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Clear Your Calendar For the Pageants of Christmas

     With the coming weeks offering events and attractions promising to wow you, amaze you and fill your hearts with holiday wonder and glad tidings, how do you choose which of the season’s pageants makes it on to your calendar?
     Here’s a bit of guidance that may help you to inspire a new tradition or rediscover a forgotten favorite.
 
What: Illuminated London Town
 
Cool Factor: Yes, a garden can be magical in December, thanks to festive lights in the trees and gazebos, warm drinks and carolers in historic buildings. Kids will enjoy making s’mores and watching fire dancers whirl flaming torches. This year, London Town lights up for two nights a week. 
See It: FSa 6-9pm, Dec. 1-16: Historic London Town, Edgewater, $12 w/discounts, rsvp (for secured parking): 410-222-1919.
 
What: Lights on the Bay
Cool Factor: An annual Chesapeake favorite, Lights on the Bay is now under the helm of the Anne Arundel County SPCA. “This event is a tradition for generations of families. Children who once went with their grandparents, now go with their own kids,” says Anne Arundel County SPCA president Kelly Brown. See Sandy Point State Park transformed into a drive-thru holiday experience. New displays are added every year, and many marriage proposals also happen here. Play the Lights on the Brain scavenger hunt to win gift cards to Squisitos. Splurge on 3-D glasses: It’s worth it.
See It: Open nightly 5-10pm rain or shine thru Jan. 1, 2018: Sandy Point State Park, $15/car, $30/van or mini-bus, $50/bus (check online for various discounts): www.lightsonthebay.org.
 
What: Living Christmas Tree
Cool Factor: For 30 years, Riverdale Baptist Church has celebrated the season with a 30-foot-tall living Christmas tree decorated with thousands of synchronized lights plus 70-some human ornaments: choir, orchestra and actors in a heart-warming play, all rising 10 levels on a wooden platform to spread the good news. Come early to see the live nativity.
See It: F 7:30pm, Sa 1:30pm & 6:30pm, Su 1:30pm, Dec. 8-10: Riverdale Baptist Church, Upper Marlboro, $12 w/discounts, rsvp: www.livingtreetickets.com.
 
What: Speight Studio’s Greater Annapolis Lego Open (GALO)
Cool Factor: Kids put their imaginations to the test, building the coolest holiday creations with plastic bricks (no kits). Kids compete for gift certificates, but everybody enjoys seeing all the creations on display in the Maryland State Education Association building on Main Street in downtown Annapolis. 
      “The first year we had 11 entries, then 22 when we opened it throughout Severna Park, then 65 last year when we had no geographic boundaries,” says architect Wayne Speight. “This year we expect 100 entries.”
Awards in three age categories (6-10 years, 9-11 and 12-16) recognize imagination in interpreting the holiday theme as well as architectural vision and kinetic energy. 
      “The party is really my Christmas, to hear them describe their work and see the joy in their eyes,” says Speight.
See It: Contest deadline is Dec. 18. Entries displayed until Jan. 1. Winners notified by Dec. 20. Details: http://www.speightstudio.com/galo.
 
What: Greening the Courthouse Square
Cool Factor: The Calvert Garden Club continues a tradition dating back to the 1930s, decking the county courthouse square in Prince Frederick with evergreen boughs, swags, wreaths and roping. The greening started in 1936 with Betty Briscoe, wife of Dr. Everard Briscoe, when the small garden club became a member of the national federation of garden clubs. Back then, a single wreath was hung on the courthouse door.
     These days club members meet early to construct the decorations that are then loaded onto county trucks and hung, with the assistance of county public works staff, in the square to make the season festive and to welcome the first of the New Year.
See It: Tu Dec. 5, 12:30pm thru New Year’s Day, Court House Square, Prince Frederick, 410-326-6567
 
What: Jingle All the Way
Cool Factor: Kids and teens steal the show with musical numbers and special guests in The Talent Machine’s annual holiday production, featuring special guests Santa, Rudolph and Frosty. 
       “Our holiday show is one of three full-length shows that we do, and it really captures what The Talent Machine is all about: building a family, working together and putting something on for the community,” says Chris O’Connor, parent of two Talent Machine performers.       “These very dedicated kids put their heart and soul into it, and it turns out awesome. It’s a show for everyone — young or old — with performers in kindergarten to high school, all sharing their gifts with you at the holidays.        Expect to hear a lot of great music and see some dance numbers, all mixed in with a storyline with group acts and solos at every level from the serious to the seriously cute.”
See It: FSa 7:30pm, SaSu 2pm, Su 10am & 6:30pm, Dec. 15-17 & Dec. 20-23: Key Auditorium, St. John’s College, Annapolis, $15 w/discounts, rsvp: www.talentmachine.com.
 
