It’s time to smell the pine trees, spike the eggnog and fill your days and nights with some proper cheer. From holiday lights to performances of “The Nutcracker,” we’ve gathered some of this season’s brightest events and invite you to mark your calendar as we all march into the holidays with a skip in our step and an eye on 2023. Think of this as a holiday sampler, and we’ll be sure to share more ideas in the coming weeks.

Maine State Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Through Dec. 4. Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland, $28 to $80.
You’ve got six chances to catch a performance of Maine State Ballet’s acclaimed holiday performance. The show is huge with 30 professional ballet company members performing the traditional tale starring the Nutcracker Prince and Clara and featuring spectacular costumes and scenery, along with live music from the company’s orchestra and chorus.

The Dance Annex kicks off the holiday season with “The Nutcracker” at Kittery’s Star Theatre. Photo courtesy of The Dance Annex

‘The Nutcracker’
6 p.m. Friday, 1 and 6 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday. Through Dec. 4. Star Theater, 120 Rogers Road, Kittery, $33, $25 seniors and children 12 and under.
The Dance Annex presents it interpretation of “The Nutcracker.” Clara will lead you on an unforgettable journey to the Land of Sweets in a production that will enchant audience members of all ages. Cast members include Ruth Whitney from City Ballet of Boston as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Local seventh-graders Amelia Gordon of Kittery and Willoughby Staley of York will share the role of Clara. It doesn’t get more classic than “The Nutcracker” when it comes to holiday traditions, so grab some tickets and enjoy.

Holiday lights at the seventh annual Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Gardens Aglow
4, 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, plus select dates through Dec. 31. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 105 Botanical Gardens Drive, Boothbay Harbor, $18, $16, $10 kids 3-17, free for ages 3 and under.
For an immersive experience like few others, schedule your visit and head to the wonderland of Gardens Aglow. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens uses more than 750,000 LED lights around its 14 acres of gardens during the holiday season. Snow or no snow, you’ll be walking in a winter wonderland with your path lit by some of the most dazzling displays this side of the Mississippi. A beautiful sight indeed.

L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport is aglow as the Northern Lights Celebration takes place with features including the Discovery Forest with a warming hut, a walk-in snow globe, wagon rides and visits from Santa and his reindeer. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Northern Lights
Through Dec. 31. L.L. Bean campus, Freeport.
It sure gets festive in Freeport this time of year. L.L. Bean’s annual Northern Lights celebration is jam-packed with cheerful activities and sights like the giant snow globe, free skating, twinkle light tunnel, model train village, letters to Santa, Holiday Around the World interactive walk and more. Northern Lights also includes several weekly activities, including meeting Santa’s reindeer on Tuesdays and Thursdays and free custom Bean boot laces on Wednesdays.

The Sitting Room in the Victoria Mansion in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Christmas at Victoria Mansion
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Nov. 25 through Jan. 8. Victoria Mansion, 109 Danforth St., Portland, $16, $14 seniors, $5 students, free for under 6.
For a nostalgic trip back in time, make your way to Portland’s Victoria Mansion. Built in the mid-1850s, the mansion holds decades of memories, and they’ll be reflected in this year’s theme of “A Maine Christmas.” As you wander from room to room, you’ll see the creative visions of several local designers who will pull at your heart strings in unexpected ways. The Victorian era lives on eternally at Victoria Mansion, and during the holiday season, it comes to life all the more.


The Festival of Trees. Photo courtesy of Saco Museum

18th Annual Festival of Trees
Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Through Dec. 29. Saco Museum, 371 Main St., Saco, free.
This year’s Festival of Trees at the Saco Museum opens on Black Friday but will be entirely colorful as you’ll see dozens of Christmas trees on display. While you marvel at them, you can bid on several sensational silent auction items, including gift certificates, dinners, local crafts and more. All proceeds benefit the museum and library’s community programs. Also note that children’s craft day is on Dec. 3, Tea with Mrs. Claus is Dec. 10, and you can visit with Santa on Dec. 11.

29th Annual Freeport Sparkles
Dec. 2-11. Downtown Freeport.
Freeport Sparkles kicks off with a parade of lights on Dec. 2, and you’ll see Santa arrive to bring the famous talking Christmas tree to life. Other fun includes the decorating contest and gift certificate giveaways with the Stealth Elf. On Dec. 8, catch the Sparkle Stroll with special deals and door prizes from several businesses. There’s also a Frosty Frolic with food trucks, fire pits, holiday music and treats on Dec. 10.

Santas stroll down Congress Street in Portland during SantaCon. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Dec. 3. Downtown Portland locations.
SantaCon is a bar crawl like none other. Come dressed as Santa, a reindeer, Christmas tree, leg lamp, snowman, Hannukkah Harry or in any other holiday-themed ensemble you can come up with. You’ll ho, ho, ho your way to several bars in the downtown and Old Port area of Portland, and a merry time will be had by all. The SantaCon elves are still ironing out a few details so keep an eye on the Facebook page as the date draws nearer.

Merry Madness
4-10 p.m. Dec. 8. U.S. Custom House, 312 Fore St., Portland, $20, $25.
The party starts at the U.S. Custom House and continues at more than 70 local businesses in downtown Portland. Merry Madness is a mighty good time, and your ticket includes admission to the party, a snacks to-go bag, drinking glass and pour of wine, beer or seltzer. Then you’ll shop till you drop with stores open late and fun around every corner. Grab your tickets now; they won’t be available at the door.

‘Twas the Night Before…Burlesque
7:30 p.m. Dec. 9-11 and 14-18. St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland, $20, 18-plus.
Let Vivid Motion Dance put a little sexy sass in your season with ‘Twas the Night Before…Burlesque. Leave the kids at home for this one because these elves definitely skew naughty. But it’s all in the name of fun, and the annual event is literally and figuratively a red-hot ticket. Meaning grab ’em soon or you’ll be left out in the cold.

The Gingerbread Spectacular. Photo courtesy of The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor Photo courtesy of The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor

Gingerbread Spectacular
5-7 p.m. Dec. 16, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 17, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 18. Opera House at Boothbay Harbor, 86 Townsend Ave.
Gingerbread Spectacular is an annual celebration of the incredible gingerbread creations made by community members. Catch the opening night, and you’ll hear music from Barney Balch and the Sheepscot Jazz & Swing Quartet and can hit the bar for a cocktail. Or swing through over the weekend. Either way, you won’t believe your eyes as you gaze upon the edible architectural accomplishments. If you get hungry looking at them, you can purchase tasty baked goods from The Friends of the Opera House all weekend long. As for the houses, prizes will be awarded for most spectacular, best holiday spirit, most hilarious, best landscaping, best representation of a local landmark, best youth design and most delicious looking.

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