Christmas Morning Clean-up: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

It’s a Wrap!  Time to Recycle!

Gift wrap IS recyclable! Reuse what you can and toss the ripped up stuff into your paper recycling bin (Do not include gift wrap with metallic ink, glitter, or foil). When opening gifts, use a brown paper bag to capture gift wrap, tissue paper, greeting cards, envelopes and boxes.

Unwrapping gifts this morning?  Have a mini-mountain of wrapping paper, or pieces strewn across your living room? Did you know that all wrapping paper is recyclable (except wrapping paper with foil)? Recycle your wrapping paper this year with your other paper.

Also, keep in mind that all cardboard gift boxes, tissue paper, gift cards and paper shopping bags are recyclable (just no foil or glitter), and you might be able to bring Styrofoam packing peanuts to the UPS store for reuse.

On the other hand, ribbons, bows and tinsel cannot be recycled are not. Next year (or for any other special gift giving occasion), try making your own gift bows from old magazine pages.  Check out this tutorial from How About Orange.

Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2013

Christmas Morning Clean-up: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

It’s a Wrap!  Time to Recycle!

Gift wrap IS recyclable! Reuse what you can and toss the ripped up stuff into your paper recycling bin (Do not include gift wrap with metallic ink, glitter, or foil). When opening gifts, use a brown paper bag to capture gift wrap, tissue paper, greeting cards, envelopes and boxes.

Unwrapping gifts this morning?  Have a mini-mountain of wrapping paper, or pieces strewn across your living room? Did you know that all wrapping paper is recyclable (except wrapping paper with foil)? Recycle your wrapping paper this year with your other paper.

Also, keep in mind that all cardboard gift boxes, tissue paper, gift cards and paper shopping bags are recyclable (just no foil or glitter), and you might be able to bring Styrofoam packing peanuts to the UPS store for reuse.

On the other hand, ribbons, bows and tinsel cannot be recycled are not. Next year (or for any other special gift giving occasion), try making your own gift bows from old magazine pages.  Check out this tutorial from How About Orange.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Little Drummer Boy: A Story of Humanity & Kindness

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Keats’ The Little Drummer Boy Hits All The Right Beats

Okay, I’ll admit it – I have a real soft spot for the song, “The Little Drummer Boy.” Some of you may cringe every time you hear it, and if you’ve been walking around stores this holiday season you’ve probably heard any number of the hundreds of versions by different artists – some rocking, some soulful, and some just overly synthesized and dramatic. But I can’t help it, the song has drummed its way into my heart ever since I was a little girl. The simple lyrics, potent imagery, and rhythmic beat pull me right into the essence of the song’s story, which for me revolves around the spirit of giving, shared experience, and the power of music to transcend language, race, religion, and economics.

Though I always associated the song with Christmas and the birth of Jesus, I never thought of it as a “religious” song. My experience with the song has always been more about humanity and kindness. There’s a child-like wonder to it, embedded in the child’s perspective, the presence of animals, and the honesty of emotion. The rhyme, rhythm, and repetition in the lyrics and in the constant drumbeat of “pa-rum-pum-pum-pum” have always pulled me into the song’s story. And all of this makes “The Little Drummer Boy” ideal to put into book format for young children. My favorite illustrated version is by Ezra Jack Keats, published by Macmillan in 1968. Keats brings the song alive, fills it with patterned, graphic collage and muted hues of paint. He gives faces to the characters and places them in an emotive, desert landscape with a moody sky that changes throughout the span of the day and reflects the breadth of the boy’s emotions.  Read the rest of this entry »

Get Crafty with the Kids & Spread Holiday Cheer in Your Community

Homemade for the Holidays
Spreading Seasonal Cheer in Your Community

Looking for a creative way to participate in community service this holiday season? Does your family make holiday decorations together? Maybe you make garlands of popcorn & cranberries, pomanders (clove studded oranges), salt dough ornaments, mini gingerbread houses out of graham cracker, or decorate your home with paper snowflakes?

Why not make a few extra this holiday season and then take them to your nearest nursing home, children’s hospital or food pantry to add some holiday cheer there too? Get the kids thinking about how to share the joy that happens at home out into their community.

Want to start a new tradition in your home? Here are some links to get you started:

[Photo credit: (ccl) Crazy House Capers]

24 Community Highlights: Beneski Museum to MASS MoCA. Hansel & Gretel to Stone Soup.

The holidays are a great time to share family stories and legends from different cultures and traditions. One such story is that of the Christmas Spider. Check out this post from our archives, The Christmas Spider & the Legend of Tinsel, to read about one child’s own personal legend of the Christmas Spider, and how the legend of the Christmas Spider is told in other cultures too. You can also learn to make your own Christmas Spider holiday cards in our archived post, DIY: Christmas Spider Holiday Cards. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Beneski Museum to MASS MoCA. Storytelling to Marionettes. Hansel & Gretel to Stone Soup. Classical Music to Chemistry… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

HOLIDAY CHEER

There’s still a lot of holiday cheer to be had before December 25th! There are several opportunities for kids to visit with Santa before Christmas Day. He will be making appearances at the Pelham Library, Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Look Park in Florence, Buttery Brook Park in South Hadley, Lord Jeffrey Inn in Amherst, and Yankee Candle in South Deerfield. There’s also time to take in a couple of holiday classics, like performances of A Christmas Carol with PaintBox Theatre in Northampton and Berkshire Theatre Group in Pittsfield, or a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life at the Amherst Cinema and the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington.

STORYTELLING

The holiday season is a great time to share stories with friends and family. In this month’s column, “What to Play? Play Ideas for Family & Community,” Carrie St. John writes about how stories can lead to hours of pretend play and how they can encourage children to create images in their minds bringing the story to life. She also shares great games to help spark storytelling with friends and family.

If you enjoy storytelling at home, be sure to check out Cheli’s list of recommended children’s picture books for stories on the many of the holiday traditions she wrote about last year in her monthly column, “Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings & Reviews.” If you’d like to get out into your community, there are several storytelling events to take the family to.

Celebrate the season by sharing stories about holding onto light and love during the darkest part of the year at the solstice storytelling celebration at the Magical Roundhouse in Colrain on Saturday evening. On Sunday evening, a special Luminarium Storytime takes place at the Hatfield Library.

During school vacation week there are several stories being told at area museums using puppets and marionettes. At the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, CactusHead Puppets presents, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” on Wednesday morning, Dec 26th in Amherst. Later in the afternoon, puppeteer Carl Sprague will present a marionette production of the classic Brothers Grimm tale, “Hansel and Gretel” at Ventfort Hall in Lenox, then again on Thursday, Dec 27th & Friday, Dec. 28th. Then again at the Carle Museum on Friday, Dec 28th, Tom Knight Puppets presents, “Stone Soup and Other Tales,” a collection of songs and skits for all ages.

MUSEUM ADVENTURES

After Christmas Day, many museums will be holding special hours and offering additional programming for school vacation, Dec. 26th-30th.

Kids get free admission at Old Sturbridge Village during the school break (and in Jan. too!), and families can enjoy a host of historic and seasonal activities, including (weather-dependent) sledding and skating! There will also be indoor performances, craft demonstrations, and hands-on activities. Families can learn about life in early New England, and the many different skills and resources that 1830s life required.

Historic Deerfield in South Deerfield continues to celebrate the holidays during winter break with traditional decorations, open hearth cooking demonstrations, and craft making. Visitors will learn about holiday celebrations in early New England, as well as the sweeteners and spices used in baking (and where they came from!) in Deerfield’s early days.

Lions and Tigers and Museums, Oh My!, will be on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s Stone Hill Center in Williamstown, utilizing video, hands-on activities, taxidermy, and innovative displays. Bring the kids while off from school to be a part of this exciting learning environment for all ages!

The Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College is offering special hours for school vacation! Families can visit the museum for free to learn about everything from dinosaur bones to how the Pioneer Valley was shaped – the museum is home to hundreds of plant and animal fossils, taxidermic animals of numerous species, and lots of exhibits on geology and mineralogy.

MASS MoCA in North Adams is open and offering lots to see and do for families during school vacation (as well as on Christmas Eve)! The KidSpace will be open, and there will be museum tours (for older students), as well as a special tour of the Sol Lewitt exhibit. Families can explore the museum galleries and learn about the many different pieces on exhibit.

The Springfield Museums have activities happening each day during the holiday vacation week. There will be a combination of planetarium shows, science demonstrations, activities to accompany their Gingerbread Fairy Tales Exhibit, and daily performances. Performances through Dec. 30th including Charismatic Comedy Magic, The Realy MCoy Show, Dinoman Dinosaurs, and BubbleMania.

Make your own comic book art at drop-in workshops at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge during school vacation! The museum is currently hosting an exhibit of comic book art by Alex Ross, and the activities included in the workshops will give kids a chance to create their own comic book-style artwork. Superheroes will be roaming the museum, too – be sure to visit the galleries to find them!

CLASSICAL MUSIC AND CHEMISTRY

On Thursday afternoon, Dec. 27th, kids can be mad scientists at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. Along with the help of the museum’s very own crazy chemist, kids can learn how to do exciting and surprising (and safe!) experiments with regular household materials.

Richard Perlmutter presents Beethoven’s Wig at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Friday afternoon, Dec. 28th in a free performance. Hailed as opening the door to classical music in a way that’s fun for kids, Beethoven’s Wig is now honored as great family musical entertainment. Here’s an award-winning animated video of Beethoven’s Wigs version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony:

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

 

Suggested Events for December 22nd-28th, 2012

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Done with your holiday shopping? Need something last minute? Rather than another tchotchke, how about a gift certificate to a local restaurant, an online donation to a local charity in their honor, or a membership to a local museum or to the Friends of your local library? (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest EventIf you have a community event, educational program or service opportunity for youth/families happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Click HERE to find out more.

BEST BETS

Here are six holiday episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show from over the years to share with your family as we celebrate the season. Enjoy these commercial-free podcasts that celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, the New Year and the spirit of peace and giving.

Saturday, December 22nd at 10:30am and 1pm – FAMILY THEATER: Paintbox Theater presents, “A Christmas Carol” – a holiday classic!  This special family adaptation of the show will feature lots of audience participation (including a snow-less snowball fight).  Performances will take place at Northampton High School.  413-210-1898.  380 Elm Street.  Northampton, MA.  ($)

Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 22nd & 23rd at 2pm – FAMILY FILM: Amherst Cinema screens a special matinee of, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” today!  See the film as a family to get into the holiday spirit, and to introduce kids who haven’t seen it to the classic tale.  413-253-2547.  23 Amity Street.  Amherst, MA.  ($)

Sunday, December 23rd from 4-9pm – HISTORY/HOLIDAY: Celebrate the holiday season the old-fashioned way at Old Sturbridge Village! The historic village’s Christmas by Candlelight series offers families a chance to enjoy non-commercial, relaxed holiday festivities and activities. Go for a sleigh ride, learn about roasting chestnuts over an open fireplace, make your own tin holiday ornaments, vote for your favorite homemade gingerbread house, sing along to Christmas carols with villagers dressed in period clothing, and more! 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. ($)

Sunday, December 23rd at 6pm – CHRISTMAS CAROLING: All are invited to join local 4-H Club for Christmas Caroling Down Main Street.  Meet at the Cummington Community House at 6pm and travel from home to home on Main Street to sing holiday songs.  Return to Community House for refreshments.  Bring plates of cookies to share. 33 Main Street. Cummington, MA (FREE)


MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Saturday, Dec. 29th 11am and 2pm - CHILDREN’S THEATER: Berkshire Children’s Theater presents, “Pinkalicious!” at the Berkshire Museum!  The show is a musical stage adaptation of the book of the same name, and is about a little girl learning how to exercise her self control!  Pinkalicious loves anything pink, but her special favorite are pink cupcakes – and, despite her parents cautioning, she eats so many that she turns pink!  413-443-7171.  39 South Street.  Pittsfield, MA.  ($$)

Sunday, Dec. 30th 1-5pm – MUSEUM ADVENTURE/COMICS: Make your own comic book art at drop-in workshops at the Norman Rockwell Museum!  The museum is currently hosting an exhibit of comic book art by Alex Ross, and the activities included in the workshops will give kids a chance to create their own comic book-style artwork.  Superheroes will be roaming the museum, too – be sure to visit the galleries to find them!  413-298-4100.  9 Route 183.  Stockbridge, MA.  (FREE with museum admission)

BULLETIN BOARD

Dec. 14-15 & 21-22

Tom McCabe’s PaintBox Theatre presents, A Christmas Carol at Northampton High School: Dec. 14th at 7pm; Dec. 15th at 10:30am & 1pm; Dec. 21st at 7pm; Dec. 22nd at 10:30am & 1pm. A child-friendly romp featuring lots of audience participation and holiday cheer. You’ll join in an invisible snowball, snowball fight, and everyone will learn how to waltz. Fifty children artists have drawn pictures of the story’s characters & locales which will be projected above the stage during the performance. Intermission features an audience carol sing, Several audience members will be drafted to play parts including Tiny Tim. Tickets are $7. General Seating – Tickets available online at BrownPaperTickets.com or at the door. More info at PaintBoxTheatre.org.

