Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!
Featured community highlight this week: Add a dose of history to your holiday celebrating! The historic William Cullen Bryant Homestead will be decorated for an old-fashioned hilltown Christmas celebration, complete with carolers in the parlor, a lighting of the Christmas tree, holiday treats, and an artisan gift shop. Christmas themed celebrations will take place Saturday, December 10, 1pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm; Sunday, December 11, 1pm-4pm. For information call The Trustees at 413-628-4485 x3 or email email@example.com.. 207 Bryant Road. Cummington, MA. (Members <$; Non members $; Children FREE)
Dance Studies ♦ Environmental Science ♦ Music History ♦ Evolution ♦ Pleasure ♦ MYO Gifts ♦ Ballet History ♦ Breakfast with Santa ♦ British Christmas ♦ Christmas Trees ♦ Living History ♦ Toy Exchange ♦ Community Meal ♦ New England Christmas History ♦ Psychology ♦ Guided Walk ♦ Toys ♦ Sewing ♦ Pastry Arts ♦ Cynicism ♦ Theater ♦ Irish Dance
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How did the tradition of annual performances of The Nutcracker come to be? In this detailed history, discover the rich history of this ballet performance and then head out this weekend to see a local adaptation; supporting an interest in dance, classical music, holiday traditions!
PIONEER VALLEY BALLET
Saturday, December 10, 1pm and 4pm; Sunday, December 11, 1pm and 4:30pm
Does your family enjoy theater? Celebrate the holiday season by attending a performance of the classic and enchanting tale, The Nutcracker. Pioneer Valley Ballet will be putting on their annual performance of The Nutcracker for a total of six shows through December 11. Performances take place at the Academy of Music Theatre, and tickets can be purchased in advance through their website. 413-584-9032 ext. 105. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. ($$)
MASSACHUSETTS ACADEMY OF BALLET
Friday, December 16, 4pm and 6:30pm; Saturday, December 17, 11:30am and 2pm; Sunday, December 18, 11:30am, 2pm and 4:30pm
Wistariahurst brings you a festive, theatrical performance with an added dose of history. Within the historic setting of Wistariahurst, a performance of Nutcracker and Sweets by the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet provides a unique, historical interpretation of this classic ballet. Presented through both narration and dance, this interpretation will include local history in addition to elements of the classic performance. 413-322-5660. 238 Cabot Street. Holyoke, MA. ($; Children under four FREE)
Saturday, December 17, 7pm
This holiday season, experience the beloved story of The Nutcracker told through Celtic Dance. A Celtic Nutcracker will beautifully blend the Tchaikovsky score with Celtic music and original choreography by the Celtic Heels Dance Company Director, Cara Leach. Featuring the Celtic Heels Irish Dance Company and live music this is sure to become a family tradition for anyone who loves the Nutcracker or Celtic Dance! Bring your family to this one showing event at Academy of Music Theatre. ore information can be found at the ACelticNutracker website. 413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (<$ – $)
NATURE-BASED LEARNING/GUIDED WALK
Saturday, December 10, 1pm-1:45
This year, if you plan on buying a Christmas tree, you can combine this with time spent in nature and education about trees. Kids and their parents are invited to learn about conifer trees on a guided walk with a Trustees naturalist. Afterwards, attendees are invited to the Christmas Tree sale to cut down their own Balsam or Fraser Fir. For information call The Trustees at 413-628-4485 ext 3. Notchview. 83 Old Route 9. Windsor, MA. (Non member <$; Member FREE)
Studying Christmas trees doesn’t have to be limited just to the holiday season, either! Use this year’s holiday to begin a long-term exploration of conifers in your surroundings. Learning to identify evergreen trees is easy in the winter, as surrounding deciduous trees are bare, and families can deepen their understanding of the trees’ growth and role in the environment by watching them all year round. Here are some book title to explore to help get you started:
- Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification
- Winter Trees
- Evergreens Are Green
- Where Would I Be in an Evergreen Tree?
