In school, we learned how people in other countries celebrate the holidays with their unique customs and traditions. But plenty of communities in Maine offer their own interesting twist on the holidays.

Take Bath, whose Front Street was named a “Great Street” in 2009 by the American Planning Association and one of America’s 12 Distinctive Destinations in 2005 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

This city has a great 2011 holiday lineup, beginning on Nov. 26, when Santa arrives at 3 p.m. for the Children’s Tree Lighting in the gazebo in Library Park. Jingle bells will be distributed for the walk to City Hall with Santa for cookies, photos, caroling and refreshments.

From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 2, 9,16 and 23, there will be “Trolley Caroling” for free along the streets of Bath. Passengers are picked up every 30 minutes at Bath City Hall.

On Dec. 10-11, at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., the Candy Cane Train will depart from the Bath Train Station for four 90-minute trips to Wiscasset and back. Passengers aboard the train get to meet Santa and his elves, listen to stories, sing songs and enjoy cookies. Tickets are on sale now. (443-6384,

Bath’s Window Decorating Contest runs from Dec. 12-18. Contest winners will be announced Dec. 19 at Bath’s annual caroling party, “Sing! It’s Christmas!” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Chocolate Church Arts Center, 804 Washington St., where Santa makes another appearance. (442-8455, [email protected]

Luminaria will line the streets of downtown on Dec. 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. as businesses stay open late to welcome shoppers. Beginning Nov. 27, all are encouraged to “stuff Santa’s bag with new toys.” Donated gifts and nonperishable foods will be given to the Bath Soup Kitchen to spread holiday cheer to those less fortunate. Santa’s bags can be found at City Hall, Patten Free Library and the YMCA.

The bells will be ringing and party hats and noisemakers will be welcome on Dec. 30 from noon to 1 p.m. as Bath celebrates New Year’s Day a day early with its 10th annual Paul Revere Bell Ringing on the historic bell at Bath City Hall.

While some other communities have not finalized their holiday plans, here is a sampling of the festivities being offered.


• The Tree Lighting Ceremony is at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 25 in Monument Square. Entertainment will include a performance by Maine State Ballet and Rick Charette. A jolly fellow in a red suit will also make an appearance. (772-6828)

• Dec. 2 from 6:30 to 7 p.m., the annual lighting of the Copper Beech Tree will take place at the Portland Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden. (7 Congress Square, 775-6148,

• Nov. 25-Dec. 23 at 4, 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m., it’s all aboard for “The Polar Express” on the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad, departing from Ocean Gateway. As a storyteller reads aloud “The Polar Express,” guests meet Santa, his elves and the conductor, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, sing carols, and receive a special bell to remind them of their magical ride. (828-0814,, 842-0800,

• Nov. 25-Jan. 8, visit Victoria Mansion to view “Deck the Halls: The Carols of Christmas,” where 12 rooms will be decorated to portray 12 traditional carols. Open from 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m., except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, the tours are about 45 minutes long. (772-4841,

• Dec. 18 at 4:45 p.m.: The Pageant of the Nativity at First Parish Church, 425 Congress St. (773-5747,

• Dec. 17, 4:45 p.m.: The annual Christmas Boat Parade of Lights will delight spectators along Portland’s waterfront. The parade can also be viewed from a special Casco Bay Lines ferry that departs at 4:30 p.m. from its dock at 56 Commercial St. Proceeds benefit Sail Maine. (774-7871,

• Dec. 24, 5 p.m.: The Maine Red Claws basketball team will hold its holiday party game against Iowa Energy. Management says there’s plenty of holiday fun in store this year. Ticket prices range from $6-$30. (210-6655,

• Dec. 31, 5:30 p.m.: There’ll be indoor fireworks at the Cumberland County Civic Center after the Portland Pirates skate against the Worcester Sharks. (828-4665,


• From 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 26, make candy canes with the folks at Len Libby Handmade Candies. Due to last year’s heavy turnout for this free event, it will be held at a larger venue this year — 5 Lincoln Ave. in Scarborough. (883-4897,

• At 4:30 p.m. Dec. 4, spectators will see the tree being lit at the Scarborough Municipal Building. Caroling is beforehand at 4, and Santa visits at 4:45 p.m. (730-4000)


• From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 3, Haven’s Candies is offering a “Make Your Own Candy Cane” event at its Westbrook factory store, 87 County Road on Outer Congress Street. Tickets are $5 each and will be on sale at all three Havens stores. Proceeds go to Dream Factory of Maine. (772-1557,


• Nov. 19-26, take the whole family to the Kora Shrine Center at 11 Sabattus St. to view more than 60 beautifully decorated trees at the 6th annual FEZtival of Trees. There will also be a craft show, silent auction and visits with Santa. (782-6831)


• On Nov. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m., head downtown to enjoy dozens of holiday floats, one featuring Santa, and see the lighting of the giant spruce tree in Castonguay Square, where through Dec. 22 children can visit with Santa. (680-2055)