Through Sept 8, 2013

Lions and Tigers and Museums, Oh My!, on view beginning November 17 at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s Stone Hill Center in Williamstown, utilizes video, hands-on activities, taxidermy, and innovative displays to create an exciting learning environment for all ages. The exhibition includes a magnificent specimen of an adult African lion as well as a lioness’s pelt, claws, and a skull that will be available to encourage hands-on exploration. Visitors try on a gauntlet as they try to balance a wooden block that approximates the size and weight of a falcon for a first-hand experience of the difficulty and delicate balance needed in falconry. Visit clarkart.edu to learn about the exhibition and other family events and programs.

ADVERTISE YOUR EVENT OR VACATION WEEK CAMP: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your holiday event, open house, afterschool class, homeschool program, community celebration, workshop, school, or business featured here in the bulletin board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA! Find out more about our enhanced publicity packages and options and how we can help with your online marketing by emailing us at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

Win tickets to final performance on Sunday, Dec. 30th at 2pm in Pittsfield, MA. Deadline to enter for a chance to win: 12/24, 12noon.

JOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com

The Garden: A Center for Grieving Children and Teens offers a safe and welcoming setting to process the many feelings associated with grief and loss. Any family with a child ages 5-18 years who has experienced the death of a close family member is invited to participate in our Sunday afternoon groups. Groups are offered at no charge. New groups will be forming in February, and will meet at the Hampshire Regional YMCA in Northampton. Pre-registration is required. For more information, please call 413-584-7086 x124 or email Shelly Bathe Lenn at shelly.thegarden@gmail.com.

Recommend your favorite attraction, must see or must do family winter activity in Western MA, and be entered to win a gift basket from the Old Creamery Co-Op (Value $150)! Deadline to enter for a chance to win: 12/24, 12noon.

A celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation will be held in the Pioneer Valley. On Jan. 1st at 2pm, churches throughout the valley will ring their bells to recognize the moment the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, the document that led to the permanent end of slavery. In 1863, at 2pm on New Year’s Day, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, providing that all persons held as slaves would be “then, thenceforward, and forever free,” resulting in the permanent abolition of slavery. Residents are urged to join in this celebration, encouraging their towns & churches to participate by ringing their bells at 2pm on New Year’s Day. For info, contact Robert Romer, rhromer@amherst.edu.


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS
December 22nd-28th, 2012

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Suggest an Event | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter

Berkshire Family Fun

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Hindsight Parenting: Five Christmas Wishes

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Our friend, Hindsight has been really busy this season. He is working overtime reminding me of the mistakes I made over the many Christmases with my sons. He’s reminded me of the ridiculous pickles I had gotten myself into, and the misery irrationally placed upon me because of perceived have-to’s and should-do’s. And like the loyal friend that he is, he has taught me much this season, or I should say he has taught me much ABOUT the season; what it is and what it isn’t. He’s reminded me that Christmas means magic and love and togetherness. It means traditions and family and bustle and wishes, most of all wishes. I’d like to share the wisdom Hindsight has imparted to me over these past few weeks, and because he tells me that those Christmas wishes are an integral part of the season, I’ve decided to pass on his knowledge in the form of a wish list for you… Read the rest of this entry »

22 Community Highlights: Boreal Forest to Kitchen Science. Symphony to Contra Dance.

Looking for a non-commercial gift to give your kids? One that promotes creative-free play while offering lessons in chemistry and math… and doesn’t cost that much? Why not put together a box of kitchen ingredients with directions on how to make gak, slime, play dough, bubbles,  paint and chalk?! Check out the July post of, “Let’s Play: Tactile Play” by Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Carrie St. John. She includes recipes to print out for all of these, and your kids will have a blast getting icky, goopy and gloppy in the kitchen!

Boreal Forest to Kitchen Science. Papercrafts to Winter Crafts. Symphony to Contra Dance… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

NATURE STUDIES

Volunteer as a Citizen Scientists this Saturday, Dec. 15th as a participate in the annual Mass Audubon Christmas Bird Count! The event relies on citizen scientists to locate and count species of birds – and the data collected is used to assess local bird populations. Kids can learn to identify and find species of birds, practice using field guides, and learn how to draw conclusions from their own data. Contact a CBC facilitator nearest you.

Explore Notchview’s Boreal Forest with Aimee Gelinas and the Trustees of Reservations this Saturday too. Learn to identify trees such as spruce, fir, and Christmas fern, and search for signs of intrepid winter-battling mammals. Happens in Windsor.

LANGUAGE ARTS

Inspiring interest and encouragement in reading and writing can come to children in many ways. Having a themed celebration inspired by a book, storytimes, reading to dogs or even meeting authors, all have the potential inspire a love for reading and writing.

On Saturday morning, Community Action is hosting Snow Day, centered around Ezra Jack Keats’ well-known children’s book, The Snowy Day. Celebrate winter by making snowflakes and ornament, and enjoying a storytime in Greenfield. Every child will receive a free copy of their very own book!

Later in the day on Saturday in Westfield, young readers can Read with Rover at the Westfield Athenaeum. Specially trained therapy dogs will be at the library to serve as patient, calm, non-judgemental reading buddies for kids who are working on reading aloud.

In Stockbridge at the Red Lion Inn, also on Saturday afternoon, families can meet four local authors! Sarah Sedgwick Genocchio (A Stockbridge Childhood), Pat Pope (Johanna’s Gift), Janet McKinstry (Rosie and Friends, Unleashed in Berkshire County), Susan Geller and Susan Merrill (I Live in Stockbridge) will all share their books. Older children can find inspiration in writing short stories by hearing these authors share what it takes to be a published author and by asking them questions about their experiences as a writer.

STEM

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) based learning opportunities can be found in simple play, papercrafts and even in the mixing of ingredients found in your kitchen. For example, basic math, physics and engineering skills can be practiced with LEGOs. Several libraries offer their youth patrons a chance to participate in free LEGO clubs, including: Sunderland Library on Saturday morning; Ramsdell Library in Housatonic, also on Saturday morning; and the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 19th

Origami and papercrafts are a way to practice geometry. The Arms Library in Shelburne Falls hosts Paper Capers on Saturday afternoon, a free event that includes papercrafts of all kinds. Families can make accordion books, ornaments, beads, and more!

Get a taste of chemistry as a mad scientist at Kitchen Kaboom! at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield on Saturday morning! Along with the help of the museum’s very own crazy chemist, kids can learn how to do exciting and surprising (and safe!) experiments with regular household materials.

HISTORY

We’ve mention a couple of ways recently to explore history at two ongoing December events, including Old Sturbridge’s Christmas by Candlelight and Historic Deerfield’s Heritage Holiday. Another opportunity is by learning about the origins of the holiday carol, 12 Days of Christmas. On Saturday afternoon, find out about the possible symbolism behind the carol at the Jones Library in Amherst, where Dr. Thomas Bernard (professor at Springfield College) will share his ideas.

MYO HOLIDAY GIFTS

There’s still time to make your own holiday gifts! Sunday, Dec. 16th, is the Make-and-Take Craft Fair with fun and interesting holiday crafts at the Montague Grange! The fair will include activities for crafters of all ages, including beeswax candles, miniature terrariums, jewelry, and ornaments.

Then on Wednesday evening, visit Art Party Studio in Easthampton for an evening of wintry holiday crafts. There will be all sorts of special holiday materials to use – experiment with unique media (like glittery twigs, bells, and more!), and create a holiday masterpiece to give or decorate with.

What grandmother won’t love a hand-knitted scarf from their grandchild, dropped stitches and all?! Kids ages 7-11 can spend Thursday afternoon, Dec. 20th, knitting away at the Monson Library. Instruction will be available for casting on and off and doing basic knit and purl stitches. Kids who are ready to move on to more difficult projects can get support, too!

MUSIC, DANCE & SONG

Hear the Pioneer Valley Symphony play holiday favorites at the annual Family Holiday Concert in Greenfield on Saturday evening. The show will also feature performances by the Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus and the Greenfield High School Chorus.

Go contra dancing on Saturday evening in Lenox. Dances are a great way to get exercise, learn about rhythm, and gain better balance and movement skills. Contra dancing provides a friendly intergenerational environment in which people of all ages can contribute and participate equally.

Sing along to songs for the holidays at the Hubbard Library in Ludlow on Tuesday evening, Dec. 18th. David Polansky will share songs for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the entire winter season.

HIKES

Join the Berkshire Natural Resources Council in exploring the Clam River in Sandisfield on Wednesday morning. The evergreen-filled property bumps up against the river – explore the area, search for animal signs, and enjoy the winter air.

Hike Chapel Brook with the Trustees of Reservations in Ashfield on Thursday morning. The easy to moderate hike will include lots of opportunities to spot animal signs, enjoy the crisp winter air, and get some great exercise.

Northfield Mountain celebrates the solstice this year with a hike on the cross-country ski trails on Friday evening, Dec. 21st. BYO headlamp to light the way! The trek will be filled with facts and quotes about (and celebrating!) the winter solstice.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

[Photo credit: (ccl) Mike Allyn]

Berkshire Family Fun for Late December, 2012

Berkshire County Highlights for Families:
December 15th – 28th, 2012

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

There are just a couple more weekends left before Christmas, followed by school winter vacation. Berkshire County continues to celebrate the change of season and several of the museums and community centers will have activities for kids during the week of winter vacation. – Then it’s the New Year!

Cookies with origins from around the world are a staple of the holidays! Gingerbread Men to Hermits to Sugar Cookies are baked up in home kitchens and given as gifts. This weekend kids can learn how to make Rugalach at the Berkshire Co-op in Great Barrington, and next weekend families are welcomed to participate in a homemade cookie swap a Moments House in Pittsfield or pick up cookies at the Hinsdale Cookie Walk. Take the time to learn about the history behind cookies from other cultures, or make that recipe your grandmother handed down and share the backstory with your family and friends.

Find out about over 50 community events and learning opportunities happening throughout Berkshire County through December 28th, 2012:

North Berkshire County
Central Berkshire County
South Berkshire County

To find out what’s happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, check our comprehensive list of Weekly Suggested Events, published every Thursday! There you will also find our list of ongoing weekday playgroups, storyhours and events both in Berkshire County and throughout the region.

List of Weekly Suggested Events

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A Look at the History of Holiday Traditions in Western MA

History and Traditions for the Holidays

When did decorating a Christmas tree become a holiday tradition? Where did the practice of giving gifts originate? The Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA writes, “During the Victorian Era, Christmas bloomed into a season full of tradition when a London newspaper published a drawing depicting the royal family of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert adorning a Christmas tree with lighted candles, tinsel, ribbon, and paper chains.”

The holiday season is full of opportunities to teach your kids about the origins of holiday traditions, getting a glimpse into history and cultures.  The Historic Deerfield and Old Sturbridge Village offer opportunities throughout December for holiday history lessons that are fun and engaging!

HISTORIC DEERFIELD: Heritage Holiday

Historical Deerfield has a month long series of traditional festive activities for families to enjoy in December. Visitors can learn about open hearth cooking, holiday traditions, take a horse-drawn wagon ride, and make simple gifts to take home.

Last weekend, silhouette artist and historical actress Lauren Muney was at Historic Deerfield in period dress cutting portraits out of paper.  The art of silhouettes was very popular in the 1800’s, and Lauren’s interpretation of the work of itinerant artists from the past, who cut likenesses of people from black paper using just scissors, was an engaging way to explore the history of folk art.

This weekend visitors of Historic Deerfield can make their own simple gifts to give this holiday season, including woodland figures made from natural materials, paper quillwork ornaments, and spiced hot chocolate mix. There will also be horse-drawn wagon rides through the streets of Historic Deerfield.

Historic Deerfield’s  program has a refreshing lack of the man in red! If you would prefer your family to take in some history without a distracting bearded figure, this is the museum for you. It is delightfully low key and fun, even for families with young children. The programs run from December 1st-30th, excluding December 24th and 25th, from 9:30am-4:30pm. Open Hearth Cooking starts at 10am, and gift-making starts at 12noon. December 15th-16th will be the final days for enjoying horse-drawn wagon rides. You can get all of the details at www.historic-deerfield.org.

OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE: Christmas by Candlelight

For an all-engaging sensory experience, check out the Old Sturbridge Village’s “Christmas by Candlelight.” The staff at Old Sturbridge goes all out to create magic for your family. There are carolers, horse-drawn carriages, dances, a bonfire, mulled cider, Santa Claus, a gift-making workshop… the list goes on! True to the mission of the museum, all of the fun is organized to help visitors understand New England in the early 1800s. Visitors will be able to learn about the origins of the Christmas Tree, Poinsettias, and fruit cake, among other things, and have the opportunity to create their own gifts and decorations. You can read more about it at Christmas by Candlelight.

For more learning opportunities this holiday season, check out Hilltown Families Friday column, Learn Local. Play Local.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Heary-Selah — Theresa is a teacher and a freelance writer, making her home in Greenfield, MA and Wright, NY with her family.  She teaches at S.H.I.N.E. (Students at Home in New England), a social and academic support program for middle school students in the Pioneer Valley, and writes about home-schooling and technology.  Theresa’s interests include home-schooling, gardening, cooking, hiking, and dancing.