What: Do or Die Mysteries
Cool Factor: Looking for something a little different this holiday season? Head to Glen Burnie for Do or Die’s production of Blue Christmas. Enjoy your meal and then head to the South Pole to meet the Anti-Claus, whose devious plots are afoot.
“I think it’s the perfect holiday activity, one you can do with a group. You are guaranteed some laughs, and we all need that when we start feeling stressed out from the demands of the season. This show isn’t dark like our other shows,” says CJ Crowe, president of Do or Die Productions. “We love to serve you a great meal and then make you laugh at these dysfunctional characters, so I encourage you to bring your entire dysfunctional family!”
See It: Dec. 11 & 18: 6:30-9:30pm, Sunset Restaurant, Glen Burnie, $56.50, rsvp: www.DoOrDieMystery.com.
 
What: College Park Aviation Museum
Cool Factor: “Big kids and little kids have fun watching the trains, driving the trains and using their imaginations. It puts everyone in a great holiday mood,” says director Andrea Cochrane Tracey, of College Park Aviation Museum’s holiday train and plane exhibit. 
      “The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating, constantly moving, holiday-themed display of O-gauge model railroads to the museum. Multiple trains wind their way through villages, tunnels, depots and more.”
      Santa arrives by helicopter Dec. 2, a 15-year tradition.
See It: Santa fly-in Dec. 2: Noon-4pm; holiday trains Dec. 16-23, 10am-5pm, College Park Aviation Museum, $5: 301-864-6029.
 
What: A Christmas Carol 
Cool Factor: No need to time-travel with a Christmas ghost to find the meaning of the season. Just head to North Beach to see Charles Dickens’ story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the redemptive power of Christmas as Twin Beach Players takes on this timeless work with fresh faces, great music and memorable characters. 
      “No one defined the spirit of Christmas quite like our Mr. Dickens,” says Rachel Cruz, director. “To be able to interpret and translate his story for the stage has been a wonderful experience.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
See It: FSa 8pm, Su 3pm, thru Dec. 10: Boys and Girls Club, North Beach, $15 w/discounts, rsvp: www.twinbeachplayers.com.
 
What: Holiday Tea with The Nutcracker
Cool Factor: The Captain Avery Museum combines something new with something old this holiday season. The Sugar Plum Fairy reads the story of The Nutcracker, followed by a mini-ballet featuring guests from the National Ballet Company. Then everybody snacks on tea sandwiches and assorted sweet treats while awaiting Santa’s arrival.
“It’s a special collaboration between the museum and the ballet company, almost like a kid-sized portion of the full-length ballet,” says Pat Freiberg, interim director. “Santa will arrive later, so bring your wish list. All of the dancers will stay for photos, too.”
If you can’t make it to the tea, join the museum’s Yule log centerpiece workshop (Dec. 17, 1-4pm, $6-$10).
See It: Dec. 3: 1pm, Captain Avery Museum, Shady Side, $25 w/discounts, rsvp: www.captainaverymuseum.org.
 
What: It’s a Wonderful Life Live Radio Play
Cool Factor: The Colonial Players reimagine this American holiday classic as a live 1940’s radio broadcast, complete with radio-age sound effects. 
“The show is family-friendly. So many people have grown up with the movie, that to be able to share that with their kids and their families is a wonderful thing,” says Sarah Wade, Colonial Players’s marketing director. “This is the time of year to focus on the positive, as hard as it can be sometimes, and I think (much like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol), George Bailey learns a wonderful lesson about himself, and the impact we have on others. 
Wade promises a new take on the old movie — “one I think our audiences will love.” 
See It: ThFSa 8pm, SaSu 2pm, Dec. 1-10: Colonial Players, Annapolis, $23, rsvp: www.thecolonialplayers.org.
 
What: Christmas at Willow Oak Flower & Herb Farm
Cool Factor: Walk the glittery Winter Wonderland garden path to Santa’s cabin and meet the head elf, as the nursery offers this and many other holiday workshops that guide you in making seasonal holiday decorations. 
“We’ve got a whole barn of wonderful Christmas ornaments and plants,” says owner Maria Price-Nowakowski. “Rosemary wreaths, poinsettias, amaryllis, potted paperwhites, antique hydrangeas, gardenias, Christmas flowers to decorate your sideboard and table.” 
Learn to make a variety of decorations in a workshop and bring the kids to meet Prancer the singing reindeer. “It’s a lot of fun and kinda magical. We even have snow,” Nowakowski says. 
See It: FSa 4:30-7pm, Willow Oak Flower and Herb Farm, Severn, $7 w/ discounts: www.willowoakherbs.com.
 
What: Christmas in Ireland in Maryland
Cool Factor: “It’s the real deal in Irish traditional music,” says Peter Brice of the New Century American Irish Arts Company. “This show is full of kids who are learning to play this traditional music and playing it well. It’s an old-time kind of entertainment, a community event that feels like going back in time when Severna Park and Annapolis were really small towns.”
       In this intergenerational affair, students and teachers play jigs and reels on traditional instruments, dance, tell stories and liven up the holiday season.
      “And, of course, we will have our bar serving up a signature mixed drink, with some absurd name, naturally,” adds Brice.
      With performers ranging in age “from seven years up to 64, it really is for everyone and a great way for young people to learn to act around adults and for adults to mind their Ps and Qs.”
See It: Dec. 10 & 17, 2:30pm, The Holy Grounds, Severna Park Community Center, $15, rsvp: www.newcenturyirisharts.com/christmas.

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