Christmastime can be stressful, rushed and laden with lumps of coal in the form of shopping madness, obligatory parties and a bittersweet longing for a childhood belief in Santa Claus. But it can also be a whole lot of fun. As this holiday season kicks into gear, we offer up a festive smattering of events that range from a Norman Rockwell snapshot of Christmas cheer to not-for-the-kids serving of spiked eggnog.

The Polar Express’
Nov. 22 through Dec. 23 (multiple ride times). Boards at Ocean Gateway Visitor Center, Ocean Gateway Pier, Portland, $31.
A ride on a vintage train, along the water on the Eastern Prom during the holiday season is an experience created in Christmas heaven. Make this dream a reality for the young – and young at heart – by hopping aboard The Polar Express. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad does it right with decorated cars, hot chocolate and cookies, Christmas caroling, a souvenir bell and photo ops with a very cheery train conductor, not to mention a greeting from Santa. Don ye now your gay pajamas, as all riders are encouraged to wear them.

Northern Lights
Nov. 22 through Dec. 31. L.L. Bean Flagship Campus, 99 Main St., Freeport.
L.L. Bean is pulling out all the stops this year for its multi-week Northern Lights celebration. A sample of the activities includes the model train village, horse-drawn wagon rides and, our favorite, the walk-in snow globe. It is indeed a giant snow globe that you’ll get to walk through in a state of winter wonderment.

Lady Bunny is one of the drag queens you’ll see perform at A Drag Queen Christmas. Photo courtesy of Murray & Peter Present

A Drag Queen Christmas
8 p.m. Nov. 26. State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $36.50 to $151.50.
Girl, you better work! It’s time for a Drag Queen Christmas, starring contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race reality show. The Naughty Tour features sassy, magical and side-splitting performances. The evening will be hosted by Nina West, and some of the queens you’ll see include Lady Bunny, Latrice, Manila, Roxxxy and Thorgy. Drag out all your friends and get ready for a night that will be anything but silent and most certainly bright.

One of the festively decorated rooms at a previous year of Christmas at Victoria Mansion. Photo by Cortney Vamvakias

Christmas at Victoria Mansion
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily Nov. 29 through Jan. 5. Victoria Mansion, 109 Danforth St., Portland, $16, $14 seniors, $7 college students, $5 for ages 6-17, 6 and under free, $35 family rates (two adults of same household and up to five kids ages 6-17).
Here’s a way to dial back your holidays in a delightful way. Crossing the threshold of Victoria Mansion this time of year will transport you to the 1800s as you roam from room to room, feasting your eyes. This year’s theme is Ghosts of Christmas Past, and you can count on the team of designers, florists and creative minds from local nonprofit organizations to infuse the mansion’s 19th-century interiors with extraordinary Christmas nostalgia guaranteed to charm all those who enter. Bonus: The Mansion will be open during First Friday Art Walk on Dec. 6 from 5-8 p.m., and admission during that time is only $5.

Maine State Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
2 p.m. Nov. 29, 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 30, 2 p.m. Dec. 1, 7 p.m. Dec. 6, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 7, 2 p.m. Dec. 8. Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland, $27 to $72.
Maine State Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” is a long-running holiday tradition. Artistic Director and former New York City Ballet member Linda MacArthur Miele presents a dazzling array of classic choreography with equally magnificent sets and costumes by Gail Csoboth. With live music from the Maine State Ballet Orchestra and Chorus, 30 professional ballet company members and more than 200 local and southern Maine dancers, you can expect pure enchantment as the tale is told of a vivid Christmas Eve dream.


Hundreds gather in Monument Square for the annual Christmas tree lighting in 2015. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Monument Square Tree Lighting
4-6 p.m. Nov. 29. Monument Square, Portland.
Gather one and all to the heart of downtown Portland for the annual tradition that’s filled with hope, goodwill and endless amounts of holiday cheer.  This year’s tree lighting will feature a spirited performance from Maine Academy of Modern Music student musicians, and with any luck, your heart will grow at least three sizes bigger.

Mike Anthony stars in Theater at Monmouth’s production of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Photo courtesy of Theater at Monmouth

‘It’s A Wonderful Life’
7:30 p.m. Nov. 29, 1 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30, 1 p.m. Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 and 6, 1 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 1 p.m. Dec. 8. Cumston Hall, 796 Main St., Monmouth, $28.
In 1946, one of the most memorable holiday films ever was released, and here’s a chance to see a one-man production of the Frank Capra classic. The Theater at Monmouth’s take on “It’s a Wonderful Life” stars Mike Anthony in playwright Steve Murray’s comical adaptation. For 90 joyous minutes, Anthony will portray more than 24 characters, including George, Mary, Old Man Potter and Clarence the Angel. There’s even a preview performance on Thanksgiving night for $10 should you want to wind down the holiday on a wonderful note.