[Image credit: (ccl) Royce Bair]

31 Community Highlights: Victorian Crafts to Holiday Traditions. Winter Yule to The Nutcracker.

9 Chanukah events are featured for the next week in our post, Chanukah Highlights in Western MA. Families of all backgrounds are welcome and many events can serve as a celebration for Chanukah or a family exploration of Jewish history and traditions.

Quarry Hikes to Animal Adaptations. Victorian Crafts to Holiday Traditions. Winter Yule to The Nutcracker… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


HIKES/NATURE STUDIES

On Saturday morning families can preregister for one of two hikes. The first hike takes place at Peaked Mountain in Monson where participants can learn to search for signs of animals who are still around for the winter. The Trustees of Reservations – and local naturalist Kevin Kopchynski – will guide the exploratory hike.

Also on Saturday morning, Connecticut River Valley Sanctuaries will sponsor a hike at the historic Becket Quarry. Families can look for moose tracks and industrial archaeology at the 300-acre Historic Becket Quarry and Forest Preserve. Located high atop the Berkshire Highlands and preserved by the Becket Land Trust, this former granite quarry offers a feast of fauna, glacial erratics and rich helpings of cultural history. This site features artifacts of the former Hudson-Chester Company that was in operation for almost a century until the 1960s and is often called a “ghost quarry” for its spooky, abandoned appearance. Best for ages 10yo and older.

HISTORY

Historic Deerfield continues their celebration of the holidays with traditional decorations, open hearth cooking demonstrations, silhouette making (a historic craft), and craft making for visitors all weekend.

In the afternoon on Saturday, the Wistariahurst Museum invites families to make Victorian crafts at their Holiday Crafts for the Family event in Holyoke. Learn how to make Christmas crackers, beautiful beaded ornaments, lanterns and more.

In the evening, families can celebrate the holiday season the old-fashioned way at Old Sturbridge Village while learning about the history of many holiday traditions. The historic village’s Christmas by Candlelight series offers families a chance to enjoy non-commercial, relaxed holiday festivities and activities and takes place Fri-Sun through Dec. 23.

Other opportunities to explore local history this weekend is at the Lenox Historical Society‘s annual Holiday Open House, a tour and lecture at the Shaw-Hudson House in Plainfield, and a tour of Arrowhead, home of Herman Melville, in Pittsfield.

THEATER & DANCE

This week there are a number of holiday theater and dance performances happening throughout Western MA to get your family into the holiday spirit! On Saturday evening in Northampton, the Northampton High School presents their Fall One-Act Festival and Smith College students present Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and on Sunday, Ventfort Hall in Lenox hosts a Christmas handchime concert.

On both Saturday and Sunday, Mill City Productions in North Adams presents, “Fireside Yuletide,” a theatrical reading of classic family holiday tales, and the Shea Theater in Turners Falls hosts “Welcome Yule,” a performance of stories, songs, and dance to drive away the dark of winter.

There are a couple of ballet productions of The Nutcracker all weekend too. The Pioneer Valley Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” at the Academy of Music in Northampton, and the Albany Berkshire Ballet present “The Nutcracker” at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.

Later in the week on Wednesday & Thursday, Dec. 12 & 13, the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Academy presents an annual Holiday Jubilee Winter Showcase, also at the Academy of Music in Northampton.

Looking for a Parents’ Night Out? Shakespeare and Company presents David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries at the Bernstein Theater in Lenox, every Friday-Sunday through Dec. 30.

HOLIDAY STROLLS CONTINUE

The 7th annual holiday celebration, “A Special Day in Northfield,” happens all day on Saturday. This non-commercial community holiday celebration offers families an opportunity to explore, be creative, and enjoy what Northfield has to offer! Local artists and antiques stores will be open, too, so if you want to do any holiday shopping, you can shop locally and/or handmade. Another holiday stroll that happens on Saturday is the 4th Annual Dickens Days Village Stroll happening all day in downtown Westfield.

Later in the day on Saturday, explore downtown Great Barrington during their Holiday Stroll – the town is decorated for the holidays, the air is cool and crisp, and the town is alive with holiday spirit. Visit locally owned shops to get a jump start on shopping locally (and potentially handmade!) for the holidays.

On Thursday evening, Dec. 13th, downtown Turners Falls comes alive for the holidays for, “It’s a Wonderful Night!” The town will be filled with festive storefront displays, roving musicians, caroling, a tree lighting, and a free screening of, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” at the Shea Theater at 8pm. Some shops will have extended hours for the evening, in order to encourage visitors to shop locally for the holidays.

SINGING

The annual Lenox Caroling Festival takes place this weekend – and competition will take place on Saturday at numerous locations throughout the town. Visit one – or all! – of the locations to hear a variety of beautifully performed holiday music.

On Sunday afternoon in Northampton, the Whole Children Chorus and the Florence Community Band perform Songs of the Season at Northampton High School, and in Pittsfield, Berkshire Lyric presents, “Deck the Halls,” at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, featuring the Blafield Children’s Chorus, the Monument Mountain High School Chorus, the Spartones, and Guademaus.

The Northampton Community Music Center brings together choral groups from all over the Pioneer Valley for an evening Holiday Choral Festival for all ages on Monday, Dec. 10 at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel in Northampton.

PARENT WORKSHOPS

On Monday evening, the Northampton Parents Center is hosting a free workshop titled, “Talking To Your Kids About Sex: A Workshop for Parents of Young Children,” at Bridge Street School in Northampton.

The Collaborative for Educational Services host a free Active Child workshop on Tuesday evening at the South Hadley Family Center for parents to get advice and learn strategies for parenting a spirited child.

ARCHEOLOGY

Archaeologists must often apply a skill set similar to those used by forensics experts – they look at remnants of lives (caves, basements, stone walls, etc.) and use tiny clues in order to deduce the use of the place, item, etc. On Monday evening, Dec. 10th, older students and their parents can learn how archaeologists have used these skills to determine information about the history of the earliest European settlers in New England at Greenfield High School, where Central Connecticut State professor Ken Feder presents, “Monk’s Caves, Sacrificial Altars, and Wandering Celts.”

PASTRY ARTS

Whole Foods Market in Hadley is hosting a cooking class for 8-12yo kids on Tuesday evening, Dec. 11. Participants will make whole-grain cookies and bread while learning about making healthy choices for eating and developing healthy eating habits.

ARTS & CRAFTS

Visit Art Party Studio in Easthampton on Wednesday, Dec. 12th for an evening of wintry holiday crafts. There will be all sorts of special holiday materials to use – experiment with unique media (like glittery twigs, bells, and more!), and create a holiday masterpiece.

ANIMAL STUDIES

How do New England animals survive the winter? They all have unique adaptations that allow them to deal with the cold temperatures and changing food landscape. Learn about these adaptations and the creatures that you may see in the winter at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls on Friday morning, Dec. 14th.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

[Photo credit: (ccl) Jordan Chark]

Christmas by Candlelight: A Celebration of the History on Holiday Traditions

Old Sturbridge Village hosts Christmas by Candlelight
Celebration of favorite holiday traditions, music & food
Nine evening events set for Dec. 7-9; 14-16; 21-23

The legend of Santa has complex origins, blending diverse tales of magical gift givers with Christian beliefs. Dutch settlers in 17th-century New Amsterdam (New York) brought with them the legend of Saint Nicholas (Sinter Klaus), a 4th-century Christian saint from Turkey known for his generosity to children.

Take a break from the overwhelming wave of commercialized holiday “spirit” that the post-Thanksgiving season brings – visit Old Sturbridge Village for Christmas by Candlelight, which offers an incredibly wide variety of family-friendly holiday activities, performances, demonstrations, readings, crafts, and more!  Villagers dressed in period costume will share holiday traditions from early New England – many of which formed the foundation upon which modern day holiday celebrations have been built!  Families can learn about the roots of traditions such as yule logs, roasting chestnuts over a fire, building gingerbread houses, and even having a Christmas tree!

Friday-Sunday evenings from 4-9pm through December 23rd, the village will come alive with performances by Victorian carolers, Celtic music groups, handbell choirs, chorus groups and fife and drum corps.  Visitors can view an exhibit of exquisite handmade gingerbread houses or see a miniature New England village decorated for the holiday, a model train show, or a 100+ piece nativity scene.  There will be hands-on ornament making (using tin, and utilizing basic skills used by early New England metalworkers), as well as other holiday crafts.

A visit to the village can become a new holiday tradition for families, and is also a fantastic way for families to learn about history – hands-on!  Each of the traditions being practiced and/or demonstrated throughout the village is specific to a particular period in American history, and families can work together to place each of their activities into a broader historical context.  Visitors can actually see “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and hear why they were a favored treat in early New England. They can also learn the origins of candy canes, mistletoe, fruitcake and how poinsettias were introduced to this country.

For more information on Christmas by Candlelight, call Old Sturbridge Village at 800-733-1830 or visit www.osv.org.  Admission includes a free second visit within a 10-day period and any guests of second-day visitors receive a 25% discount on their admission. You could also inquire with your local library to see if they have a museum pass to OSV to lend.  Monson Free Library,  Westfield Athenaeum Library and Wilbraham Public Library all have passes to lend.  Check with the nearest library near you too.

Did You Know?

The old folk tale of Hansel and Gretel, made famous by the brothers Grimm, inspired many Germans in the early 1800s to create model witches’ houses from hard gingerbread. Building fanciful gingerbread houses at Christmastime spread to America by the late 1800s.

  •  Most early New Englanders did not celebrate Christmas.  They saw Christmas celebrations as dangerous foreign (pagan) perversions of pure Christianity and an excuse for sinful behavior.
  • Yule logs began as a pagan reminder of the light and warmth of the sun on cold mid-winter nights. The word “Yule” is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word “hweol,” which means “wheel” – a pagan symbol of the sun. The burning of a Yule log originated with the Druids, The modern practice of decorating trees and buildings with flashing electric lights seems to be a logical extension of the lighting of candles and bonfires at Christmas time.
  • Christmas trees were pretty much only a German tradition until the 1840s, when Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, gave her a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts, and the custom began to catch on in the English-speaking world.

 (Source of Facts & Photos: Old Sturbridge Village)

29 Community Highlights: Gingerbread Houses to Latkes. MYO Gifts to Choral Performances.

Town wide holiday strolls and luminaria walks
bring community together in a festive holiday atmosphere while supporting local businesses. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Holiday Stroll to Luminaria Walk. MYO Gifts to Choral Performances. Gingerbread Houses to Latkes. Filmmaking to Sewing… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!

HOLIDAY STROLLS

Town wide holiday strolls are often times an annual affair that always brings community together in a festive holiday atmosphere while supporting local businesses. This week there are six holiday strolls we’ve highlighted:

  1. South Hadley Holiday Stroll on Sat., Dec. 1st: Tree lighting, Santa and holiday music.
  2. Williamstown Holiday Stroll on Sat., Dec. 1st: Parade (including a reindog parade!), Santa, performances, singing and sleigh rides.
  3. Stockbridge Luminaria Walk on Sat., Dec. 1st: Caroling by candlelight.
  4. Stockbridge Holiday Stroll on Sun., Dec. 2nd: Recreated downtown from the days of Norman Rockwell.
  5. North Adams Hometown Holidays on Thurs., Dec. 6th: Family activities, music, crafts and open shops.
  6. Pittsfield Upstreet Friday on Fri., Dec. 7th: Local artists and artisans at shops, galleries, and restaurants throughout town.

SINGING

As the days get shorter and shorter, people link to sing more and more! It’s a nice way of balancing out the increasing darkness as the Winter Solstice approaches. This week we’re highlighting seven choral and music performances to consider taking your family to this weekend:

  • Musicians from the Berkshire Music School will perform a special concert of holiday music at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 1. The show will also feature the Sunshine Singers – a youth chorus – and Bing’s Strings
  • Berkshire Theater Group presents Mary Verdi, a local singer-songwriter who performs annually for the holidays at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield. The show will feature a bell choir, a seven piece band, and an appearance from the Craneville Children’s Chorus. Two shows are scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1st.
  • The Hilltown Choral Society presents a special holiday concert at the Village Congregational Church on Saturday evening, Dec. 1st in Cummington, and then on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2nd at the First Congregational Church in Ashfield.
  • Amherst College’s Johnson Chapel will be filled on Sunday, Dec. 2nd for two shows with the sounds holiday music, performed by the school’s Choral Society and Madrigal Singers.

HISTORY

The holidays offer a unique lens with which to history. There are a few opportunities happening this weekend that visit local history and the history of New England around the holidays.

All day on Saturday, Dec. 1st, is the Historic Homes Tour in Stockbridge. Visit some of the area’s most interesting landmarks, including Naumkeag, Merwin House, Elms Cottage, and Edith Wharton’s former home, The Mount. Families can learn about local history and architecture – older students can use the tour as a way to pair American history with a look at the evolution of, and changes in, home design.

Storrowton Village in West Springfield is celebrating the holiday season this weekend during their Winter Festival. Along with tours of the beautifully decorated village, there will be demonstrations of 19th century crafts, ice sculpting, crafts for kids, music performances, storytelling, caroling, animals to meet and learn about, and more.

