Countdown to Christmas

 Ever feel like the preparation for Christmas keeps you from enjoying Christmas?

This year, don’t let the holiday hustle stop you from experiencing the wonders of the season.

Tick off each December day with a special family activity — some at home or around town.

From outdoor ice skating to baking cookies, we’ve compiled a list that will bring joy to your world.


DEC. 1
Attend the Heart of the Holidays Celebration

The Town of Cary’s seasonal festival includes an arts and crafts show, horse-drawn carriage rides, live entertainment and tree lighting ceremony all in Downtown Cary. FREE All day

DEC. 2
Cheer on the Fuquay-Varina Christmas Parade

Wave on dancers, school marching bands and decorated floats along Main Street, from Woodrow Street to Vance Street. FREE 3 p.m.

DEC. 3
Trim Your Tree

Have family members take turns selecting and placing ornaments on the tree. Share memories from the meaningful ornaments collected over holidays past. Try making a homemade bow for this year’s topper (how-to found here).

DEC. 4
Laugh with the Carolina Puppet Theatre Christmas and Winter Show

Enjoy a lively puppet show with humor for all ages presented by Raleigh-based puppeteers at the Holly Springs Cultural Center. $5 11 a.m.

DEC. 5
Bake Holiday Cookies

For friends, family, teachers, neighbors and maybe a few left over for Santa. Bake a big batch and freeze some to pull out on Christmas Eve. Try Almond Cookies, a classic option from a staff cookie bake-off. Originally published in 2007.


DEC. 6
See A Christmas Carol

A Triangle tradition in its 38th year, Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol is adapted into a live musical comedy by Ira David Wood III at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Starting at $30 7 p.m.

DEC. 7
Spend an Evening with Elves

Travel to the North Pole for family-friendly crafts and activities, dinner and dancing at Marbles Kids Museum. $25 6 p.m.

DEC. 8
Ring in a Holiday
Handbell Concert
The internationally acclaimed community handbell choir, The Raleigh Ringers, performs a holiday concert at Meymandi Concert Hall. $19 3 or 7:30 p.m.

DEC. 9
Visit the Candlelight Tour of Homes

Admire the Victorian architecture and holiday style of 11 homes in downtown Raleigh’s Historic Oakwood District. $20 in advance 1–7 p.m.

Try a Foreign Tradition
Learn about international holiday traditions and choose one to incorporate into your annual festivities. Consider Poland, where gazers scan the evening sky hoping to glimpse the first star of the night. A cry of “the little star” signals the start of the Christmas feast.

DEC. 11
Write Letters to Santa

Before he checks his list twice, you’ve got to send in yours! Drop letters in Santa’s Mailbox at Cary Town Hall. Letters received before Dec. 13 will get a reply.

DEC. 12
Look at Christmas Lights
Pack into the car and drive through a few nearby neighborhoods. We suggest Happyland Christmas Lights at the Moores, home of the Moore family on the corner of Penny Road and Huntingwood Drive. Or head to Lights on the Neuse in Clayton for a tractor-pulled hayride through a “Lights Extravaganza.”

DEC. 13
Give Back

Gather up the family’s outgrown winter wear, blankets and toys and donate them to a local charity organization. Dorcas Ministries is a great option — 187 High House Road, Cary.

DEC. 14
Hear Cary Town Band’s Winter Music

Hum along with familiar carols and winter melodies, including songs celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, at the Cary Senior Center in Bond Park.
FREE 7:30 p.m.

DEC. 15
The Nutcracker Ballet
The classic story of The Nutcracker enhanced with magical illusions (really!) performed by the Carolina Ballet at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Starting at $25 2 or 7:30 p.m.

DEC. 16
Sing Carols

Visit neighbors — with a plate of your cookies in tow — and serenade them with seasonal tunes. Lyrics and sheet music are available online at a variety of websites; search “Christmas carols.”

DEC. 17
Witness a Live Nativity

Members of the congregation of Saint Francis United Methodist Church in Cary depict the Christmas manger scene under the stars. FREE 6 p.m.


DEC. 18
Go Ice Skating

Glide across an outdoor skating rink at City Plaza in downtown Raleigh, part of AT&T Raleigh Winterfest. Two for one admission on Tuesdays!
$8 skate rental 4–9 p.m.

DEC. 19
Ride the Carolina Wonderland Express

Journey through a wintery “old town” Carolina from the mountains to the coast at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science. Pass landmarks like the Hatteras Light House and the Swinging Bridge along the way. Museum admission $14 adults $10 children plus $3 for exhibit 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

DEC. 20
Put on July at Christmas

Spread beach towels in the living room, don Hawaiian shirts and sip umbrella drinks. Ward off the winter chill with a taste of summer.

DEC. 21
Craft Christmas Decorations

Fuquay-Varina hosts children ages 3 to 6 to make Christmas ornaments at the Fuquay-Varina Community Center. FREE 3 p.m.


DEC. 22
Build a Snowman

No snow? No problem! Create snowmen out of marshmallows and candy decorations — a quicker, easier alternative to decorating a gingerbread house. Try the jumbo roasting marshmallows for extra fun.

DEC. 23
Sip Hot Chocolate by the Fire
Snuggle the family in for a cozy evening alongside a roaring fire. Wrap presents for friends or play a board game together. Linger over a mug of decadent European-style hot chocolate available locally at Fresca Cafe & Gelato and Henry’s Gelato.

DEC. 24
Read Christmas Stories
Pass the long minutes before Santa’s arrival with children’s Christmas classics, such as The Night Before Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express.  

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