A beloved annual tour, the stirring reenactment of the Christmas Day Battle of Trenton, winter concerts, “The Nutcracker,” a Christmas opera, and more combine to make the Capital City merry and bright this holiday season. So check out the list and check it twice because the holidays are here.
The 53rd annual Mill Hill House Tour opens its doors in Trenton on Saturday, Dec. 7, from noon to 5 p.m. Between 15 to 20 residences in this 19th-century neighborhood participate by opening up their opulently decorated homes — with several stops taking visitors to another era.
The event is organized by the Old Mill Hill Society as a way of generating funds for neighborhood historic preservation. Start at Artworks, 19 Everett Alley and South Stockton Street. $25. 609-815-1359 or trentonmillhill.org.
The Old Barracks Museum’s British Occupation Day, Dec. 7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., once again sets the stage for the Battle of Trenton with the arrival of the 17th Regiment of Infantry — a Colonial-era British troop. The event invites 21st-century Americans to step back into the daily life of a Colonial-era British soldier.
Activities include daily troop drills, musket demonstrations, outdoor camp cooking, and winter uniform preparation and repairs. The regiment was established in 2002 to bring the experiences of the common British soldiers alive — and in fighting condition. 101 Barrack St. $8 to $10. 609-396-1776 or barracks.org.
Boheme Opera of New Jersey highlights its connection to Trenton — where it was founded more than 31 years ago — with a presentation of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at Immaculate Conception Church in Trenton’s Chambersburg section on Saturday, Dec. 7, 6 p.m. Gian Carlo Menotti’s 1951 Christmas opera of a disabled boy’s encounter with the Three Magi is noted for being the first opera created especially for national television broadcast.
The Boheme production features young professionals working on various regional stages. Trenton native and company co-founder Joseph Pucciatti conducts the Boheme Opera NJ Chamber Orchestra and Chorus. Also on the holiday season program is Antonio Vivaldi’s sacred choral work “Gloria.” Immaculate Conception Church, 540 Chestnut Ave. $25. bohemeopera.com.
Passage Theatre Company, Trenton’s only nonprofit professional theater, will present “Santaland Diaries” at the Mill Hill Playhouse on Saturday, Dec. 14, 5 to 9 p.m. A holiday fundraiser to support Passage’s mission of producing new works, the event features playwright, actor, director, and former Passage Theatre associate director David Lee Write in a presentation using David Sedaris’ accounts of working at a Macy’s Santaland.
Passage’s artistic director, C. Ryanne Domingues, is the director. The event includes a reception, performance, and dessert. Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 E. Front St. $50. 609-392-0766 or passagetheatre.org.
The Capital Singers of Trenton will present “Winter Songs XIII” at Sacred Heart Church in Trenton on Sunday, December 8, at 4 p.m. Conductor Vinroy D. Brown Jr. leads the semi-professional chorus and its accompanying orchestra through a holiday season program that includes classic songs, holiday carols, and music by Handel, Vivaldi, and others. Sacred Heart Church, 343 S. Broad St. $15 to $22. 609-620-0160 or capitalsingers.org.
Princeton Pro Musica, another of the region’s musical treasures, presents the “Messiah and More” at Patriots Theater of the Trenton War Memorial, Sunday, December 15, 3 p.m. The concert directed by Ryan James Brandau includes the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah” and Brandau’s arrangement “Joy to the World,” a suite of music featuring seasonal works by Bach, Handel, and others. Trenton War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive. $25 to $60. princetonpromusica.org.
The American Repertory Ballet continues to bring its annual production of “The Nutcracker” to regional venues. Starting as the Princeton Regional Ballet, the company is currently marking its 56 years of presenting the ballet featuring Tchaikovsky’s colorful and moving score.
The company concludes it “Nutcracker” presentations with another long-held tradition, a presentation at the elegant Trenton War Memorial Building on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 2 p.m. Trenton War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive. $25 to $45. arballet.org.
Theoria, a quartet of four professional vocalists, performs an a cappella Christmas Eve service at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Byzantine Catholic Church on Tuesday, December 24, at 8 p.m. Theoria specializes in Eastern European sacred music. It was founded by Andrew Skitko, a Westminster Choir College graduate who sings with the Opera of Philadelphia Chorus and Philadelphia Symphonic Choir and serves as Assumption’s cantor. Grand and Malone streets. Donation requested. avmbcc.org.
Patriots Week returns to downtown Trenton on Thursday, December 26, with the biggest Revolutionary War re-enactment event anywhere this holiday season. Continuing through December 31, the multi-day event includes tours of historic spots, camp reenactments, and the two-part Battle of Trenton, puppet theater performances, a Colonial-era ball, and more. While many events take place at or near the Old Barracks, one of the area’s historical treasures, the two recreated battles — featuring re-enactors with era uniforms and weaponry — take place on the actual sites of the original battles. Most events are free. patriotsweek.com.
As always, the reenactment of George Washington’s Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River to take Trenton—at the very location the major historical event occurred—is one of the area’s big holiday attractions. And there are two opportunities to catch this one-of-a-kind area event.