Historic Deerfield is celebrating the holidays all weekend too with traditional decorations, open hearth cooking demonstrations, wagon rides, and craft making for visitors (create a gift to share!). Visitors will learn about holiday celebrations in early New England, as well as the sweeteners and spices used in baking (and where they came from!) in Deerfield’s early days. It’s a unique opportunity for kids to learn about the history of the spice trade, and the long history of imported goods and dependency on a world market that the United States has.

The Keep Homestead Museum in Monson hosts a Holiday Open House on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2nd. Decorated for the season, tour the museum and see how rooms might have been furnished at the turn of the century. There is furniture, silver and cut glass, collections of rocks, minerals and shells, quilts and other needlework done by the women of the family, along with the extensive button collection (the pride of the museum).

Betsy Ross – creator of the American flag – is a complicated and interesting historical figure. Learn more about her life as an upholsterer in Philadelphia – and her life outside of work – at the Jones Library in Amherst on Thursday evening, Dec. 6th. Great for older students learning about American history, feminism, and feminist figures.

CULINARY ARTS

Chandler’s Restaurant hosts a kids cooking class on Saturday, Dec. 1st. in South Deerfield. Parents can explore the world of culinary arts with their kids in a structured and relaxed environment. Youth participants are familiarized with raw ingredients, how to prepare them, and their nutritional value. This month homemade pasta is being made. A brief tour of Chandler’s commercial kitchen follows.

At Hops and Vines in Williamstown, families can make their own gingerbread houses on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 1st. Kids can practice their architectural and creative skills with a fun medium. Replicate your own home or an easily recognizable local building, or create a masterpiece all your own.

Get ready for Chanukah with a holiday cooking class offered by the Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy on Monday afternoon, Dec. 3rd in Longmeadow. The class, titled, “Cooking with Parents and Grandparents,” is open to all families from the community and will feature fun cooking activities, including donut making, edible-wearable menorah building, and dreidel (edible and non-edible) making! Kids can learn about Chanukah traditions and get ready to celebrate the holiday, too.

Want to learn how to make latkes for Hanukkah? Chef Greg will be doing a cooking demo with recipes to share on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 6th at Wild Oats Co-op in Williamstown.

MYO HOLIDAY GIFTS

Giving children an opportunity to make their own gifts to give for the holidays is not only an excellent, non-commercial, alternative to holiday consumerism, but it can also support creative free play! Here are five MYO Holiday Gift Highlights for this week:

  1. Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in Haydenville will host a day of wreath, craft and gift-making for all ages on Saturday, Dec. 1st. Great opportunity to MYO holiday gifts that are eco-friendly.
  2. Make your own unique and artistic holiday cards in the studio at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst on Saturday morning, Dec. 1st. Materials, including envelopes.
  3. Greenfield Center School host a Crafty Rumpus Open House, a creative, free holiday gift making event for families on Saturday, Dec. 1st in Greenfield.
  4. Learn to make a density ornament – using a variety of colored liquids – with Alchemy Initiative at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield on Saturday, Dec. 1st.
  5. Make your own wintry snow globe at the Berkshire Co-op in Great Barrington on Friday afternoon, Dec. 7th! This special hands-on, just-for-kids craft time is back by popular demand!

ARTS & CRAFTS

Older teens interested in improving their artistic skills or their knowledge of art techniques and art history are invited to attend, “Que Sera, Seurat,” a free intergenerational workshop on pastel painting and pointellism at the Lee Library on Monday evening, Dec 3rd!

Help to make a video to advertise the Hatfield Library’s 2013 summer reading program to younger readers on Tuesday afternoon, Dec 4th. Sign up to be part of a 3-week project to create the video – and learn some filmmaking techniques while you’re at it! Open to 5th and 6th graders.

Families with preK kids can visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge for Kids Create on Wednesday morning, Dec. 5th, for a hands-on art program for kids where they can learn about techniques and media for creating art.

The Goodwin Library in Hadley hosts authors Nicole Blum and Debra Immegut who will be sharing ideas from their new book, Improv Sewing – A Creative Approach to Freeform Techniques on Wednesday evening, Dec. 5th. Tools and supplies will be available for visitors to do some crafting of their own, too! Best for older kids and parents who have some basic sewing skills.

Berkshire Family Fun for Early December, 2012

Berkshire County Highlights for Families:
December 1st-14th, 2012

Experience Main Street in Stockbridge just like Norman Rockwell did during the Stockbridge Holiday Stroll on Sun., Dec. 2nd from 12noon-2pm. Downtown Stockbridge will be filled with antique cars, carolers will perform all over town, and there will be fun family activities for all! The re-creation is a unique opportunity to experience Norman Rockwell’s work in real life!

The holidays are here and they’re celebrating in the Berkshires!  Holiday strolls are taking place in Williamstown, Great Barrington and Stockbridge during these first two weeks of December. Santa’s making his rounds visiting Crane & Company’s Model Farm, Dalton CRA, Lilac Park, Lenox Fire Department, and the Berkshire Museum.  Gingerbread houses are being built at Hops & Vines and the Lenox Library, and latkes are being fried up at Wild Oats… and people and chorus groups are singing and performing all over the region!

Find out about these events and other community events and learning opportunities happening throughout Berkshire County through Dec 14th, 2012:

North Berkshire
Central Berkshire
South Berkshire

To find out what’s happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, check our comprehensive list of Weekly Suggested Events, published every Thursday! There you will also find our list of ongoing weekday playgroups, storyhours and events both in Berkshire County and throughout the region.

List of Weekly Suggested Events

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Four Holiday Strolls in the Berkshires

Holiday Strolls in the Berkshires

Four Holiday Strolls and town celebrations are planned for the Berkshires, including the towns of North Adams, Williamstown and Stockbridge.  A fourth Holiday Stroll will happen in Great Barrington on Saturday, December 8th from 4-7:30pm. Take the family and stroll downtown, alive with holiday spirit!  Find out more about the Great Barrington Holiday Stroll on the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce website.

As the temperature slowly drops and the skies become increasingly more grey, towns across Western Massachusetts are beginning to look more and more festive by the minute!  Leafless trees now don coats of twinkling lights, streetlights are wrapped cozily in strands of deep green garland, and bright red bows decorate wreaths – welcoming both visitors and the holiday season.  Begin your family’s holiday season this weekend by visiting one of the holiday strolls being offered!

Downtown North Adams’ Hometown Holidays series continues on Thursday, November 29th from 5-8pm.  Local businesses will have extended hours and special deals for holiday shopping, and there will be fun family activities taking place throughout town.  Kids can get holiday masterpieces painted on their chilly pink cheeks, exercise their creativity making holiday crafts (which might also make great gifts!), and sing along to live holiday music.  More information available on the City of North Adams website.

Carolers, theatrical performers, horses, and even Santa Claus himself will be in Williamstown on Saturday, December 1st, for the town’s annual Holiday Walk!  The event takes place from 4-7pm, and features everything from holiday crafts and a bake-off to sleigh rides and a parade.  There will be live music throughout town for the duration of the event, including performances by jazz groups, a bell choir, and community chorus groups.  “A Christmas Carol,” will be performed at 5:45pm at The Log, the Reindog Parade will march down Spring Street at 4:15pm, and the Williamstown Cub Scouts will be collecting toys at 69 Spring Street all night!  The event ends with the lighting of the town’s Christmas tree, done by Santa himself.  A full list of events is available on the Williamstown Chamber’s website.

The town of Stockbridge will be celebrating the holidays all weekend – all over town!  On Saturday, December 1st, families can explore local historic properties on the Holiday House Tour.  The tour, which is self-guided and takes place from 11am-4pm, includes historic gems such as Naumkeag, The Mount, and Elms Cottage, and is a great way for older students to learn about local history.  That evening, downtown Stockbridge will be lit by candlelight during the annual Caroling Luminaria Walk, beginning at the Red Lion Inn (BYO candle or flashlight!).  The walk ends at the First Congregational Church, where Berkshire Lyric and the Blafield Children’s Chorus will perform holiday music.  Sunday, December 2nd, brings a second set of exciting holiday events in Stockbridge – including Main Street at Christmas, a re-creation of Norman Rockwell’s famous painting of the same name.  The town’s main street will be filled with antique cars and holiday decorations – transforming Stockbridge into a vintage wonderland!  There will be caroling, crafts, and sleigh rides, too.  For more information on locations and ticketing, visit the Stockbridge Chamber’s website.

Suggested Events for Dec 24th-30th, 2011

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Bûche de Noël at Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, MA. French for “Yule Log,” Bûche de Noël's are a traditional French cake served during the Christmas holidays. Click on the image to read about the history of this cake and see a food history timeline of other Christmas foods, including Stollens, Twelfth Night Cakes and Sugarplums. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout Western Massachusetts while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Click HERE to find out more.

BEST BETS FOR SCHOOL VACATION WEEK

Enter to win a yearlong family membership to The Trustees for 2012 plus two adult stickers for cross-country skiing at Notchview in Windsor for the 2011-12 season. Deadline: 12/24.

Monday, Dec 26th from 1-3pm – OUTDOOR ADVENTURE: Spend the afternoon playing fun and active outdoor games with educator Arianna Grindinrod! Kids will learn about how the animals sharing their environment adapt for the winter weather. 413-522-0338. Conway, MA. ($)

Tuesday, Dec 27th from9:30am-4pm – COLONIAL HISTORY: Old Sturbridge Village has plenty of activities to offer to keep families busy while school’s out! Visit the village to experience the 1800’s- there will be hands-on activities, demonstrations, and performances all day long. Learn about what life in New England was like during winter in the 1830’s. Supplement school history curriculum or do your own family learning adventure. 508-347-3362. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. ($)

Wednesday, Dec 28th from 1pm - LIBRARY ADVENTURES/SCIENCE: Mad Science presents, “HoliDaze: The How and Why of the Season” at the Berkshire Athenaeum! This presentation explains the facts behind some holiday traditions and phenomena. 413-499-9480. 1 Wendell Avenue. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, Dec 29th from 12noon and 2pm – MUSEUM ADVENTURES/BUBBLES: The Bubble Guy presents not one, but TWO shows today at the Springfield Museums! The show features incredibly bubble-making techniques, the likes of which you’ve likely never seen before. Kids will learn a bit about science, and will probably want to go home and make bubbles after! 800-625-7738. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($)

Friday, Dec 30th from 10am-4pm – MYO ART: The Art Garden has special hours during school break! Kids and their adults can drop in for art making using tons of recycled materials and other exciting mediums. 413-625-2782. 14 Depot Street. Shelburne Falls, MA. (<$)

See our full list of events happening this week below. Over 50 events and activities to choose from during the school vacation week!

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Enter to win tickets for a Parents' Night Out on New Year's Eve in Northampton, MA!

Saturday, Dec 31st from 10am-4pm – FIRST NIGHT: Holyoke’s First Night, Jr. celebration takes place! Families can enjoy live music, magic, free admission to the Children’s Museum, a visit to the Merry-Go-Round, ice sculptures, and a ball drop (earlier in the day, just for little ones!). Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

BULLETIN BOARD

CactusHead Puppets Presents: The Just So Stories at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Arts in Amherst, MA.

WINTER VACATION ACTIVITIES: CactusHead Puppets Presents: The Just So Stories on Tuesday, Dec. 27th & Wednesday, Dec 28th at 2pm in the auditorium at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. Enjoy three tales of mischief and magic that tell how some of your favorite animals came to be. Join the museum for silly adaptations of How the Camel Got His Hump, How the Rhino Got His Skin and The Beginning of the Armadillos. Tickets at just $5 ($4.50 for Museum members) and may be purchased in advance at the Museum Admissions Desk or by calling 413-658-1126. Museum admission extra but not required. Join The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in their comfortable theatre. Perfect vacation activity for the whole family! www.carlemuseum.org

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. See your event, camp, workshop, business featured here in the bulletin board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and eNewsletter! Find out more about our Enhanced Publicity options and how we can help with your marketing.

JOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming aContributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including DIY posts, seasonal cooking, and community-based educational opportunities. Send your query to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

SCHOOL SAFETY HOTLINE: As part of our Safe Schools Plan, the Gateway Regional School District in Huntington, MA has a Safety Hotline, 413-685-1050, which is checked regularly by the district’s Security Monitor. The hotline is a voice mailbox that can be used to report harassment, drug or alcohol concerns, vandalism and school safety issues. The purpose of the hotline is to help keep Gateway schools safe for all.

MITTEN TREE: The Springfield Library Mitten Tree needs your donations. Drop off new mittens, gloves, scarves and hats at any branch library. Donations will be distributed to area groups such as the Red Cross People’s Center, the Gray House, and Springfield Partners for Community Action. Donations will be accepted until January 7, 2012. 413-263-6828


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS:
Dec 24th-30th, 2011

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

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Berkshire Family Fun: 16 Ways to Weave Family and Community Holiday Traditions Together in the Berkshires

Keeping Holiday Traditions Alive in the Berkshires

Currently my living room looks as if Christmas threw up all over it. Boxes of old decorations, more stockings than we have family members and pets combined (and that includes the three fish, cat and new puppy, Murphy), tree ornaments, Christmas villages, holiday-themed books, empty cookie tins and more lay strewn on top of couches, countertops, hardwood floors and coffee tables making it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand — writing this column. But as all three of my children have continued to remind me since the first day of December, it’s all about tradition!

