250 years ago. Guests can tour every room in the house, including a former jail on site, and luminaries will be place throughout the grounds and gardens. Holiday craft market is 9 a.m.-3 p.m., open house is 5-9 p.m. Free to attend, donations requested.
Wilmington Holiday Parade
Dec. 11, downtown Wilmington: Thousands are expected for the 19th annual Wilmington Holiday Parade, which features Santa Claus in a fire truck rolling down Front Street, as well as area dignitaries and community groups. Start time is 6 p.m.
Kure Beach Holiday Whoobie Whatty
Dec. 16 at Kure Beach: Who? How? What, now? No need to ask questions about the area's favorite Grinch-themed holiday celebration. Google the lyrics to "Fah Who Doraze" (aka "Welcome Christmas") and enjoy Grinch face-painting, Grinch cookies, Grinch crafts, a screening of 2000's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" starring Jim Carrey (!) and, most importantly, a ceremony with the Kure Beach Cheermeister. Details at 910-458-8216.
THEATER, COMEDY & PERFORMANCES
Khristmas Roast of Khemours
Dec. 4 at the Opera Room: If any company was ever overdue for a good roasting, it's probably Chemours, the DuPont-spawned outfit that was found to be dumping toxic chemicals into the Cape Fear River for many, many years (a fact conveniently ignored by Chemours' maddeningly shameless TV ad campaign). Wilmington stand-ups Bridget Callahan, Chelsea Connor, Meghan Cook and Alex Denning will take turns roasting Chemours' chestnuts over their comedy fire, while Daisy Faith, Chad Fogland and Adrian Monte of Wilmington's DareDevil Improv will be featured between acts. Show at 7 p.m., all proceeds benefit Cape Fear River Watch.
Nochebuena: A Christmas Spectacular
Dec. 6 at CFCC Wilson Center: The touring Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles presents this show that explores and honors the Christmas traditions of Mexico, where Christmas Eve is a very big and highly festive deal. 7:30 p.m. show, tickets start at $25. 910-362-7999.
'A Very Merry Downtown Christmas'
Dec. 8-11 at the Brooklyn Arts Center: Pianist, singer and Wilmington-based Broadway veteran Brian Whitted is the star of this Opera House Theatre Co. show featuring holiday favorites and a rotating cast of performers backed by a seven-piece orchestra. Performances are 7 p.m. Dec. 8-10 and 3 p.m. Dec. 10-11. Details at 910-762-4234.
'Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol'
Dec. 8-18 at Thalian Hall studio theater: This play on "A Christmas Carol" by Tom Mula, told from the perspective of Scrooge's misery business partner, Jacob Marley, has been staged by Wilmington's Big Dawg Productions a few times over the years, and they're bringing it back again for 2023. Four actors reprise their roles from past productions: Steve Vernon as Scrooge, Randy Davis as Marley, Vanessa Davis as spirit guide The Bogle and Fracaswell Hyman in multiple roles. From my 2018 review of the show: "'Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol' will help you see the original story with fresh eyes, which makes it a theatrical gift for the season." 910-632-2285.
'A Christmas Story'
Dec. 9-18 at Thalian Hall: Wilmington's Thalian Association presents the musical stage version of the beloved holiday movie about young Ralphie's Christmas quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. The show was done locally about 10 years ago at the old City Stage theater, but this will the musical's first time on stage at Thalian Hall. 910-632-2285.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Dec. 10 at CFCC Wilson Center: Cape Fear Community College's department of fine and performing arts presents its annual stage version of the classic animated "Peanuts" Christmas special. In the spirit of the season, bring a non-perishable food donation for the Good Shepherd Center. Show at 3 p.m., tickets are $15, and free for kids under 12. 910-362-7999.
A Magical Cirque Christmas
Dec. 15 at CFCC Wilson Center: Have yourself an acrobatic Christmas with this touring show featuring all manner of high-flying, circus-style performers. Shows at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., tickets start at $32. 910-362-7999.
Hark, the Herald Angels Swing
Dec. 16-18 at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort: Annual Christmas cabaret and fundraiser for Opera House Theatre Co. directed by Ray Kennedy is a collection of song and dance numbers featuring top performers, a holiday theme and an array of tuneful Christmastime hits. Also features a prix fixe dinner and a live and silent auction. Shows at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 16-17 and noon Dec. 18. Tickets at 844-676-0554.
'It's a Wonderful Life'
Dec. 22 at Thalian Hall: It's the 12th annual screening of this Christmas classic at Wilmington's most storied and historic theater. With two showings, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. 910-632-2285.