The first is the dress rehearsal crossing on Sunday, Dec. 8. A festive fundraiser, the occasion includes opportunities to visit historic buildings and meet re-enactors. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the crossing at 1 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children 5 to 11, and free for children under five.
Then there is the big—and free—Christmas Day crossing, now celebrating its 67th year. While the main event is at 1 p.m., come early to march with the troops, tour buildings, and join fellow countrymen and visitors waiting for the cannon shot that signals the launching of the boats. An early arrival also helps secure a parking place or a good viewing spot. Washington Crossing Historic Park, Routes 32 and 532, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. (215) 493-4076 or ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing/index.htm.
The Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey closes the year with its annual New Year’s Eve Celebration Concert at the Trenton War Memorial, Tuesday, December 31, at 8 p.m. Hosted by WWFM radio manager David Osenberg, the concert conducted by CPNJ music director Daniel Spalding mixes the tradition of welcoming the New Year with music from Vienna with music made popular by Hollywood, including “A James Bond Medley,” Gershwin’s “An American in Paris,” Richard Strauss’s opening of “Also Sparch Zarathustra,” made popular by “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Sing Sing Sing,” arranged by the late Trenton composer and arranger Bill Holcomb.
Noted young organist Brett Miller provides a pre-concert show on the theater’s grand 1928 Moeller Theater Pipe Organ at 7:10 p.m. Trenton War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive. $45 to $75. capitalphilharmonic.org.
In Hamilton, the annual highlight is Christmas at the Kuser Farm Mansion. It returns on Friday, Dec. 6, with the opening of the annual Winter Wonderland festival. From 5 to 8 p.m., the Hamilton Township park comes alive with lights, and music by veteran area guitarist Dick Gratton and vocalist Linda Lee.
Also getting started are the holiday season tours of the opulently decorated historic Victorian era mansion and the mesmerizing New Jersey Valley Model Railroad display in the basement. Things literally gets switched on with the Dec. 6 tree lighting at 6 p.m. The festival continues on Saturday, Dec. 7, also from 5 to 8 p.m. Free. 390 Newkirk Ave., Hamilton. (609) 890-3630 or hamiltonnj.com.
Palmer Square in Princeton is livening up the season with its new outdoor skating rink behind the Nassau Inn. It’s open mainly on nights, weekends, and holidays through February. The $10 cost per skater includes skate rentals, although skaters can bring their own skates. Other Palmer Square events include the Holiday Jam with Princeton University on Dec. 6; Wreath Decorating with McCarter Theatre, Dec. 7, gingerbread displays and events around the Square, starting on Dec. 7; Gingerbread Decorating and Skating event with the Yankee Doodle Tap Room & Cranbury Station Gallery, Dec. 14; Breakfast with Santa at the Nassau Inn on Dec. 15; Hanukkah Celebration with the Jewish Center of Princeton; Dec. 19; and Christmas Eve Caroling with the Arts Council of Princeton on Dec. 24. For more details, visit palmersquare.com/holidays.
Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie hosts its Holiday Boutique at its Cadwalader Park location in Trenton on Saturday, Dec. 7 and Sunday, Dec. 8 from noon until 5 p.m. The event features hand-crafted jewelry, original art, ceramics, wood designs, clothing and accessories, Trenton memorabilia and antiques. (609) 989-3632. ellarslie.org.
Donauschwaben Verein Trenton will feature St. Nikolausfeier, a celebration with traditional carols and a visit from Santa Claus at its Yardville facility (127 Route 156), Sunday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. Tickets are $15. (609) 577-6714. trentondonauschwaben.com.
The Sisterhood of St. Josaphat’s Ukranian Catholic Church will hold its annual Christmas Bazaar and Bake Sale Friday, Dec. 13 at noon, 1195 Deutz Ave. in Hamilton. The organization will accept orders for pierogis, stuffed cabbage, Christmas cookies, poppyseed, nut or fruit rolls until Nov. 30. (609) 585-7863 or (609) 499-1029.
Colonial Volunteer Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary will have its Christmas in Hamilton Craft Show Saturday, Dec. 14, starting at 9 a.m. at the firehouse. 801 Kuser Road, Hamilton, (609) 587-0541.
Morven Museum & Garden’s Festival of Trees—continuing to Jan. 5—is the annual holiday showcase of trees and mantels throughout the museum located in one of Princeton’s most historic homes. Selected by a jury, this year’s tree collection is designed to accent the recently re-imagined downstairs galleries that take visitors through the building’s 300-year-old history. Staff members say this year’s theme “invites visitors to enjoy the newly reimagined first and second floor galleries, featuring trees inspired by 18th through 20th century decor.”
And that area designers, artists, garden clubs, businesses, and nonprofit organizations have adorned all of the Museum’s galleries, including the second floor, “with exquisite and whimsical holiday decorations.” 55 Stockton St., Princeton, continues through Jan. 5. Morven is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission to Morven, $8 to $10. (609) 924-8144 or morven.org.