ADVENTMOVIES  | FOOD | MUSIC | CHANUKAH | COOKIES

ADVENT TRADITION

The first holiday tradition I attempted to tackle this month was our unique (or maybe not so unique) way of counting down the days until Santa Claus arrives. Each year (preferably prior to Dec.1, but often occurring sometime within the first week of December) my husband drags the bags of nearly 50 holiday-themed books from the attic for me to peruse and wrap. I browse the titles, rescuing our favorites from the piles until I have 24 in front of me.

This year, I separated the books into two piles: one for my niece, Kylee, and one for us. Yearly favorites such as Olivier Dunrea’s Bear Noel, Elise Primavera’s Auntie Claus series, a version of E.E. Cummings Little Tree written and illustrated by Chris Raschka, and Patricia Rae Wolff’s A New Improved Santa made it into our pile, while extra copies of The Polar Express, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Twas the Night Before Christmas were tossed into Kylee’s, along with other 2-year-old appropriate stories that had long since been abandoned by my kids.

Then I wrapped each present in Christmas wrapping, each dated with the day of the month Dec. 1-24, each one ready to be unwrapped on its given day and read at bedtime. This tradition used to require my husband and I to take turns reading. Now McKenna, Max and Shea (ages 12, 12, and 10) alternate with Mark and I, either reading a page at a time and then passing it to the next family member, or claiming an entire book for themselves.

On Christmas Eve, the last book is always the same, though the version and illustrations may change. Twas the Night Before Christmas completes our holiday advent, and as the kids sit in their holiday pajamas, just opened a few hours earlier, all five of us (and at times it has been 20 of us, depending on which friends and family members join us for the evening) sit around the fire, candles burning and tree lights sparkling, where we recite the book (known almost by heart at this point), before sprinkling reindeer food in the backyard and heading off to bed where “visions of sugarplums dance in our heads.”

The Sheffield Historical Society will be sharing in a storytime tradition of its own this year with residents of the town on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 10:30 a.m. when Mrs. Santa Claus will read stories by local authors to visitors at the Old Stone Store on Route 7 in Sheffield. For more information visit www.sheffieldhistory.org.

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‘Tis the Season for Stories: 20 Picture Books for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Holiday Books

Open Sesame (photo credit: Cheli Mennella)

‘Tis the season for stories. And what better way to share a story than snuggling up with your favorite kids and turning the pages of a beloved holiday book. Here are twenty suggestions for Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Some are brand new books and some are not-so-new favorites, but all are sure to get you and your kids into the holiday spirit.

  1. The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1985. A boy takes a magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole.
  2. Chanukah Lights written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Robert Sabuda. Published by Candlewick, 2011. Follow the Festival of Lights through time and place from Herod’s temple to an Israeli kibbutz, by way of poetry and exquisite pop-ups.
  3. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 1993. Describes the festival of Kwanzaa, its origins and practices, while pictures follow a family through the seven-day celebration.
  4. The Longest Night written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ted Lewin. Published by Holiday House, 2009. On the longest night of the year, a crow, a moose, and a fox think they can bring back the light, but it is the song of the chickadee that wakes the sun.
  5. The Third Gift written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Published by Clarion Books, 2011. A boy and his father collect the tears of myrrh trees, then bring them to market, where they sell them to three men who need a special gift for a baby.
  6. The Jolly Christmas Postman Written by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Janet Ahlberg. Published by LB Kids, 2001. As the Jolly Postman delivers holiday letters and gifts to fairytale characters readers can join in the fun by finding messages tucked into pocket envelopes.
  7. Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Published by Holiday House, 1994. Clever Herschel of Ostropol uses pickles, eggs, and a dreidel to outwit the hill-dwelling goblins and save Hanukkah.
  8. The Little Tree written by E. E. Cummings and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Published by Hyperion books for Children, 2001. A little tree from the country and a little family from the city find each other at Christmastime.
  9. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story written by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by Daniel Minter. Published by Albert Whitman & Co., 2000. When given the task of turning thread into gold, seven Ashanti brothers embody the principles of Kwanzaa to attempt the impossible.
  10. The Money We’ll Save written and illustrated by Brock Cole. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011. When Pa brings home a turkey poult to raise in the family’s 19th century New York City tenement, hilarity and problems arise, but the family pulls together and saves Christmas from being ruined.  Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Consumerism and Commercialization During the Holidays

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

Many families make their own gifts as a way to beat excessive consumerism and commercialization during the holidays. One DIY gift is a personalized clipboard (click on image to enlarge). Partner it with a ream of copy paper and a box of 8 colored pencils and give to the young artists in your life! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

How does YOUR family handle excessive consumerism and commercialization during the holidays?

  • Amanda Saklad writes, “We don’t visit any malls from October until February. Crazy out there!”
  • Meagheanne Donahue writes, “My son gets “ten and a goat”. Santa brings him ten Christmas presents (not big ticket items, usually just movies, Legos, board games, etc.) and a donation in his name to Heifer International. Santa even leaves a Heifer International card under the tree with a note about how it makes such a difference. My son is 8 year old, this is our 5th year doing “ten & a goat” and he LOVES it! Plus, it keeps him from going crazy with the “I wants” this time of year.”
  • Angelique Phoenix writes, “Just say no!”
  • Pauline Delton writes, “We don’t celebrate Christmas, and we were very clear when our son was a baby that we wanted him to love relatives/friends for who they are and not for what they buy (for birthdays, random gifts, for Christmas–which the relatives celebrate). We discussed our love for and the benefits of secondhand items, visits/passes/experiences instead of “things” that would break/take up space/etc. Despite this, we had a set of grandparents who would bring a new thing on a WEEKLY basis, and we talked with them once about it and then even more firmly a second time, and thankfully it stopped. I know some people say it’s rude to reject gifts, but once someone has dismissed your boundaries and has made the choice to do something you clearly didn’t want done, it’s not you who’s being rude. *shrug*”
  • Susan Countryman writes, “We focus on giving instead of getting–and incorporate handmade gifts.”
  • Phoebe Shaw writes, “We hide. Then we just buy them everything they want at the last possible minute.”
  • Dawn Klein writes, “I’m making some of my gifts and my one-year-old doesn’t watch the tube, so no Disney, Elmo, etc. I want her to use her imagination. I purchased some musical toys. Any other suggestions for her? Thanks.”
  • Desiree DuBois writes, “We make a lot of our gifts- jams, flavored vinegars, cordials, cookies or festive breads make nice gifts, or we buy locally made maple syrup or other products by local farmers & artists & value- added producers to keep as much money as possible in our local community.”
  • Tracy Tirrell Griffith writes, This year we are focusing on helping others and keeping things very simple and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.”

Victorian History Comes Alive During the Holidays

Victorian Holiday Traditions & Events

According to the Wistariahurst Museum, "During the Victorian Era, a London newspaper published a drawing depicting the royal family of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert adorning a Christmas tree with lighted candles, tinsel, ribbon and paper chains. With this, Christmas bloomed into a season rife with tradition." Families can make orange pomanders during the museums Victorian Crafts for the Holidays Youth and Family Program this Saturday, Dec. 10th from 1-3pm in Holyoke. And Wednesday, Dec 7th from 4-5pm, families can make lemon pomanders at the Pine Point Branch Library in Springfield. - Want to make pomanders at home with your kids? Click on the image above for a DIY pictorial

Did you know that many of our holiday customs have origins from the Victorian era?  From Christmas trees decorated with candies and fruits and presents placed under the tree, to plum pudding and Wassail, many of our modern day traditions can be traced back to the Victorian age.

Christmas in the 1800’s was authentic, and celebrations weren’t distracted by commercialization as our modern day Christmas observances can be.  The holiday focused on celebrating with friends and family.

According to the BBC, “The Victorians transformed the idea of Christmas so that it became centred around the family. The preparation and eating of the feast, decorations and gift giving, entertainments and parlour games – all were essential to the celebration of the festival and were to be shared by the whole family.”

During the holiday season families can take a step back into history with Victorian influence singing, crafts and productions that happen throughout Western MA. Tomorrow afternoon, families can meet at the Pine Point Branch Library in Springfield and make lemon pomanders to give as gifts while learning about the history of this Victorian craft.  And this coming Saturday, Dec. 10th, the  Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke hosts Victorian Crafts for the Holidays where families can make orange pomanders, Christmas crackers and other Victorian crafts.

Christmas by Candlelight at Old Stubridge Village happens for three weekends in December where families can enjoy  horse-drawn sleigh rides, hands-on art activities, visits from Father Christmas, readings and listening to Victorian carolers.

Families can further enjoy Victorian caroling all weekend long this coming Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10th-11th, in the Berkshires at the Lenox Caroling Festival, and in the evening on Saturday, Dec. 10th the Victorian Singers will be singing holiday carols in period-costume at St. James Place in Great Barrington at 6pm.

Starting December 17th at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, families can journey back to Victorian England and experience the classic story, A Christmas Carol, performed by the Berkshire Theatre Group for eleven shows scheduled through December 30th.

Check the Hilltown Families list of Weekly Suggested Events every Thursday afternoon for more non-commercial events for the holidays.  And be sure to sign up for or weekly eNewsletter to have an updated mailed right to your inbox once a week.

Have a Victorian tradition your family enjoys?  Share in our comment box below.

[Photo credit (ccl) Aprile Clark]

Berkshire Family Fun: Holiday Traditions in the Berkshires

Let the Holidays Begin

Traditions abound in our family beginning with the annual Thanksgiving dinner featuring 25-plus family and friends, mint chip pie, a rousing game of left-right-center and a roundtable discussion of what everyone is thankful for. Soon the holiday books for everyday of December will be wrapped (our own take on the Christmas advent calendar), trees will be chosen, chopped and decorated, and my children’s annual Christmas Eve gift — new pajamas — will be purchased.

Berkshire County is flush with holiday celebrations, many of which have made their way into our family’s list of annual Christmas traditions, and though there are too many to mention them all in this column, here are a few of our favorites.

A TRADITION EVERYWHERE

The Nutcracker, performed by the Albany Berkshire Ballet, will be on stage Dec. 10th & 11th in Pittsfield. (Image courtesy The Colonial Theatre)

The Nutcracker” is a well-known Christmas tradition wherever you live, and for those living in the Berkshires this tradition is kept going each year as a result of the hard work and dedication of the Albany Berkshire Ballet.

The Albany Berkshire Ballet has been bringing its acclaimed production of “The Nutcracker” to audiences throughout the Northeast for over 35 years. Each year, over 600 children are chosen to perform alongside the professional dancers of the ABB in six venues — dancing for over 9,000 audience members. This year’s performances in the Berkshires will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10 and 11, at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. — For showtimes and information log onto www.berkshireballet.org or www.thecolonialtheatre.org.

TRADITIONS IN LENOX

The Santaland Diaries runs Dec. 2nd-3oth in Lenox, MA. (Image courtesy Shakespeare & Company)

Another Berkshire County holiday tradition began last year by way of the legendary Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, and I was lucky enough to partake in it with my husband and friends.

Directed by S&Co. Artistic Director Tony Simotes and starring Peter Davenport, the company presented David Sedaris’ hilarious one-man production, “The Santaland Diaries,” an occasionally subversive, alarmingly clever, engagingly poignant and always side-splittingly funny true account of Sedaris’ time spent working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s Department Store. By the end of the evening my companions and I were rolling in our seats due to the absolute hilarity of seeing this good-looking man deliver a nearly two-hour monologue onstage in his elf costume. We all vowed to return to theater next year during the holidays in hopes of partaking, once again, in our newfound holiday tradition.

This year the show returns this weekend with Simotes once again in the director’s chair and veteran S&Co. funny man Ryan Winkles tackling the role of Crumpet the Elf. The show opens Friday, Dec. 2, and runs through Dec. 30. — For more information log onto S&Co.’s website at www.shakespeare.org.

CHRISTMAS AT THE COLONIAL

From the Midwest to the Berkshires, local singer-songwriter, Mary Verdi has been bringing people together through her music for years, and for the second year in a row she will bring families together to ring in the holidays at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield with a concert titled “Christmas at the Colonial with Mary Verdi.”

The concert is set for 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, and will feature Verdi and her band, the St. Raphael’s and St. Patrick’s bell ringers from Williamstown, a children’s chorus, the Rock On guitar orchestra, Dalton Ballet Studio dancers, Tony Lee Thomas and, of course, Santa Claus. Audience members will get the opportunity to hear Verdi’s new original song, “Christmas Time,” performed, as the evening will also serve as a celebration of the official release of her new Christmas album “Christmas in the Berkshires.” Later in the concert a children’s cast of elves will take the stage to lead audience members in a heart-warming sing-a-long.

I’m so excited to tell you about this concert as I had the privilege of hanging out with Mary on many occasions, and for the last year I have been getting updates as to the status of this album. I can personally guarantee that this holiday event is sure to fill even the biggest of Scrooges with holiday cheer, and perhaps it could be the beginning of a new holiday tradition for you and your family.

Tickets may be purchased in person at the Colonial ticket office at 111 South St., by calling 413-997-4444 or online at www.thecolonialtheatre.org.

