Holiday happenings

While winter doesn’t begin until Dec. 22 this year, seasonal events are planned from late November through December to evoke the holiday spirit in Washington Township.

For starters, there is something new this year: a festival of lights competition open to residents who decorate the exterior of their houses for the season. Only township residents can compete. Entry forms can be found online or in the vestibule of the municipal building. Deadline to return entries to the building is 5 p.m., Dec. 2.

Houses must be decorated and lit by 5 p.m., Dec. 15, and will be judged on curb appeal, Indoor decorations will not be judged unless they are visible from the outside. Entries will be judged Dec. 16 and 17 and a winner will be announced at the council meeting Dec. 18.

The following awards are up for grabs: The Clark Griswold Award, a reference to the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation;” Best Use of Theme (Festival of Lights); Most Creative; Most Original; Best of Show; and Mayor’s Choice. There is no entry fee for the contest. Questions can be forwarded to Lori Morello at lmorello@twp.washington.nj.us.

The township will host its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m., Dec. 7, at Washington Lake Park. While the tree will be lit at 6 p.m., craft shopping will be available starting at 5 p.m. in the new Winter Village, presented by the township chamber of commerce. Santa and Mrs. Claus, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Frosty the Snowman will be on hand for photo opportunities. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served in a heated tent and Christmas carolers from Washington Township High School will perform.

One week later, the Washington Township Historic Preservation Commission will host its annual Magic of Christmas event at the Olde Stone House Village. The commission will have its own tree lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m., Dec. 14, during its annual Snow or Clear Skies event. Nick Appice, chair of the commission, recommends arrival by 5:15 and use of car pooling due to limited parking at the Olde Stone House.

Appice said each building at the village has a theme: the train station will be the home of the “Polar Express” readings, live music will be performed at the church and children can write to Santa at the post office. Santa will return all letters.

There will also be a heated tent with crafts for the children as well as carolers who parade around the property. Santa will wait in the stone house for anyone who wants to take a picture. The event itself is free but there are opportunities for photos with Santa and  baked and craft goods from local vendors.

“I like the Christmas event because it’s become a family tradition for a lot of people,” Appice said. “Every year we get repeat families who come and they look forward to it. It’s low-cost or free unless you purchase something. It’s a good spot for families and friends to hang out for a couple of hours.

“It brings everybody together.”

The Washington Township School District holiday concert schedule is between Dec. 5 and Dec. 18. Washington Township High School will have its holiday concert at 7 p.m., Dec. 5,  and a Tri-M Cabaret at 6 p.m., Dec. 18. Both shows take place at the Investors Bank Performing Arts Center. The 7th- and 8th-grade concert series will take place from Dec. 10 to 12: Orchard Valley Middle School has the 10th, Bunker Hill Middle School has the 11th and Chestnut Ridge has the 12th.

All concerts start at 7 p.m. at the arts center. Chestnut Ridge’s 6th graders will perform at 7 p.m., Dec. 17, at Chestnut Ridge. Bunker Hill and Orchard Valley 6th-grade concerts will take place at 7 p.m., Dec. 18, at the respective schools.

In other towns:

  • The Gloucester County Children’s Choir will have its annual winter concert at 4 p.m., Dec. 8 , at Pitman United Methodist Church on North Broadway. Admission to the concert is free and refreshments will be provided after the show. The venue is wheelchair accessible.  Contact the choir at (856) 589-0353 if other accommodations are required. For more information, visit gccchoir.com.
  • Monroe Township’s department of community affairs will host Continental Breakfast with the Grinch from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Dec. 21, at the Pfeiffer Community Center.  From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. the same day, the Grinch will be available for pictures with puppies. For more information, contact the department of community affairs at (856) 728-9841.