The advent of the Christmas season is here, and there are various ways to jingle, ho ho ho and be merry for the holidays.
Advent, which means ‘coming’ in Latin, is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas, or the first 24 days of December. Advent calendars are often used to commemorate the season, with small numbered flaps opened each day of Advent, typically revealing a picture, candy or treat.
So here at Go Columbia, we’ve created our own Advent calendar of sorts, with some of our favorite recommendations for holiday activities and events leading up to Christmas Day.
1) GOVERNOR’S CAROLIGHTING
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This event has been ushering in the Christmas season in Columbia for 50 years. Choirs and musicians from across the state perform, and the state holiday tree is lit. This year the event coincides with First Thursday On Main. It’s free, and after you can meander down Main Street for special activities, like Mistletoe Market at Arcade Mall.
7 p.m.Thursday, Dec. 1 at the S.C. State House, Main and Gervais streets
2) A STARRY NIGHT IN FIVE POINTS
This holiday open house in the popular Five Points district includes shopping specials, complimentary refreshments like hot chocolate, a DJ spinning holiday tunes, pop-up dance, choral performances and a chance to visit with Santa.
4-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 in Five Points. www.fivepointscolumbia.com
3) CAROLS ALONG THE RIVERWALK
The sounds of Christmas can be heard throughout the Cayce Riverwalk Park where several area church choirs and musicians will serenade visitors within the first half mile of the park. The Riverwalk will be lighted with luminaries and hot apple cider will be served. Park at Brookland-Cayce High School for free trolley rides to the Riverwalk.
6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, N Avenue entrance, Cayce Riverwalk Pavilion.
4) LIVING CHRISTMAS STORY
This favorite drive-throu nativity includes live animals and 200 costumed cast members in 18 traditional scenes from the Bible, such as Gabriel’s visit to Mary, the angels’ message to the shepherds, the Wise Men’s visit with King Herod, and the stable where Jesus was born.
6:30 -9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2-Sunday, Dec. 4, Union United Methodist Church, 7582 Woodrow St., Irmo. www.thelivingchristmasstory.com
5) CAROLINA CARILLON PARADE
The 63rd Annual Carolina Carillon Holiday Parade, featuring Hometown Holiday entries from across South Carolina, brings Santa to town each year. . Expect celebrities, high school marching bands, drill teams
9:45 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, starting at Gervais and Bull streets. www.carolinacarillon.com
6) JUNIOR LEAGUE HOLIDAY MARKET
This annual fundraiser for the Junior League of Columbia brings about 150 vendors from across the country selling holiday-themed merchandise. Special activities throughout the event, including Sundaes with Santa on the final day.
9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 at S.C. State Fairgrounds. Event opens Thursday, Dec. 1. Admission, hours and other details: www.jlcolumbia.org
7) 2ND ANNUAL TOYS FOR TOTS DRIVE
Among the many ways to do good this holiday season, Music Farm Columbia offers a concert with Josh Roberts and The Hinges, Cory Takach and Phriends. A new toy donation gets you in for $5; students with ID are free with a new toy donation.
7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 at Music Farm Columbia, 1022 Senate St. Check costs without a toy donation and other show details: www.musicfarm.com
8) LIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS
For more than 25 years, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has provided holiday magic with nearly 1 million lights, animated images and winter treats. Santa arrives each night, as does the snow. A favorite holiday tradition for young and old.
5-9 p.m. nightly until Friday, Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day) at Riverbanks Zoo, 500 Wildlife Parkway. Admission and other details: www.riverbanks.org
9) THE SINGING CHRISTMAS TREE
The Singing Christmas Tree was voted in 2015 as the top must-see Christmas event in the Midlands by our Go Columbia readers. The cast of 400 includes a full orchestra, and a 25-foot tree holding 130 singers and more than 50,000 lights.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9; 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10-11 at Shandon Baptist Church, 5250 Forest Drive. www.shandon.org/christmas/
10) LAKE MURRAY COUNTRY OPEN HOUSE
The theme for the 2016 Holiday Open House is “Past and Presents.” Get into the holiday spirit with refreshments and holiday music in the decorated, historic Lorick Plantation at this free drop-in.
10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10 and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at Capital City/Lake Murray Country Visitor Center, 2184 North Lake Drive. www.lakemurraycountry.com
11) COLUMBIA CHRISTMAS PAGEANT
With state of the art lighting (including thousands of Christmas lights), music, and a cast and crew of hundreds, the Columbia Christmas Pageant has become a 29-year holiday tradition.
2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, First Baptist Church Columbia, 1306 Hampton St. Showing also available Friday, Dec. 9. Free but ticket is needed to enter: http://fbccola.com/christmaspageant/
12) GREATER CAYCE-WEST COLUMBIA HOLIDAY PARADE OF LIGHTS
Here’s a different take on a holiday parade – this one is at night. Bring your sweetheart and enjoy the glow of holiday lights.
5:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10. It begins at U.S. 1 and 12th Street in West Columbia and proceeds down 12th Street ending in front of the Cayce Municipal Complex. www.cwcchamber.com/holiday-parade-of-lights.html
13) CRAFTY FEAST
Crafty Feast is an independent, juried craft fair that specializes in experimental, non-traditional and unique handmade or repurposed crafts. Vendors range from unusual jewelry to odd stuffed animals and vintage fabric purses. The nearly 100 vendors come from all over the Southeast.
Noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11 at Metropolitan Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln St. Admission and other show details: www.craftyfeast.com
From the Newberry Opera House to Koger Center, there are several ballet companies that offer performances of “The Nutcracker.” Among them is the Columbia City Ballet’s telling of it, based on the story “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” written by E.T.A. Hoffman. It’s the story of Clara, a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King.
Various showtimes Saturday, Dec. 17-Sunday, Dec. 18 at the Koger Center for the Arts, 1051 Greene St. Other dates and times, along with admission: http://columbiacityballet.com/production/nutcracker/
15) HOLIDAY MOVIES AT NICKELODEON
Nickelodeon will show Christmas movies throughout the month, including classics “It’s A Wonderful Life” Saturday, Dec. 17-Sunday, Dec. 18 and “Miracle on 34th Street” Monday, Dec. 19. “Scrooged” shows on Thursday, Dec. 22, and there’s an encore of “Miracle on 34th Street” on Saturday, Dec. 24.
Various showtimes at Nickelodeon Theatre, 1607 Main St. Buy tickets at www.nickelodeon.org.
16) BOYKIN CHRISTMAS PARADE
If you’ve seen one too many traditional holiday parades, this one in the Kershaw County community of Boykin could be right up your alley. Almost anything goes.
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18 in Boykin; a gospel concert at historic Swift Creek Bapist Church follows. You, too, can be in the parade. Find out how, along with other event details: http://theboykinchristmasparade.com/
17) HISTORIC HOLIDAY TOURS
Tour guides will provide stories of holidays past in Columbia and discuss how families decorated and entertained during the 19th and early 20th centuries. A great place to take family members visiting during the holidays.
Tours of Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion vary by day through Saturday, Dec. 31. Admission, hours and other details: www.historiccolumbia.org
18) THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
This full dome planetarium experience takes viewers back in time to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to investigate fascinating ideas about the “Christmas Star.” The show presents historical and scientific facts to unravel this 2,000-year old mystery through a special audiovisual display featuring popular Christmas carols.
Various showtimes Monday, Dec. 21 through Tuesday, Dec. 27 (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day) at S.C. State Museum, 301 Gervais St. Admission, shows, times and other details: www.scmuseum.org
19) PAINT NITE
Get together a group of friends and paint a holiday masterpiece. Drinking is expected (the events are at local restaurants and bars), but artistic ability is not. Paintings in December include a Grinch’s arm, snowy landscapes, a martini glass with lights, and other holiday themed subjects.
Throughout December, varied times and places. Dates, times, cost and other details: www.paintnite.com
20) CHRISTMAS CAROL
7 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday); 3 p.m. (Sunday), Dec. 2-4, 8-11, 15-18, at Town Theatre
The beloved Christmas story of Ebenezer Scrooge is performed on stage at Town Theatre. Scrooge is a prosperous curmudgeon who believes personal wealth is far more valuable than the happiness and comfort of others. He’s forced to face his selfish ways when the ghosts of Christmas reveal his Past, Present and Future. Buy tickets online. www.towntheatre.com/a-christmas-carol-the-musical/
21) POLAR EXPRESS 4D
Don’t just watch but experience this holiday classic. The S.C. State Museum’s 4D theater provides a 3-D visual experience with the fourth dimension of environmental experiences like blasts of air, vibrating seats and water spray. The Polar Express takes you, along with a doubting young boy, on a train ride to the North Pole in a 15-minute version.
Various showtimes through Sunday, Jan. 1 at S.C. State Museum, 301 Gervais St. Admission and other details: www.scmuseum.org
22) RIVER RAT BREWERY’S CHRISTMAS COOKIE AND BEER PAIRING
Join River Rat for a special Christmas cookie and beer pairing, featuring four different cookies and four beers. Bring the family – for kids, milk will be on tap to go with the cookies. There will be Christmas movie showings on the big projector screen outside.
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21 at River Rat Brewery, 1231 Shop Road. Admission and other details: www.riverratbrewery.com
23) HOLIDAY LIGHTS ON THE RIVER
More than 1 million lights and more than 400 animated light displays brighten up Saluda Shoals Park in the drive-thru holiday light display. Visitors will follow a new route this year, and there will be activities every night, too, including a new ice skating rink.
6-10 p.m. nightly until Saturday, Dec. 31 (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day) at Saluda Shoals Park. Enter via a new entrance at 6071 St. Andrews Road. Admission and other details: www.icrc.net/holiday-lights
24) MAIN STREET ICE
Here’s a fun way to enjoy Christmas Eve – or another day this holiday season. The city of Columbia’s popular outdoor ice skating rink, on Boyd Plaza at Main and Hampton streets, is fun for date night, family night, or solo night. Great for out of town visitors, too!
Various dates and times through Monday, Jan. 16 (closed Christmas Day). Open until midnight New Year’s Eve, to coincide with Famously Hot New Year event downtown. Admission and other details: www.columbiaparksandrecreationfoundation.org/mainstreetice/