MORE HOLIDAY CHEER AT THE COLONIAL

After nearly 70 years of sitting dormant in the center of Pittsfield, The Colonial Theatre underwent a major renovation and reopened its doors to the public as a theater in 2006. Since its reopening the local theater has been known for presenting stellar family and educational programming at all times of the year. Last year for my twin’s 12th birthday we all took a family “mental health” afternoon to catch Black Violin, two violinists who combine classical music and hip-hop to present a show that is truly out of this world, at the venue. (If they ever return to the area I highly recommend you catch them in action.)

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical returns to Western MA on Dec. 4th in Pittsfield. (Image courtesy The Colonial Theatre)

On the agenda for this weekend? The Colonial is presenting a tale of firsts — a stuffed animal’s first trip in the laundry, a little girl’s first words and a Daddy’s first time dealing with his child going “boneless” — in its upcoming musical “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” coming to the Pittsfield theater on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. This musical, based on Mo Willems’ Caldecott Honor-winning picture book, and combines the talents of six-time Emmy Award winner Willems and Grammy Award-winning composer Michael Silversher to lovingly celebrate the heart and heartache that comes from Daddy, Trixie and Trixie’s beloved Knuffle Bunny’s visit to their local laundromat. Tickets can be purchased online at www.thecolonialtheatre.org or by calling 413-997-4444.

Another holiday tradition in the Berkshires is the annual holiday performance of Berkshire Theatre Festival’s rendition of the Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” and since the merger of the company with The Colonial last year to form the Berkshire Theatre Group, the performance has been moved to the Pittsfield venue. This year, patrons who attend one of the 11 scheduled performances will get an extra special treat, as the performance not only feature local residents of all ages, but also local legend James Taylor. (“I see fire and I see rain …”)

Performances are set for Dec. 17-18, 20-23, and 26-30. For more information on performance times and tickets visit The Colonial’s website.

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Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens in the Berkshires

Norman Rockwell Museum Celebrates the Spirit of the Season with “Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens”

"Merrie Christmas: Couple Dancing Under Mistletoe," Norman Rockwell, 1928. Oil on canvas. Cover illustration for "The Saturday Evening Post," December 8, 1928. Collection of Bank of America. ©1928 SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

“Charles Dickens provided a great lexicon of human experience and personality types for Norman Rockwell to explore,” notes Joyce K. Schiller, Ph.D, who curated the exhibition. “He also inspired the artist’s portrayal of Dickensian characters throughout his career. Norman Rockwell Museum is pleased to present this lively visual exploration in celebration of the anniversary of Dickens’ birth, on February 7, 1812.”

Celebrate the holidays as well as the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens with a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum!

As a child, Rockwell’s father read him Dickens’ work, and it greatly influenced his painting later in life.  The museum is currently displaying an exhibit titled, “Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens,” which is made up of artwork from both private collections and the museum’s collection.

Highlights in the show include some of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers and the famous Readers Digest painting, “A merry Christmas to everybody!  A happy New Year to all the world!”

From the exhibit, kids can learn about art and older kids who have read or learned about Dickens’ writing will see his influence on Rockwell’s paintings.

The museum is open from 10am-4pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm on weekends.  For more information, visit the museum’s website at www.nrm.org. To find out which local library has free OSV museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page.

Christmas by Candlelight: Non-Commercial Way to Celebrate and Discover the Holidays

History and the Holidays Come Alive at Old Sturbridge Village

Father Christmas at OSV. (Courtesy photo)

Is your family craving a simultaneously delightful and non-commercial holiday adventure? Old Sturbridge Village has just the thing- Christmas by Candlelight! The event will take place during three weekends in December (Fri-Sun from 4-9pm), and the activities and learning opportunities featured emphasize history, tradition, and the spirit of the holidays.

Activities include horse-drawn sleigh rides, listening to Victorian carolers, hands-on art activities (Christmas ornaments and other keepsakes), visits from Father Christmas and Santa, and live music, puppet shows, readings, and more!

OSV also hosts a yearly gingerbread house contest, and visitors can view the entries and vote for their favorite entry. Christmas by Candlelight is a fantastic way for families to learn and celebrate together- start a new holiday tradition!

For more information visit www.osv.org. To find out which local library has free OSV museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page.

A Charlie Brown Christmas at the McIlquhams

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer

A Charlie Brown Christmas at the McIlquhams

(Photo credit: Kelly Bevan McIlquham)

Three little figures resembling the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man’s offspring weave in and out of the maze of spruce, firs and pines in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Immune to cold fingers and dripping noses, the threesome separates and soon their voices, muffled by the wind, are heard shouting through the dense man-made forest, staking claim on a tree.

As their parents who have been carefully watching this ritual from a distance approach, they overhear the protests.

“No, that one’s too short,” one sibling tells the other.

“Your tree is too fat,” another comments.

The parents call for a vote. Everyone carefully mulls over the pros and cons of each tree and places their vote carefully. “This one?” the father asks when it’s all done and said. The family stands by their decision.  The child whose tree has been chosen rejoices. Once again, we have found the perfect tree.

In our family it has become a long-honored tradition to trek to various tree farms throughout Berkshire County in search of the perfect tree. From the top of Windsor Mountain to the back roads of Washington to one of our favorite little tree farms on Barker Road in Pittsfield, no farm is too far for the McIlquham family as long as the trip produces the picture-perfect Christmas tree — not too short or too tall, nor too fat or too skinny, with soft, evergreen needles releasing their pungent pine scent — and each of us gets a chance at the saw.

Last year we forewent the car ride and the trek to distances far and wide and ventured into our backyard, which just so happens to be 100-acres of forested land. During a hiking expedition earlier in the fall, McKenna and Mark had found our tree tucked neatly between another mammoth pine and a barricade of pricker bushes; but nevertheless — it was perfect.

This year, we strayed from tradition and our children were none too happy. With basketball games and practices seemingly on the schedule 24/7 and feeling a bit overloaded by the impending holidays and early deadlines at work, my husband and I were struggling to find a day, hour or second to squeeze in a trip to a tree farm or even the nearby woods. And then fate stepped in.

My husband appeared at the front door, tree in hand, cut down from our friends’ yard.

“What do you think of this one?” he asked proudly admiring the tree and himself for finding a solution to our Christmas tree woes.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him how “Charlie Brownish” his trophy tree was looking and besides, he pulled out the “Green Mama” card.

“It’s a recycled tree, honey. How much greener can you get than that?”

But our children weren’t convinced and had no problem at all telling us what they really thought.

It was too bare, too prickly, too skinny, too nontraditional, too short, too sticky and on and on they went.

“What?” Shea asked through an exasperated sigh. “We aren’t going to cut down our own tree?”

Yikes! What were we doing to Christmas? Had our stressed-out, overworked, overtired selves turned my husband and I into Grinches? I wasn’t so sure, but continued to sell the tree to my children.

After unconvincingly assuring Shea and our other two children that although we were breaking tradition we would still have the “perfect tree,” and with a promise (that we have yet to keep) that we would head into the woods at a later date to gather material for a homemade wreathe, their protests finally quieted and they half-heartedly accepted that this scraggly specimen of pine needles and wood would grace our living for the next few weeks.

Now it was time to make it ours.

My husband somehow managed to get the tree into its stand by himself and called for my help getting it into the house. As I ventured outside he tossed me a glove. “You’re going to need this,” he warned.

Let’s just say the pricker barricade in the woods last year had nothing on this tree. The razor-sharp needles grabbed at my arms and threatened to breach the leather barrier between my fingers and its assaulting branches.

We managed to wrangle it into the houses (no stitches were required) and then spent the next hour trying to find our tree’s “best angle.” Placing it in a corner helped, but the sickly looking thing must have been crowded betweens its siblings on the edge of our friends’ driveway where it previously stood because its growth had seriously been stunted on one entire side and then some. But we made due … then it was time to send my husband in for the lights.

Another hour passed, and the battle wounds my husband incurred had us questioning whether this tree would have faired better on the top of our burn pile, but our quest to turn this deadly barbed porcupine disguised as a tree into the perfect tree could not be deterred.

After the first couple of scratches and periodic “ouches” my kids quickly learned how to manipulate the branches and their ornaments (and their gloved hands) in a way that produced the least amount of blood and displayed their decorations in the best light.

With each new ornament placed on the branches of our recycled tree, it began to resemble our perfect trees from the past and soon the jagged arms that had rendered us bruised and bloodied earlier, seemed to relax and soften before our eyes. As the kids shared each ornament’s story — who’s it was, when it was received and how it ended up on our— their eyes began to sparkle as brightly as the multicolored lights on the tree and their frowns of disappointment were replaced with smiles of a tradition not forgotten.

And when the kids were done hanging the last decoration and everyone took a step back to admire the finished project, just as Linus’ decorated tree had been unveiled to his friends, so too was our perfect Christmas tree.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly is a psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, two black labs, a cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. She is the Features Editor for The Advocate in the Berkshires where she especially enjoys writing family- and education-related articles and her monthly “Parent to Parent” column. Kelly also dabbles in writing for children and has had her work published by Wee Ones online family magazine. Her new blog “Green Mama” chronicles her journey as a “green” parent in every sense of the word — from her parenting naiveté to living greener. When not writing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games. kwm229@msn.com

 

Suggested Events 12/18/10-12/24/10

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

Ashfield Winter Solstice Celebration on the town common begins at 7pm on Tuesday, 12/21/10. Bring your stories, songs, poems and share at the community-led event around a bonfire on the longest night of the year. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest an EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

FEATURED EVENT

Hilltown Families Board Game Swap

On Saturday, Dec. 18th from 9-10am – BOARD GAME SWAP: Hilltown Families is hosting a Board Game Swap in the Meekins Library community room in Williamsburg, MA. Bring in board games you would like to swap with other families. Kindly make sure the games have all their pieces before bringing in. A fun way to recycle old board games and to discover new ones. Board games make excellent holiday gifts for the children in your life too! Surprise them with a new recycled game. This community swap is free and open to all families. RSVP here, or just drop in. Williamsburg, MA (FREE)

BEST BETS

On Saturday, Dec. 18th from 1-3pm – VICTORIAN CRAFTS: Victorian Crafts for the Holidays at the Wistariahurst Museum. Make orange pomanders, embellished gift boxes, paper lanters. (238 Cabot St.) 322-5660 www.wistariahurst.org Holyoke, MA (>$)

Later on Saturday, Dec. 18th at 6:30pm – SOLSTICE EVENT: 29th Annual Winter Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration at the Roundhouse. Bring canned goods. Stories, songs, juggling and mime artistry. 624-5140 www.roundhouseculture.com Colrain, MA (DONATION)

On Sunday, Dec. 19th from 12Noon-2pm – SANTA: Santa Claus will make an appearance at the Springfield Science Musuem. Check out the special exhibit, “Sugar and Spice: The Land of Gingerbread” while visiting the old guy! 263-6800 www.springfieldmuseums.org Springfield, MA (FREE W/ADMISSION)

Later in the afternoon on Sunday, Dec. 19th from 3-5pm – FAMILY DANCE: Community Family Dance at First Churches (enter across from the Iron Horse). There will be live music and dances will be taught to families. All ages 3yo & up. 230-7037 Northampton, MA (>$)

BULLETIN BOARD

We are continuing our 5 year celebration with the Berkshire Museum, The Eric Carle Museum, Historic Deerfield, MASS MoCA and Springfield Museums! These 5 Western Massachusetts Museums have joined our party and are offering our readers an annual family membership! One very, very lucky family will win a family membership to all five of these local cultural gems! How wicked awesome is that!? It’s our birthday, but you get the presents! Deadline to enter to win: January 3rd, 2011.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON: Is everyone done with their holiday shopping yet? (Ha!) There are a couple of great places to get toys for the kids in the Pioneer Valley. One of them is Hilltown Families sponsor, The Toy Stop. Been yet? It’s on Pleasant St. down by the Oxbow Gallery. Owners Susan and Mary have all kinds of sledding toys in stock right now, including sleds, saucers and baby pull sleighs. They also have trucks, trains, dolls, kitchens, play food, magic sets, art projects, easels, games, stuffed life sized plush animals, 6 month and up toys … you name it! Stop in, check out what they have, tell them your a Hilltown Families family, and support this new toy store (just opened 4 months ago) with your holiday season. — Speaking of gifts this holiday season, gift certificates from Hilltown Families sponsors Bread Euphoria, Cup & Top Café, Birdie Bunny Photography, Blazing Star Herbal School and Show Circus Studio would make lovely gifts too!

WINTER CAMP: SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton, MA will be holding a winter circus camp for ages 5-7 on December 29 and 8-12 on December 30. This day camp will run from 9am – 3pm and it will cover all aspects of circus including trapeze, fabric, juggling, balancing, acrobatics, partnering, human pyramids, stretching, strength, and circus games. Our 10% discount for more than one child signing up from the same family applies to our camps as well as our classes. Sign up today before the camps fill up! Each camp is limited to 15 students. Register online at www.showcircusstudio.com or call us at 203-4282.

