Take a step back in time to celebrate the holiday season in Kennebunkport and surrounding towns during Christmas Prelude.

Tree lightings, caroling by candlelight, a hat parade, trolley rides and hundreds of locally crafted items for sale are just a few of the many events happening in Kennebunkport over the next two weekends.

Organized by the Kennebunkport Business Association and community volunteers, Christmas Prelude attracts people from all over the country to celebrate part of their holiday season in southern Maine.

“The (town) venues are steeped in history and are reminiscent of a different time and history,” said Jim Fitzgerald, interim executive director of the Kennebunk/Kennebunkport Chamber of Commerce. “People come here year after year because it doesn’t change.”

The event has a 29-year tradition and begins with the tree lighting and Christmas caroling led by the Kennebunk High School chamber choir at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Dock Square in Kennebunkport.

The Cape Porpoise lobster-trap tree lighting is at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by a bonfire and more caroling.

The holiday-themed hat parade is scheduled for Saturday.

“The hat parade is a lot of fun. The first year we had it there were 30 to 40 people, which was a lot for our first year. Last year, we had 150 people in the parade. It doesn’t matter if you wear reindeer antlers or go all out. Anyone can be in the parade,” explained Sheila Matthews-Bull, chairman of Christmas Prelude.

Hat wearers gather behind Dock Square by 2:45 p.m. to march over the bridge from the square.

Kennebunk’s Lower Village holds its tree lighting and caroling at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and the evening includes a candlelight stroll to the Franciscan Monastery for more caroling and roasting chestnuts over an open fire.

“The whole crowd strolls to the monastery singing. It’s really beautiful because by that time it’s dark and everyone is carrying a candle,” said Matthews-Bull.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Santa arrives by lobster boat at the Landing Restaurant.

Another notable guest — former first lady Laura Bush — will be in town during Christmas Prelude. Bush will be signing her new book, “Spoken from the Heart,” at H.B. Provisions in the Lower Village at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. At 2 p.m., her daughters will join her for another book signing and Q&A session at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport.

Kennebooks in the Lower Village will also host book signings by Maine authors both weekends.

The second weekend of Prelude includes the Fire & Ice Bar, a new event, at the Nonantum. Hors d’oeuvres from area restaurants, live entertainment, indoor and outdoor fireside seating and an ice bar and sculpture will be featured from 4:30 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 11. A portion of the proceeds from the ice bar will be donated to the WinterKids program.

Musical entertainment will be featured day and night during both weekends with a new addition, Christmas Karaoke at Alisson’s Restaurant and the Starfish Grille & Tavern.

Special eating events sponsored by community groups are favorite traditions for many visitors. There is the Blueberry Pancake Breakfast at the Washington Hose Fire Company from 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday.

The Nonantum Resort features Breakfast with Mrs. Claus from 8 to 11 a.m. on both Dec. 5 and 12.

The First Congregational Church hosts a lobster roll and chowder luncheon from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday. And the Firehouse Lobster Bake at Washington Hose Fire Station is from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

The hand-crafted gifts sold at the dozen or so craft fairs around town help support many local charitable organizations.

“The uniqueness of Christmas Prelude features the hand-crafted and emphasizes the traditional and non-commercial side of the Christmas holidays,” said Fitzgerald.

Matthews-Bull explained how special this event is to many families.

“This is our 29th year and it gets bigger and better every year. We get a lot of new people each year, but now we have the grandchildren of people who started coming to Christmas Prelude 20 years ago. It’s so heartwarming that so many make it a family tradition.” 

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

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