- Coniferous Forests (Biomes of the World)
TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
Saturday, December 10, 2:30pm
Holiday traditions, including songs, lend insight into the values of a culture. Have you ever wondered about the deeper meaning of Christmas carols? Dr. Thomas Bernard, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Springfield College, has done extensive research into the hidden symbolic meanings of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” He compiled his research of the carol’s lyrics into a book entitled, The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Mystery and the Meaning. He will be discussing his findings in this talk at the Jones Library. This is a great opportunity to add some historical learning to your holiday season. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)
The Twelve Days of Christmas is a song that is not only rich in history as you can learn about in the event above happening at the Jones Library, but is also a catalyst in our popular culture for influencing learning in other areas. Take here in this video a quick lesson in evolution influenced by the popular holiday carol…
Sunday, December 11, 6pm
Spread holiday cheer through music! You are invited to the 27th annual Holiday Brass Concert and Carol Sing, featuring holiday favorites and a chance to sing along. The 22-member Valley Festival Brass, under the direction of Dr. Matthew Westgate. Richard S. Matteson, Minister of Music at First Church will join the brass providing organ accompaniment for the carol sing portion of the concert. Donations will benefit the Amherst Survival Center. This concert will take place at the First Congregational Church. 165 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (DONATION)
In the events featured here, use the lens of Christmas to inspire learning about traditions and New England culture from yesteryear, then compare and contrast what traditions remain with us today and what new traditions we host. Another fun comparison would be to learn how other cultures celebrate the holiday season. Start with a British Christmas in this video which shares differences and some similarities between Christmas celebrated in England and the United States:
Saturday, December 10, 1pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm; Sunday, December 11, 1pm-4pm
Add a dose of history to your holiday celebrating! The historic William Cullen Bryant Homestead will be decorated for an old-fashioned hilltown Christmas celebration, complete with carolers in the parlor, a lighting of the Christmas tree, holiday treats, and an artisan gift shop. Christmas themed celebrations will take place December 3 and 4, and December 10 and 11. For information call The Trustees at 413-628-4485 x3 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.. 207 Bryant Road. Cummington, MA. (Members <$; Non members $; Children FREE)
CHRISTMAS AT THE PARK
Saturday, December 10, 2pm
Holiday celebrations often bring community members together by throwing events which gather people in common, outdoor spaces. Even in the cold winter months, people gather in downtowns and parks, including national parks. This program, “Christmas In Our National Parks” will teach you a little about the history of events celebrating Christmas in National Parks, including light displays, decorated houses, and Polar Express-themed train rides. There will also be holiday music and light refreshments during this program, at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. 413-734-8551. One Armory Square. Springfield, MA. (FREE)
NEW ENGLAND CHRISTMAS HISTORY
Saturday, December 10, 3pm-9pm; Sunday, December 11, 3pm-9pm; Friday, December 9, 3pm-9pm
Celebrate Christmas this year with food, community, music, and historical learning at Old Sturbridge Village. Christmas By Candlelight will include lots of New England holiday traditions such as festive foods, sleigh rides, a bonfire, storytelling, and strolls around the decorated Village Common. Kids can participate in a holiday craft workshop and everyone can gather for the tree lighting. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. (Adults $$; ages 4-12 $; 3 and under FREE)
NEW ENGLAND CHRISTMAS HISTORY
Thursday, December 15, 12:15pm-1pm
Did you know that Christmas celebrations were once outlawed in New England? In the 17th century, the Puritans did not approve of Christmas celebrations which they considered to be pagan holidays, not supported by scripture. You can learn about the history of Christmas celebrations through a local lens in this lecture at the Springfield Museums. Coffee and cookies will be provided; attendees are invited to bring a lunch to enjoy during the program. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)
Don’t overlook the big pleasures to be found in small things and quiet moments this holiday season. There is much pleasure to come from taking a moment to pause and be present. And when it comes to gift giving, meaningful pleasure reside in the small: the writing of a simple note to a loved one or neighbor; the giving of small and hand-made rather than expensive and large. Pleasure in both the giving and the receiving!
Allowing for lots of creative free play and gift-giving that comes from the heart, handmade gifts get at the heart of the season! Families can engage in DIY projects at home, attend upcoming workshops, or utilize resources offered by local arts organizations to craft handmade gifts with love. Read more in our post, DIY Holiday Gifts Promote Creative Free Play and Non-Commercial Holiday Celebrations, and mindfully give this holiday season.