TAKE ACTION: MomsRising.org is up to GOOD again! They are inviting you to take action by telling the IRS to allow breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies to be eligible for their tax-sheltered health spending accounts. Find out more at www.momsrising.org. And stay tuned in to breastfeeding issues with MomsRising Pioneer Valley and Motherwear’s Breastfeeding Blog.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: The Northampton Senior Center is seeking volunteers to shovel snow (great for teens!) for seniors and people with disabilities. All public sidewalks that are along the side of a property are the responsibility of the owner for keeping clear of snow, and many seniors and community members with disabilities need help clearing snow within 24 hours of a snowstorm. Call the Noho Senior Center to connect with a senior in the community to assist: 587-1231.

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Let us help get the word out about your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com for more information. — Help us help you!

HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW

This holiday season we will have several Holiday Podcasts available to download, including Charity Kahn’s archived holiday show.  Click on the banner to see which ones are available, and check back on Christmas Day.

Tune in every Saturday from 9-10am. Encore episodes are aired every Sunday from 7-8am. Families have several ways to tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show:

  • Streaming Audio: Surf on over to ValleyFreeRadio.org on Saturday & Sunday mornings and listen to us live via streaming audio.
  • On Your FM Dial: Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM if you live near Northampton, MA.
  • Podcast: Listen to the most recent episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show anytime you wish! Click here to see our current select of episodes, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast too!

  • WEEKLY LIST OF SUGGESTED EVENTS

    Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

    Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Free Museum Passes | Playgroups & Family Centers | Movies in the Valley | Movies in the Berkshires | Listen Here

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Suggested Events 12/11/10-12/17/10

    Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

    SUGGEST AN EVENT

    Happy holiday madness! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Suggest an EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

    BEST BETS

    On Saturday, December 11th at 1:30pm – FAMILY CONCERT: No Nap Happy Hour continues with Uncle Rock, performing a family concert at Flywheel (43 Main St.). www.flywheelarts.org Easthampton, MA (>$)

    Also on Saturday, December 11th from 1:30-4pm – ECO-GIFT MAKING: Re-Wrap Afternoon at Sheep Hill (671 Cold Spring Rd.). A family-friendly event to make gifts from repurposed materials. Join other families to reuse a portion of the 25 million tons of trash generated in the USA every year to make origami boxes, decorated bags, scented sachets and decorated gift boxes for the holidays. 458-2494 http://www.wrlf.org Williamstown, MA (>$)

    And in the evening on Saturday, December 11th at 7:30pm – COMMUNITY HOLIDAY PARTY: The Old Creamery (Route 9) is hosting a holiday party. Story telling, holiday songs with Laura Wetzler, refreshments. Cummington, MA (FREE)

    On Sunday, December 19th at 2pm – SOLSTICE EVENT: Welcome Yule: Music, Dance, Songs, and Stories to Drive the Dark Away at the Shea Theater (71 Avenue A). Years ago, a tradition emerged of celebrating the return of the light at midwinter with music, dance, songs and stories. Mark your calendars for this festive and joyful celebration, and be with community to sing and dance away winter’s darkness and call back the warm sun of spring. 863-2281 www.welcomeyule.org Turners Falls, MA ($)

    MARK YOUR CALENDAR

    On Saturday, December 18th from 9-10am, Hilltown Families is hosting a Board Game Swap in the Meekins Library community room in Williamsburg, MA. Bring in board games you would like to swap with other families. Kindly make sure the games have all their pieces before bringing in. A fun way to recycle old board games and to discover new ones. Board games make excellent holiday gifts for the children in your life too! Surprise them with a new recycled game. This community swap is free and open to all families. RSVP here, or just drop in. Williamsburg, MA (FREE)

    BULLETIN BOARD

    CHRISTMAS TREE SALE: Notchview Christmas Tree Sale happens this Saturday, December 11th from 12Noon – 3pm at the Notchview Reservation in Windsor, MA. There is a good selection of trees this year; mostly the popular balsam and Fraser fir—all at $25. Contact Notchview at 684-0148. Benefits the Trustees of Reservations.

    Tom Adams of Williamsburg, MA writes: The Williamsburg Berkshire East Tuesday Night Ski Program has opened the program to students of ALL AGES (middle school & high school included). We still have room for a bunch of people to join, so please help spread the word: Deadline: Tuesday, December 14th. Please visit www.WilliamsburgSki.info to find out more information and to download a registration form. If you have any questions, please email TomAdams@gmail.com or call 413.575.9707. It’s going to be a great year for skiing!

    LIBRARY MITTEN TREE: The Springfield Library (220 State St.) welcomes donations of new mittens, scarves, gloves and hats for their annual Library Mitten Tree Project. Your donations can be dropped off at any branch library through Friday, January 7th. For more information about the Mitten Tree Project call the Central Library Children’s Room, 263-6828 x201

    The Food Bank of Western MA writes: Volunteer Orientation on Tuesday, December 14, 6-8 pm at The Food Bank (97 N. Hatfield Rd., Hatfield). Do you want to offer your time to The Food Bank and those facing hunger in the community? Nearly every aspect of The Food Bank’s work, including our office, warehouse, and public events, is dependent on volunteers. Without you, we would not be able to do what we do. To learn more about how you can get involved, please join us at the first of regular Volunteer Orientation sessions for the community. Please RSVP to Erin Sullivan at sullivane@foodbankwma.org or 413-247-9738. Space is limited. Click here for directions to The Food Bank.

    SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Let us help get the word out about your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com for more information. — Help us help you!

    HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW: GUEST DJ CHARITY KAHN

    Hilltown Family Variety ShowTune in every Saturday from 9-10am. Encore episodes are aired every Sunday from 7-8am.

    This week on the HFVS is hosted by our guest DJ, Charity Kahn of Charity and the JAMBand. It’s a holiday show about light, love, community and music!

    Families have several ways to tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show:

  • Streaming Audio: Surf on over to ValleyFreeRadio.org on Saturday & Sunday mornings and listen to us live via streaming audio.
  • On Your FM Dial: Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM if you live near Northampton, MA.
  • HFVS Podcast

    PODCAST: Listen to the most recent episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show anytime you wish! Click here to see our current select of episodes, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast too!


    WEEKLY LIST OF SUGGESTED EVENTS

    Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

    Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Free Museum Passes | Playgroups & Family Centers | Movies in the Valley | Movies in the Berkshires | Listen Here

    Read the rest of this entry »

    5 New Holiday Music CDs & Songs for Families

    Holiday Music For Kids

    Do you hear what I hear? It’s holiday music and Christmas cheer! Despite all the stress, I still absolutely love the holidays, and one of my favorite things about the season is all the happy music. Here are some new CDs and songs that we’re enjoying this year….

    Ben Rudnick & Friends

    Ben Rudnick & Friends are about to play their 9th Annual Holiday Extravaganza Concert at the Regent Theatre (Boston, MA) on December 11th. It’s always a wonderful show full of Christmas and Chanukah songs all wrapped up in that unique BR&F style.

    And every year people ask if they have a holiday album… and every year they have to say no, but maybe next year… Until now!

    They finally did it! And it was well worth the wait! Their new album, It’s Santa Claus, features eight classic Christmas songs, from Frosty the Snowman to Jingle Bells, and one super cool original song, It’s Santa Claus!

    Of course, now they need to put together a CD of all their fun Chanukah songs. OK guys, that’s your assignment for next year!

    Daria

    Daria’s Songs for Merry Multicultural Mirth is a sweet collection of songs from around the world. We’ve always loved the song Ocho Candelikas, a traditional song sung in Ladino, the language of the Sephardic Jews. What I love about Daria’s version is that she’s added an English verse, too, so we can sing along. Spanish speakers will enjoy seeing the similarities and differences between Spanish and Ladino.

    Daria does such a great job of bringing different cultures together! This CD also feature songs in Spanish (Feliz Navidad), German (Ihr Kinderlein Kommet), and English (Rockin’ Jingle Bells). Check out the liner notes to the album where you can read more about each song and download the lyrics.

    Phil Cooke

    Speaking of Christmas celebrations around the world, Phil Cooke from Australia has just released a new album, Christmas Time is Coming! Is that Santa surfing on Christmas day? Of course! In Australia it’s summer time during the holidays, so why not?

    One of my favorite songs on this album is No Worries Mate (Santa Claus He’s a Surfie). It’s fun and playful—like all of Phil’s songs. Did you know Rudolph once forgot to put sun screen on his nose? How do you think he got that burn?

    Renee & Jeremy

    I am of the opinion that Renee & Jeremy can do no wrong. Everything they do is brilliant! So of course their new cover of Little Drummer Boy is instantly my favorite version of this song ever. Period.

    Combine this song with the beautiful art work by Hsinping Pan that always graces their albums and you’ve got perfection. I love the colors and joy displayed on this CD.

    And speaking of art work, have you seen the video for Renee & Jeremy’s It’s a Big World? It’s shockingly beautiful.

    DidiPop

    Another fun Christmas single comes from DidiPop this year. Let’s Make Santa Claus Happy Tonight is simply adorable. Didi sings along with her kids who are soooo excited about Santa stopping by during the night.

    The song is upbeat and playful and reminds us adults about how much fun Christmas Eve is and how hard it is to wait for morning.

    And is that an ukulele I hear in the song? That reminds me of Didi’s newest album, DidiPop Goes to Hawai’i, set for release on December 14th. You don’t want to miss it!


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

    Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

    Suggested Events 12/04/10-12/10/10

    Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

    SUGGEST AN EVENT

    Barn Stars (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Suggest an EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

    BEST BETS

    On Saturday, December 4th from 10am-4pm –WINTER FAIR:Green Craftmaking and Book Fair at the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in the Brassworks building (132 Main St.) off of Route 9. Kids make holiday gifts out of recycled and natural materials. Chorus performance, baked goods. 268-3421 Haydenville, MA (FREE ENTRANCE)

    And in the afternoon on Saturday, December 4th from 1-9pm – HOLIDAY WALK WEEKEND: Williamstown will be filled with holiday spirit, including holiday film, gift fair, tree showcse, new toy collection, story hour, handbell choir, reindog parade (2pm), penny social, music, Santa’s workshop, tree lighting and much more. 458-9077 www.williamstownchamber.com Williamstown, MA (FREE)

    On Sunday, December 5th from 12Noon-4pm – YULETIDE: Music and more at Yuletide at Storrowton Village Museum. In addition to music, there will be sheep dog demos, ice sculpting, historic trade demos, hands-on kids crafts, animals, a Victorian Santa, caroling, and more. 205-5051 West Springfield, MA (FREE)

    MARK YOUR CALENDAR

    On Saturday, December 11th from 11am-4pm - MUSEUM ADVENTURES: Holiday Family Fun Day at the Berkshire Museum.  See the Festival of Trees: Storybook Forest.  At 11am & 3pm, Mr. Punches Christmas Carol will be performed by Crabgrass Puppet Theater. At 1pm the Blafield Children’s Chorus sings . A Gingerbread Cookie Decorating workshop is at 2pm.  Blafield Children’s Chorus and Gingerbread Cookie Decorating Workshop are included with Museum admission. Fee for Mr. Punches Christmas Carol. Discount packages including full Museum admission are available as well as performance-only tickets. Call 443-7171 to RSVP for workshop. www.berkshiremuseum.org 443.7171 Pittsfield, MA (50% Off Museum Admission)

    On Sunday, December 12th at 2pm – SOLSTICE EVENT: Welcome Yule: Music, Dance, Songs, and Stories to Drive the Dark Away at the Shea Theater (71 Avenue A). Years ago, a tradition emerged of celebrating the return of the light at midwinter with music, dance, songs and stories. Mark your calendars for this festive and joyful celebration, and be with community to sing and dance away winter’s darkness and call back the warm sun of spring. 863-2281 www.welcomeyule.org Turners Falls, MA ($)

    BULLETIN BOARD

    CRAFTY RUMPUS: On Sat. Dec. 4th from 10am-4pm, Greenfield Center School will again host a Crafty Rumpus. This is a colossal arts, crafts and music event for all ages. Musician Jay Mankita, who, according to Pete Seeger, is “one of the half dozen best songwriters today” will perform children’s music. Span of Sunshine and the Carrie Ferguson will also perform. Rumpus hosts a 25+ booth craft fair featuring juried artisans from across the region offering fresh, lovely wares. In addition: free art and crafting workshops for kids, ages 3-12, savory and sweet foods, and a used childrens’ clothing sale. All events free. All are welcome! For directions: www.centerschool.net and check out the Rumpus blog: www.gcsrumpus.blogspot.com. For more info: 413-773-1700

    SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Let us help get the word out about your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com for more information. — Help us help you!

    MOTHERING GRIEF: Special Event to Support Families in Pregnancy/Infant Loss. Empty Arms of Western Mass offers a special event for families experiencing pregnancy/infant loss. Author and artist Angie Yingst will present a reading and discussion of her essay, “Mothering Grief,” from the new book They Were Still Born: Personal Stories about Stillbirth. Angie’s second daughter was stillborn in 2008; through words and painting she shares powerfully about her grief journey. December can be tremendously difficult when you are grieving a loss. Please join us for time to connect, reflect, and receive support, even if you have not previously attended Empty Arms. Your friends and family are also welcome. Sweets and hot drinks will be served. December 8, 7-9pm, in Northampton at the Center for Midwifery Care, CDH. RSVP: carolmcmurrich@comcast.net.