The Old City Hall Restoration Holiday Train Show Project in Bordentown has already left the station. Now in its ninth holiday season, it’s on view Fridays through Sundays, through Jan. 5 (except Dec. 22). Free and open from 4 to 8 p.m., the show features model trains collected by community leaders and members of the New Jersey Free-MO Modular Trains, Southeastern Pennsylvania, and South Jersey Garden Railroad Society. With Bordentown being a stop for the nation’s first commercial railroads—it all fits. Old City Hall, 13 Crosswicks St., Bordentown. (609) 203-0541.
The Princeton University Chapel opens its doors to the community to hear solemn and joyful season music as well as join an impromptu community chorus. “The Courage to Say Yes—The Audacity of Mary” is the annual advent Vespers Concert scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 8, at 2:30 p.m. The Princeton University Chapel Choir and orchestra perform a program of music and poetry on the theme of Mary and mothers. Admission is free.
On Monday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m., the community is welcome to come together and make a “joyful noise” by singing selections of Handel’s “Messiah” in the annual “Messiah Sing.” Traditionally conducted by chapel music director Penna Rose, the event involves members of the chapel choir and organ, string, and brass accompaniment. Scores are available at the door, but participants are invited to bring their own. Admission is $5 for the general public, but students are free.
And finally there’s the Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. The event features a combination of spiritual readings and seasonal songs performed by the Chapel Choir, Glee Club, and university a cappella groups. Admission is free. Princeton University Chapel. (609) 258-3654 or princetonchapelchoir.com.
The Westminster Community Orchestra under the direction of Ruth Ochs presents its annual “Holiday Sing-along” on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. The program includes a variety of songs, carols, and styles and features a “fun” sing through of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” As always, the admission is a free-will donation of non-perishable food that will be sent to area food pantries. The event occurs at the Robert L. Annis Playhouse, Westminster Choir College, 101 Walnut Lane, Princeton.
One of Westminster Choir College’s signature and area unique events, “An Evening of Readings and Carols” returns to the Princeton University Chapel for three performances: Friday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 14, 3 and 8 p.m. The internationally respected Westminster Chapel Choir, Concert Bell Choir, and Symphonic Choir will join forces and be guided by the artistry of accomplished faculty members and conductors James Jordan, Joe Miller, Kathleen Ebling Shaw, and Tom T. Shelton, Jr. Guest organist Ken Cowan and the Solid Brass ensemble add to powerful celebration of voice, song, and glorious sound. $40 to $70. Princeton University Chapel, Princeton Campus.
Westminster Choir College’s nationally known Concert Bell Choir will present “Love Came Down at Christmas,” Sunday, Dec. 15, 4 p.m. This year the group under the direction of conductor Kathleen Ebling Shaw and using “the world’s largest range of handbells and Choirchime Instruments,” will share “the true meaning of the Christmas season through original works, transcriptions of light classics, and beloved Carols.” $20 to $25.
Performed at Bristol Chapel, Westminster Choir College, 101 Walnut Lane, Princeton. (609) 921-2663 or rider.edu/events. The show will also be at Grounds for Sculpture, 80 Sculptor’s Way in Hamilton, 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8.
The Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s Traditional “Holiday POPS!” strikes up the holiday spirit when it returns to Richardson Auditorium with two performances on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 3 and 6 p.m. The program features seasonal favorites and a community sing along. Also adding to the festivities are the Princeton High School Choir and the New Jersey Tap Dance Ensemble. $10 to $60. Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University. (609) 497-0020 or princetonsymphony.org.
McCarter Theater’s traditional “A Christmas Carol” takes the stage in Princeton from Dec. 10 through 29. Based on Charles Dickens’s 1843 ghostly Christmas tale, McCarter’s production takes the author’s introduction statement to heart: “I have endeavored in this ghostly little book, to raise the ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
That idea, Dickens explained elsewhere, was to create “a sledgehammer blow” against child labor laws and economic disparities. But the McCarter’s production is more an awakening of the heart, thanks to director Adam Immerwahr’s affecting approach and love of stage magic. $25 to $80. McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, Princeton. (609) 258-2787 or mccarter.org.
Kelsey Theatre’s popular “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” now in its 20th year, returns for its annual weekend production, Dec. 6 to 8. Based on the beloved holiday poem by American writer Clement Moore and adapted for the stage by Virginia-based theater director Bruce Craig Miller, it is recognized as the story that brought Santa Claus into America’s collective imagination.
Kelsey Theatre provides its annual Dance Connection production of the abridged and narrated “The Nutcracker.” Designed with young audiences in mind and presented by young dancers ages 5 to 18, the presentation is all about building both audiences and performers to maintain the holiday performance tradition. Friday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 14 and 15, at 1 and 4 p.m. $14 to $16. Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor. (609) 570-3333 or kelseyatmccc.org.
Performances are set for Friday at 7, and Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m. $11 to 13. Kelsey Theater, Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor. (609) 570-3333 or kelseyatmccc.org.