‘Santaland Diaries’
8 p.m. Nov. 29, 30, Dec. 5, 6, 7; 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8. The Annex at Chocolate Church Arts Center, 804 Washington St., Bath, $18 in advance, $22 day of show.
For a sarcastic take on the holiday season, you can always count on Crumpet the Elf. “Santaland Diaries” is the stage adaptation of humorist David Sedaris’ priceless account of his time working as a Christmas elf at a Macy’s department store. You’ll be taken way behind the scenes to hear all about the less than glamorous side of department store elf life. Plan on laughing your head off, but don’t plan on bringing your kids to this one, as the humor is extra salty.

Strand on the Air Holiday Special
5 p.m. Dec. 8. Strand Theatre, 345 Main St., Rockland, free admission.
There’s a retro spin on the holidays happening in Rockland. Strand on the Air is a throwback to theatrical radio variety shows of yesteryear. House Manager Liz McLeod and the Strand Family Players will make you giggle with their sharing of news as reported by the team at “All Things Rescinded,” and you’ll pay a visit to a place called Abysmal Point where an unlikely alliance is formed to try and save Christmas. Hear music from Brittany Parker, the Blake Rosso Band and Playin’ Possum. Arrive at 4:45 p.m. for the audience warm-up.

PSO’s Magic of Christmas. Photo courtesy of Portland Symphony Orchestra

PSO’s Magic of Christmas
2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 12, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14, 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 15, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21, 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 22. Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland, $22 to $92.
It’s not Christmas in Maine without Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Magic of Christmas. Led by conductor Eckart Preu, this year’s show features narrator Kevin Deas, considered to be one of the country’s best bass-baritones. You’ll also hear joyful and triumphant singing from the Magic of Christmas Chorus. This year’s orchestral selections will include two pieces from “Home Alone,” “Suite from Elf” and “Christmas Sing-a-Long.”

Vivid Motion presents ” ‘Twas the Night Before … Burlesque.”  Photo by Geneviece Coombs

”Twas the Night Before … Burlesque’
7:30 p.m. Dec. 13-15 and Dec. 18-21. St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland, $20.
The Vivid Motion dance company is kicking off a new burlesque holiday tradition after a wildly successful 16-year run of “The Nutcracker Burlesque.” The new show is called ” ‘Twas the Night Before … Burlesque,” and it’s a sexy regrooving of the classic holiday poem penned by Clement Clarke Moore in the 1830s. With live music, a brand new story and a stocking full of new dances, this show will surely heat up your holidays. Set a reminder, because tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. on Nov. 25 and will likely go fast.

Gingerbread Spectacular
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15. Opera House at Boothbay Harbor, 86 Townsend Ave., free entry, donations accepted.
Make your merry way to the midcoast and feast your eyes on the annual display of creative Christmas construction at the Gingerbread Spectacular at the Boothbay Opera House. From professional bakers to novice dough masters and grade school wizards, you’ll see a mouth-watering display of houses, cabins, lighthouses and other imaginative structures. For even more tasty fun, hit the Dough Ball Preview Party at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13, where the winning entries will be revealed as you eat your fill of hors d’oeuvres, hit the cash bar, and soak in live music from a jazzy dance band led by Barney Balch. Party tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

A moment from 2018’s Superfantastic Christmas Extravaganza with The Fogcutters. Photo by Wohler & Co. Photography

The Fogcutters Superfantastic Christmas Extravaganza
8 p.m. Dec. 14. State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $16 in advance, $20 day of show.
Last year, during The Fogcutters Superfantastic Christmas Extravaganza show, snow fell inside the State Theatre. What does the giant big band have in store for this year? You can count on vocalists Megan Jo Wilson and Chas Lester – and more than a dozen others Fogcutters – knocking your Christmas stockings clear off. A revolving door of special guests also will hit the stage in a show that’s a nod to holiday TV specials of the ’50s and ’60s.

Night of The Nutcracker at Victoria Mansion. Photo courtesy of Victoria Mansion

Portland Ballet’s ‘A Victorian Nutcracker’
7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland. 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, 2 p.m. Dec. 22. Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater St., $30 to $83.
Can anyone really ever get enough of “The Nutcracker?” We don’t think so, and neither does Portland Ballet, whose version features sets and characters based on Portland’s Victoria Mansion. The Portland performances includes live music by the Portland Ballet Orchestra. And here’s one more sugarplum to consider: On Dec. 1 and 8, you can head to the Victoria Mansion on 109 Danforth St. for Night of the Nutcracker. You’ll see the mansion decked out for the holidays, and there will be music, performances by Portland Ballet dancers, and special treats for kids. Performances are at 5:15 and 6:15 p.m. on both dates, and tickets are $5 for children and their accompanying adult and $16 for additional adults. Purchase them at

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