    James Lombino writes: To all Berkshire Trails Bill Koch Youth Ski League members and prospective members: Due to extraordinary interest in our program this year, we are nearly at our membership capacity and must bring our registration to a close earlier than originally planned. If you have not already turned in or mailed your registration form, please do so as soon as possible. If you still need a form, email me at berkshiretrails@gmail.com and I will get one right out to you. Also, If you have friends who were planning to register but have not yet done so, please let them know about this upcoming deadline. All registration forms must be received by Friday, December 10! Looking forward to a great season of skiing ahead!

    MA TEEN CHOICE BOOK AWARD: Teens across Massachusetts are invited to nominate their favorite book published in 2010 for the first Massachusetts Teen Choice Book Award. Deadline is December 31st, 2010 to nominate as many of your favorite books as you want, any genre. In January 2011, the top 5 books with the most nominations will be announced. The program is open to anyone who lives in Massachusetts and is between 12-18 years old. www.readsinma.org

    HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW: A YEAR IN REVIEW

    Hilltown Family Variety ShowTune in every Saturday from 9-10am. Encore episodes are aired every Sunday from 7-8am.

    This week on the HFVS we feature some of our favorite albums from 2010, including music by the Okee Dokee Brothers, Keller Williams, Dream Jam Band, Randy Kaplan, Sugar Free Allstars, Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke, Rani ARbo & daisy mayhem, The Not-Its!, Justin Roberts, The Verve Pipe, Charity and the JAMband, Caspar Babypants, The Sweet Colleens, Elizabeth Mitchell, and several others.

    Families have several ways to tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show:

  • Streaming Audio: Surf on over to ValleyFreeRadio.org on Saturday & Sunday mornings and listen to us live via streaming audio.
  • On Your FM Dial: Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM if you live near Northampton, MA.
  • HFVS Podcast

    PODCAST: Listen to the most recent episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show anytime you wish! Click here to see our current select of episodes, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast too!


    WEEKLY LIST OF SUGGESTED EVENTS

    Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

    Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Free Museum Passes | Playgroups & Family Centers | Movies in the Valley | Movies in the Berkshires | Listen Here

    Events Happening in the Hilltowns | ♦ On-going Events

    Saturday, December 4th, 2010

    Hilltown Family Variety Show6-10am – FAMILY RADIO Valley Free Radio (WXOJ-LP 103.3FM Northampton, MA) offers 4-hours of commercial-free family programing every Saturday, including the Hilltown Family Variety Show and Spare the Rock. Tune in on your FM dial, or listen live via streaming audio at www.valleyfreeradio.org.

    7am-3pm – CHRISTMAS EVENT: 2nd Annual Dickens Day stroll in Downtown. Old English breakfast, Fezziwig’s Holiday Faire, Dickens Days Open House, Fireside with Santa at the Amelia Park Ice Arena, screening of “A Christmas Carol” in the Lang Auditorium, concert, theater and more. www.westfieldonweeknds.org 562-2277 Westfield, MA (FREE)

    9-10:30am – ARTS & CRAFTS: Handmade Holiday class at MASS MoCA: Make cards & envelopes. 664-4481 x8131 http://www.massmoca.org North Adams, MA (>$)

    9am, 10:15am & 11:30am – SANTA: Breakfast with Santa Claus at Look Park. RSVP www.lookpark.org Florence, MA (>$)

    9:30-11am – ARTS & CRAFTS: Holiday Card-Making Party at the Eric Carle Museum. Space is limited. RSVP 658-1126 wwwcarlemuseum.org Amherst, MA (>$)

    10am-2pm – FARMERS’ MARKET: Winter Farmers’ Market at Amherst Middle School (170 Chestnut St.). Amherst, MA (MARKET)

    10am-2pm – FARMERS’ MARKET: North Amherst Farmers’ Market happens a the Big Bule Barn at SwartzFamiy Farm (11 Meadow St.). www.northamherstmarket.com Amherst, MA (MARKET)

    10am-1pm – ARTS & CRAFTS: The Youth Center will host their annual Make-It-Take-It Children’s Craft Fair with at least 12 different craft making opportunities. Santa and Rudolph arrive at 11am. 743-3550 Adams, MA (>$)

    10am-1pm - CHRISTMAS EVENT: Horse drawn wagon rides with Santa through Atkins Orchards. Amherst, MA (FREE)

    10am-4pm – WINTER FAIRGreen Craftmaking and Book Fair at the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in the Brassworks building (132 Main St.) off of Route 9. Kids make holiday gifts out of recycled and natural materials. Chorus performance, baked goods. 268-3421 Haydenville, MA (FREE ENTRANCE)

    10am-4pm – CRAFTY RUMPUS: Greenfield Center School (71 Montague City Rd.) will again host a Crafty Rumpus with a craft fair featuring artisans from across the region offering fresh, lovely wares. There will also be free art and crafting workshops for kids, ages 3-12, savory and sweet foods, a used children’s clothing sale and free music for children. www.centerschool.net 773-1700 Greenfield, MA (FREE ENTRANCE)

    10am-4pm – CRAFT SHOW: Ashfield’s 6th Annual Crafted in the Village at The Curtis House (14 South St.) Ashfield, MA (SALE)

    10am-4pm – HOLIDAY BAZAAR: The 5th Annual Bizarrest Little Snowflake Bazaar at the Unitarian Meetinghouse (121 N Pleasant St.). Crafts and live music. 835-5163 snowflakebazaar.googlepages.com Amherst, MA (FREE ENTRANCE)

    11am-12Noon – STORY TIME: Stories from Natures Garden at the Lee Library (100 Main St.). Join Anne Gannon, horticulturist with The Trustees of Reservations, for a program of stories and activities sharing the wonders of nature in all seasons. Open to ages 2-7 with caregivers (older siblings welcome!). To sign-up or for more information email rborsody@cwmars.org or call the Lee Library at 243-0385 Lee, MA (FREE)

    11am-4pm – MUSEUM ADVENTURES: Music and more at Yuletide at Storrowton Village Museum. In addition to music, there will be sheep dog demos, ice sculpting, historic trade demos, hands-on kids crafts, animals, a Victorian Santa, caroling, and more. 205-5051 West Springfield, MA (FREE)

    11am – 8:30pm – CHRISTMAS EVENT: 21st Annual Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas. Sponsored by the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce, the holiday celebration offers a full range of activities, with highlights including a holiday house tours, caroling, and a holiday concert. www.stockbridgechamber.org 298-5200 Stockbridge, MA ($$)

    1pm – ARTS & CRAFTS: The Whately Library (202 Chestnut Plain Rd.) is offering the following workshop: Pop-Up Cards for the Holidays. For kids 8yo & older, local artist Jeannie Hunt will instruct families. Materials provided. Call to reg. 665-2170. Supported by the Whately Local Cultural Council. Whately, MA (FREE)

    1pm – MOVIE: Screening of Elf, starring Will Ferrell, at Images Cinema (50 Spring St.). Free screening; Part of Williamstown Holiday Walk festivities. www.imagescinema.org Williamstown, MA (FREE)

    1pm - NATURE STUDIES: Winter nature observation with Clare Walker Leslie at the Berkshire Museum. This hands-on observation and drawing workshop for families. RSVP 443-7171 www.berkshiremuseum.org Pittsfield, MA (MUSEUM ADMISSION)

    1-4pm – FOOD HISTORY: Older students can learn the history of cookies and bake some old classics at Historic Deerfield. Registration is required. 775-7217 www.historic-deerfield.org Deerfield, MA ($$)

    1-9pm – HOLIDAY WALK WEEKEND: Williamstown will be filled with holiday spirit, including holiday film, gift fair, tree showcse, new toy collection, story hour, handbell choir, reindog parade (2pm), penny social, music, Santa’s workshop, tree lighting and much more. 458-9077 www.williamstownchamber.com Williamstown, MA (FREE)

    1:30pm – KNITTING GROUP: Get-Together Knitting Bees at Norton Inn (across street from Elmer’s). Get cozy with other knitters next to a warm fire and enjoy the company and help of other knitters (all skill levels). Ashfield, MA (FREE)

    2-6pm – COOKING: The Little Cooking School will have a Bring a Parent to Cooking Class to make a holiday cookie fest. 625 2800 http://www.thelittlecookingschool.com Shelburne Falls, MA ($$)

    3pm – BALLET: East Street Dance Center students will be performing Renaissance and Baroque era dances and extracts from classical ballets at the Mead Museum. RSVP 542-2335 Amherst, MA (FREE)

    3:30-5pm – CHESS CLUB: For kids ages 7 & older is Chess Club at the Jones Library with Andy Morris-Friedman. www.joneslibrary.org Amherst, MA (FREE)

    4pm - CHANUKKAH EVENT: Puppeteer Anna Sobel presents “The Mystery of Hanukkah Harry” at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire (270 State Rd.). Join Joshua Finkelstein and his best friend Danny as they go on a quest for the identity of the mysterious Hanukkah Harry. Great Barrington, MA (FREE)

    4-9pm – CHRISTMAS EVENT: Old Sturbridge Village hosts Christmas by Candlelight, a nostalgic look at holiday traditions, music & food. www.osv.org Sturbridge, MA ($)

    4:30-6pm – SANTA: Join Mrs. Claus at Pulaski Park for the Northampton Holiday Tree Lighting. Santa will arrive by firetruck around 5pm. Songs, cookies and hot cocoa will be shared. Hamp High Chorus will sing. Northampton, MA (FREE)

    5-8pm – HAYRIDE: Hayrides through Look Park Winter Wonderland light display. www.lookpark.org Florence, MA (>$)

    5:30pm – CHRISTMAS EVENT: Caroling on the Green next to the Historical Society building. Horse-drawn hay rides. Williamsburg, MA (FREE)

    6-10pm – ZYDECO DANCE PARTY: Seeds of Solidarity Youth Programs will be hosting a fundraiser to benefit Seeds of Solidarity’s youth garden programs In the Town Hall. with an evening Zydeco Dance Party. Cajun food. Zydeco dance lessons. And much more. 978-544-9023 http://www.seedsofsolidarity.org Orange, MA (FUNDRAISER)

    7pm – KIDS’ DANCE: Kids’ Dance Party at the Cummington Community House. Live music with Radio Free Earth. Dance Scores led by Maureen Shea. Snacks. radiofreeearth.com Cummington, MA (>$)

    7pm – CHILDREN’S THEATER: Starlight’s Youth Theatre presents one acts of “Anne Frank,” and “The Rememberer” at the Maple Ridge Community Center ( 659 Amherst Rd.). starlightyouththeatre.com 533-7896 Sunderland, MA (FREE)

    7pm – CHRISTMAS EVENT: Christmas Sing-Along with Mary Verdi & Friends at the Colonial Theater. Bring the whole family and ring in the Yuletide season with this old-fashioned Christmas sing-along celebration. This joyous performance features local favorite, Mary Verdi, along with some of the best musicians in the Berkshires and the most beloved songs of the season. www.thecolonialtheater.org Pittsfield, MA ($)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    9 Locally Grown Christmas Tree Farms

    QUESTION AND ANSWERS

    Cranston's Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    The holiday season is upon us! Any recommendations on where to get a locally grown Christmas Tree? Any fun places to go with the family to choose/cut your own?

    • Tonya Lemos recommends: Pieropans Tree Farm in Ashfield! Our fav.
    • Kate Erickson recommends: Cranstons in Ashfield – it seems like it always snows when we go! Fletcher Family Farm in Southampton off Rt 10 is great too! Plus they have cows and everything!
    • Tricia Sayre recommends: Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington … beautiful farm and trees!
    • Arianna Alexsandra Grindrod recommends: Cranston Tree Farm in Ashfield. They are on Baptist Corner Rd.
    • Andrew Garcia recommends: Itty Bitty Tree Farm in Windsor.
    • Jody Hadden recommends: “West Mountain Rd. in Cheshire – about 1 mile up on right – new family owed cut your own tree farm – beautiful tress $35 – $40 – great service too!! – Belongs to the parents of a kid that used to be on my bus! I love supporting new local businesses – especially those of people I know – they are a great family!”
    • Diane Hinze Kanzler recommends: “Emerson Family Tree Farm on Bernardston Rd., Greenfield. They sell awesome eggs, too, and the gift shop is charming.”
    • Jude McGowan recommends: “Northeast Tree Farm in N. Hatfield (Depot Rd.). They cut ‘um, shake um’ (to get the dead needles out), bale um’ and put them on your car! Great longtime family business! This was my 22nd year!”
    • Jody Hadden recommends: “The one on West Mountain Rd. shakes and bags them too – first time I ever saw a shaker – it was pretty cool and helps when you get it home to not have a ton of needles and debris all over your floor.”

    Share your recommendation here.

    The Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture writes, “Buy local… Christmas trees and holiday decorations!  Locally grown trees, wreaths, roping, and cemetery boxes are available now at farms and farm stands across the Valley. Make a family excursion of choosing and cutting a tree, or pick one that’s all ready to go. Either way, local trees, wreaths and greenery are fresh and long-lasting, and they smell good, too. Decorate your house while feeling good about your carbon footprint and your support for the local economy! See our list of local farms that sell holiday greenery.”

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