• From 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 25 at the gazebo on Maine Street, viewers will get to see Brunswick’s tree lighting and partake in cocoa, carols and Santa’s visit. (729-4439)


• Nov. 25-Nov. 27, head to downtown Rockland to see Santa arriving by Coast Guard boat at the public landing, the lobster trap tree lighting ceremony, festival of lights parade and enjoy a family pancake breakfast with Santa. (596-0376 or 593-6093)


• Nov. 26-Dec. 31, head to the Festival of Trees with a theme of “Let Heaven and Nature Sing” at the Saco Museum, 371 Main St. Visitors will see dozens of wonderfully decorated trees, which will be raffled off to benefit programs at the Dyer Library and Saco Museum. The festival includes a gingerbread village, and a tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Nov. 25 at Saco Museum. (283-3861)


• On Nov. 26, drive to York Beach to view the Lighting of the Nubble with cookies, hot chocolate, music and Santa. Shuttle service is available from 3:30 p.m.-7 p.m. at Ellis Park at Short Sands Beach. (363-1040)


• Nov. 26 at 5 p.m., the 28th annual Christmas in Kennebunk celebration takes place with the tree lighting in Downtown Plaza. Members of Kennebunk High School Chamber Choir will sing carols. Free refreshments will be provided by area businesses for those awaiting Santa’s arrival. (985-7935)


• Nov. 27 at 4:30 p.m. see the Tree Lighting and Light Parade, 75 South St. Attendees are asked to bring nonperishable foods to the parade along Main Street, where volunteers will collect the items for the Gorham Food Pantry. (222-1630)


• Dec. 1 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Falmouth’s Village Park, the 25th annual community tree lighting with singing and a visit from Santa will take place. Bring items to donate to the Falmouth Food Pantry. (781-5253)


• Dec. 2 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Mill Creek Park, children can have pictures taken with Santa from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 25 Cottage Road; caroling begins at 5:45 p.m.; and the tree will be lit at 6 p.m. Hot dogs, popcorn, hot chocolate and cider will be available. (767-7650)


• From Dec. 1-4 and 9-11, celebrate the 30th anniversary of Christmas Prelude. On Dec. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m., there’s a champagne reception at the Nott House at 8 Maine St. On Dec. 2, a fish chowder supper from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., a Don Campbell Christmas concert and buffet dinner at the Nonantum Resort at 5 p.m., the tree lighting ceremony in Dock Square at 5:30 p.m., and the Cape Porpoise Lobster Trap Tree Lighting in Cape Porpoise Square at 7 p.m. (More events,


• Dec. 2-4 come to Christmas by the Sea, which includes a parade that goes from Union Street to Main Street, a community tree lighting and fireworks. A children’s story hour with Santa, who arrives by boat, is also planned. (236-4404)


• On Dec. 3, Santa and Mrs. Claus headline Boothbay Harbor’s 29th annual Harbor Lights Festival. The duo arrive around 1 p.m. by boat during a lighted boat parade. Also on hand are elves, Mr. Moose and the Christmas Lobster. (633-2353,


• Dec. 2 at 5 p.m., the Heart of Biddeford Holiday Fest kicks off at the fire station with the arrival of Santa. Then it’s off to McKenney Photo Studio for pictures with Santa. Sleigh rides are offered from 5 to 8 p.m., along with cookie decorating and a craft fair. (, 284-8520)


• On Dec. 3, it’s Chester Greenwood Day, which celebrates the town’s famous earmuff inventor with a parade at 11 a.m., chili and gingerbread house contests, and the Rotary Club’s annual festival of trees, with the tree auction in the evening. At 3 p.m., Polar Bear Club members are expected to take their dip into freezing Clearwater Lake. (778-4215).


• From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 3, folks can visit Santa’s Workshop at 33 Central St. to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and take pictures. The festival of lights parade begins at Main Street and West Market Square at 4:30 p.m., with the city tree lighting around 6:30 p.m. (947-8336)


• The Southern Maine Christmas Parade starts at 2 p.m. Dec. 11 at Wells Plaza and runs north to the junior high. About 40 floats are expected to participate. (646-2451,


• Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 9-11 is Christmas by the Sea. Events include tree lightings, a chowder and chocolate fest, caroling, a bonfire at Ogunquit Beach and a parade at 3 p.m. Dec. 10 that runs from the square in town to Perkins Cove. (646-2939,


• Dec. 4 marks the town’s 18th annual Christmas by the Sea with a tree lighting, horse-drawn wagon rides, music, goodies and Frosty and Rudolph in attendance. Fire pits will be located near the Chamber of Commerce. (934-2500,


• Dec. 10-12 are Mountain Holly Days in Rangeley, which includes open houses, refreshments, a Saturday night community Christmas party, Mr. and Mrs. Claus’ visit on Sunday, and a Christmas hayride in Oquossoc. (864-5364)

Elizabeth Webster is a freelance writer who lives in Cape Elizabeth.