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Catching That Holiday Spirit

Here are some ideas for finding holiday magic close to home.

I have to say this is my most favorite time of year. I love the music, the lights and the merriment. I still get giddy when I watch Rudolph or The Year Without a Santa Claus. I sing along with Heat Miser and Snow Miser while they do their little dances. It brings out the little kid in me.

My husband, the girls and I usually spend Thanksgiving weekend decorating, shopping for new decorations and watching movies like Elf and The Santa Clause.

This year, our decorating weekend was pushed back a couple of days. Our girls competed in an Irish stepdance competition in Philadelphia on Friday and Saturday, so our normal holiday festivities had to wait until Sunday.

We ended up finding some free time in between performances, so we decided to go find some of that holiday magic we usually make at home. We took a walk to Macy’s in Center City. We were greeted by a corner musician playing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which shifted my holiday spirit into high gear.

Macy’s bustled with Black Friday weekend shoppers, but we were able to maneuver our way to the middle of the store to enjoy the Christmas Light Show. We watched the animated ballerinas, snowflakes and reindeer dance to the music as 100,000 LED lights twinkled in time with the holiday tunes. This attraction dates back to before I was born (way back when) and is housed in the world famous Wanamaker building. My husband used to visit when he was little, so it was kind of nostalgic for him.

In addition to the light show, the third floor of Macy’s becomes the setting for A Christmas Carol, the classic Charles Dickens Christmas story. Dickens Village boasts more than 100 fully animated figures over 6,000 square feet. This historical attraction walks you through the cherished holiday book and at the end of the story, children can visit Santa. We walked through and reread the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Adding to that holiday magic, Dickens Village and the Christmas Light Show are free events; check this site out for information.

We are planning on venturing into the city again to visit Elfreth’s Alley for their Deck the Alley tradition. Elfreth’s Alley is referred to as "Our nation’s oldest residential street.” It is a National Historic Landmark District that dates back to the early 18th century. During the holidays, you can tour Elfreth’s Alley’s private historic homes and experience the holidays colonial-style. There are organized tours, but all are free to just take a stroll down the alley.

There are some unique holiday happenings on this side of the bridge too. Storybook Land in Egg Harbor has been one of my favorite family jaunts. Santa appears on the rooftop and magically lights up the park. Your kids can even help him count down. Wow! It gets me every time. Unfortunately, my kids are a bit too old for Storybook Land, but I highly recommend it if you have preschoolers or children under 8 or so. The rides are the perfect size for that age group and the look in their eyes when the park lights up is magic itself. If you go, make sure you get there before 5 p.m. to take part in the park lighting countdown.

If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol, downtown Medford transforms into Dickens Village on Dec. 3. I’ve never been, but have heard great things about this unique event. Visit here for more information.

Moorestown's annual holiday parade, hosted by the , begins at noon Saturday, Dec. 3, at Chester and Central avenues. The parade lasts about an hour. 

Cinnaminson’s  is a fun day for the whole family, including the famous cookie walk, local entertainment, tons of crafters, and visits with Santa. This festival takes place Sunday, Dec. 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at .

Collingswood’s shopping district features caroling and lights for evening shopping. Their Parade of Lights is scheduled for Dec. 9. Embellished fire trucks and floats parade from Zane Avenue to Homestead Avenue. Check this site for events, dates and times.

Haddonfield has Candlelight Shopping every Friday through Christmas Eve from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Enjoy carriage rides, visits with Santa and live entertainment. Free parking is offered as an added bonus through Dec. 31.

In my family, driving around looking at lights is an event in itself. Sometimes, we add some cookies and hot chocolate and make it a surprise before bedtime. For the past few years, a few houses on Mercer Street in Cherry Hill have had huge displays and I think Santa might have been there too. We also like to ride through Moorestown and look at all the older houses .

Baking cookies and donating them, adopting a family to shop for, donating to Toys for Tots or making handmade gifts for family and friends are also great ways to find that holiday spirit and teach your children that giving to others is all part of the holiday hoopla.

Whatever you are planning, December flies by. Make the most of it—especially if your kids are little. They grow up so fast. Finding that holiday spirit may be as easy as listening to your children sing "Jingle Bells," watching their holiday concert or signing your Christmas cards.

Enjoy preparing for the holidays, remember the reasons for the season and make some merry memories.

Town guard November 30, 2011 at 07:49 PM
It's ok to say Christmas!

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