Saturday, December 10, 5pm-8pm
Kids grow up fast, their interests change, and they often grow out of old toys. If you have extra gifts around your house this season, bring them to the 6th annual Holiday Toy Exchange! Some examples of what to give include musical instruments, dolls, sports equipment, bicycles, books, games, puzzles, cars, trucks, electronic toys, baby and preschool toys. Make sure your donations are clean, in working order, and have all their pieces. The exchange will be held at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. 80 Locust Street. Northampton, MA. (DONATION)
Throughout history, community has been built through the sharing of food. Shared throughout the world as a universal human need, food provides a common thread through which all people can be woven together. Community meals offer much to families in terms of learning opportunities, supporting intergenerational engagement, storytelling and establishing a shared history. An additional benefit of community meals is that the theme of food serves as a common interest for all those involved, providing a foundation upon which for further connections to be built. During the holiday season, breakfast with Santa brings community together over pancakes and a cup of joe! Here are a couple of upcoming events that include community breakfasts, opportunities to dine with friends and neighbors, across generations, bridging connections…
BREAKFAST WITH SANTA
Saturday, December 10, 9am and 11am
Gather with other families for Breakfast with Santa at Pulaski Club! The buffet will include breakfast items such as pancakes, French toast sticks, sausage, a pancake topping bar with chocolate chips, strawberries, blueberries, whipped cream, and syrup, along with coffee, and juice. Every child in attendance will receive a small gift from Santa. Reservations are required. This event is a fundraiser for The Easthampton Toy Program. Tickets are available at Pulaski Club. 79 Maple Street. Easthampton, MA. (<$)
BREAKFAST WITH SANTA
Sunday, December 11, 8am-11am
Enjoy a meal with your family, and introduce your children to the real life Santa Claus! Operation Santa Pancake Breakfast will take place at the West Springfield Senior Center. Proceeds from the breakfast will benefit Operation Santa, a community program for residents of West Springfield. 128 Park Street. West Springfield, MA. (<$)
What’s on your child’s wish list for this holiday season? How about making them as soft toy out of an upcycled sweater or tattered blanket that has seen better days. The value of a soft toy incorporates not only non-commercial gift giving and creative-free play, it has psychological implications that support kindness… to themselves! Relationships children have with a teddy bear or stuffed rabbit has deep and meaningful support to their psychological development. Learn more in this video then engage in a service-based learning event that will strengthen your sewing skills for applying at home in your gift giving this year.
Sunday, December 11, 2pm-5:30pm
In Massachusetts, the “season of giving” is also a frigid one. That’s why donations of warm clothing is so important, and why this is a great time of year to sew! The Bagshare Project invites you to its Holiday Sewcial to enjoy a community meal and sew hats or scarves. Please bring your own silverware, plates, and cups if you can, as this is a plastic free event. If you have fleece fabric you are willing to donate for the sewing please bring that as well. Come learn new skills, share with others and get inspired to keep sewing once you get home. Great skill for creating your own holiday gifts each year! – The event will take place in Eastworks, Studio #330. 413-527-1000. 116 Pleasant Street. Easthampton, MA (DONATION)
‘Tis becoming to season to pay special attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally! Read more in our post, Spread Kindness and Explore World Cultures Through Holiday Baking.
Thursday, December 15, 7pm
Do you have a great cookie recipe you want to show off? Bring your favorite holiday cookies to the Cookie Exchange at the Grace Hall Memorial Library, to enjoy a festive celebration with friends and neighbors. Please bring 4 dozen cookies and an empty container to fill. You will leave with lots of different types of cookies. This is a great family activity and a chance to teach your children about the history of your family’s cookie recipe and the wider cultural history of holiday foods. 413-862-3894. 161 Main Road. Montgomery, MA. (FREE)
When you think of Ebenezer Scrooge, what comes to mind? Miserliness? Misanthropy? Maybe even cynicism? What made him this way? Was it because he was sent away as a boy by his father, leaving him feeling unwanted and unloved? Maybe it was the death of his sister, his only source of solace as a young man? — What makes someone cynical? What’s behind the mask that is the truth of their human needs? Learn about the psychology of cynicism and then think about how Ebenezer Scrooge became, well, a scrooge, and what warmed his heart in the end. (Spoiler alert: kindness has the power to rekindle hope and fulfillment.)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Saturday, December 10, 7pm
A big part of the holiday traditions centers around the stories we tell- from traditional religious tales, to classic movies, to books and plays. This rendition of A Christmas Carol will be performed as a 1930s live radio broadcast, by six actors with standing microphones voicing multiple characters – 31 in all. Learn about the early days of sound production and broadcasting through this family-friendly performance at The Centennial House. 94 Main Street. Northfield , MA. (<$; children 9 and under FREE)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Sunday, December 11, 4pm
A big part of the holiday traditions centers around the stories we tell – from traditional religious tales, to classic movies, to books and plays. This rendition of A Christmas Carol will be performed as a 1930s live radio broadcast, by six actors with standing microphones voicing multiple characters – 31 in all. Learn about the early days of sound production and broadcasting through this family-friendly performance at The Deerfield Inn. 81 Old Main Street. Deerfield , MA. (<$; children 9 and under FREE)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Thursday, December 15, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol remains a holiday favorite, in part because of its messages of childhood innocence, family, charity, and community. CityStage will be bringing their performance of A Christmas Carol. Their original production’s version includes haunting special effects and beloved music. This performance is bound to get you in the holiday spirit and help you reconnect with what is truly important. 413-788-7033. 150 Bridge Street. Springfield, MA. ($$)
[Photo credit: (cc) Tina D]
Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Amherst, Blandford, Bernardston, Chesterfield, Erving, Holyoke, Montague, Montgomery, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Springfield, Warwick and Williamsburg Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.