Ballet for Young Audiences: 'The Nutcracker'
Dec. 2-3 at Thalian Hall: Touring performance by this New York City dance company has been coming to Wilmington for many years now. The abbreviated story of young Clara's magical adventures in a mysterious realm is perfect for a child's first experience watching ballet. With three performances: 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 2, 10 a.m. Dec. 3. 910-632-2285.
City Ballet's 'The Nutcracker'
Dec. 3-4 at CFCC Wilson Center: Featuring a full orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's famous score, this Wilmington-based ballet company will bring the famous story to life with both professional and local dancers. With two performances: 7 p.m. Dec. 3 and 3 p.m. Dec. 4. Tickets are $30. 910-362-7999.
The Great Wilmington Nutcracker
Dec. 17-18 at CFCC Wilson Center: The Wilmington Ballet Co. and US International Ballet present their annual take on the holiday-themed ballet classic. Expect stellar costumes and scenery as a mix of amateur and professional dancers portray all the characters and magical lands you and your children know and love. With four performances: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 17 and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Dec. 4. Tickets are $30. 910-362-7999.
Nov. 28 at CFCC Wilson Center: The musical juggernaut from Chip Davis, which puts synthesizer-heavy spins on holiday classics, has been chugging along for more than three decades now. Live performances are multimedia displays of visual and sonic wizardry. Shows at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., tickets start at $46. 910-362-7999.
Cape Fear Chordsmen
Dec. 4 at Temple Baptist Church: Longtime Wilmington "barbershop chorus" presents their annual holiday show, "Christmas in Our Hometown." With a special appearance by a women’s barbershop group, The Harmony Belles. The free concert is 3 p.m. at the church, 1801 Market St in Wilmington.
Dec. 9 at Bourgie Nights: Some of Wilmington's best songwriters will carry on this local tradition, with shorts sets featuring two holiday songs and one original. The slate of a dozen-or-so artists is like a who's who of Wilmington music, with artists including Sean Thomas Gerard (his new Christmas song, "When We Hit December," is lit), Billy Heathen, Sheme of Gold and many more. Admission is a $10 suggested donation and/or an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots.
N.C. Symphony's Holiday Pops
Dec. 11 at CFCC Wilson Center: The state symphony brings its annual program of classical and popular holiday music to town. As always, one of the highlights is an audience sing-along. With shows at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., tickets start at $20. 910-362-7999.
Wilmington Choral Society's Songs of the Season
Dec. 14 at CFCC Wilson Center: This group, which has been performing in Wilmington for more than 75 years, presents a concert of Christmas favorites, including "Sleigh Ride," "Winter Wonderland" and more. With a special appearance by the student chorus from Cape Fear Academy. 7 p.m. show, tickets start at $22. 910-362-7999.
Bending Towards the Light: A Jazz Nativity
Dec. 15 at UNCW's Kenan Auditorium: A jazzy reinterpretation of the (original) Christmas story, this show directed by Wilmington's Julia Walker Jewell features both new and familiar music performed by the likes of Port City jazz favorite Benny Hill and the Chancel Choir of Wrightsville United Methodist Church. Opening performance by the Wrightsville Ringers handbell choir. 7 p.m. show, tickets are $14 and $7. 910-962-3500.
Holiday Revue with the Mid-Atlantic
Dec. 16 at the Brooklyn Arts Center: For years, the Wilmington band L Shape Lot held an annual and very popular benefit for Toys for Tots at the Brooklyn Arts Center. L Shape decided to amicably split earlier this year, so Jason Andre and his band The Midatlantic has stepped up to keep the tradition going. With opening acts The Tan and Sober Gentlemen and Mike Blair & The Stonewalls. Tickets are $20 and $50, and attendees are asked to bring an unwrapped toy for donation to Toys for Tots. Proceeds will also benefit the Plastic Ocean Project.
Wilmington Voices holiday choral performance
Dec. 18 at the Cameron Art Museum: This 24-member Wilmington choir will perform a mix of classical, religious and popular tunes for its annual holiday concert. 3 p.m. show, $10 suggested donation.
Celtic Angels Christmas
Dec. 21 at Thalian Hall: This Irish singing and dancing group featuring Victoria Sexton, Louise Barry, Searlait Ni Caiside, Olivia Bradley and Michaela Groth will dance and perform a mix of Celtic Christmas songs ("Christmas in Killarney," "Silent Night" sung in Gaelic) and such classics as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Performances at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. 910-632-2285.
Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or John.Staton@StarNewsOnline.com.
This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Best Christmas and holiday events in Wilmington NC for 2022