holiday season

Four Festive Ways to Celebrate the Holidays

The holidays are an exciting and joyful way to spend time with family and friends and rejoice on all of the wonders of life.  Whether you’re looking for fun activities or you’re still looking for the perfect holiday gift, there’s much to do in the city this time of year.  Here are four festive ways to celebrate the holidays:


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‘Tis the Season for Holiday Movie Classics!

Watching movies is a great way to enjoy time with family and friends.  Not only can these films bring you joy, they have the ability to bring out the holiday spirit in anyone.

Step out for a night in the city and enjoy Ralphie Parker and his family’s holiday adventures in the 1983 classic A Christmas Story which will be playing at The Luna Theater on Sunday, December 10th.  Clarence gets his wings in It’s a Wonderful Life at the Pollard Memorial Library on December 15th and at The Luna Theater on December 16th.  Don’t get stuck "Home Alone" and catch Chris Columbus’ beloved comedy classic at The Luna Theater on December 24th.


Photo by Meghan Moore

Photo by Meghan Moore

Celebrate with Music and Theater

Traditions such as music and tales about discovering the marvels of the season are great opportunities to enjoy the holidays and make new memories.

Running from now to December 24th, Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s A Christmas Carol is a holiday classic that is bound to bring out the festive in anyone.  There’s more holiday fun for all ages on Saturday, December 9th at the Pollard Memorial Library for Jingle Jam.  Then, experience orchestral entertainment on Saturday, December 9th at the Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra Holiday Concert.  If you’re looking for more local orchestras, join the UMass Lowell String Project’s Winter Showcase on Thursday, December 14th.  There’s also the 2017 Holiday Pops Tour, coming to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Sunday, December 17th, that captures the magic of the holidays with their signature Sleigh Ride and other classic holiday music.


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Deck the Halls with Art and Treasures

The arts can be another great place to look for inspiration.  The various shows and receptions available not only provide you with a look into the local art scene, but also enhance your holiday experience with activities that can become new traditions.

Join Western Avenue Studios (WAS) for their Holiday Open Studios on Saturday and Sunday, December 9th and 10th for endeavors that include browsing art, speaking with artists, and purchasing unique gifts.  The Arts League of Lowell is displaying their Holiday Treasures Members’ Show reception on Saturday, December 9th where special holiday-themed art treasures can be purchased.  Loading Dock Gallery’s show, Winter Lights: Gifts for the Holidays, will run to Sunday, December 31st and features hand-made products from soaps to furniture.  There’s also Ayers Loft Gallery’s Peace on Earth members’ show reception on Saturday, December 9th.  This show, which will run to Thursday, January 4th, is a reminder of the joyful times ahead while shining a light on local artists and their work.


Photo courtesy of The Vintage Witch

Photo courtesy of The Vintage Witch

Walkin' in a Crafty Wonderland

Holiday-themed markets offer creations from local artisans that might change the way you do holiday shopping and prepare for festive times, and can help you find new activities to incorporate into your holiday traditions. 

Unique gifts and art from over 30 local artists are available at WAS’ Handmade Holiday Shopping Night on Thursday, December 14th.  Then there’s The Holiday Oddity Market on Saturday, December 9th at Mill No. 5 where you can find gift options for that someone on your holiday gift list with an eccentric taste.  Do some lunchtime shopping at The Brush Art Gallery and Studios on Friday, December 15th for Soup and Shop and enjoy complimentary soup while browsing through the available art and other creative products.  Then, on Saturday, December 16th, Mill No. 5’s It’s a Wonderful Market has more vendors of vintage, handmade and artisanal goods that are perfect for the holidays.

Local Holiday Shopping Guide 2017

Shop local for the holidays, it’s a great way to get your holiday shopping done early and help small businesses grow.  Here are some recommendations of local stores where, from health and beauty to miscellaneous goods, there’s no shortage of great gifts that you can buy for loved ones this holiday season.


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Health and Beauty

If you know of someone who loves natural soaps, body butters, balms and other health and beauty products then this section is for you.

Take a trip to Mill No. 5 where you’ll find the Red Antler Apothecary which carries delightfully scented soaps that smell as great as they look along with body creams, balms, shampoos, scrubs and more.  Next, take a trip to Western Avenue Studios where Eir’s Garden offers Scandinavian-inspired soaps, lotions, creams and salves.  Finally, check out Mack Soaps for a variety of hand-made products such as soaps, aftershave, eye creams and lip balms.  These shops showcase the natural and local health and beauty products that are available to you and make great holiday gifts.


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Music and Records

Music is an essential source of entertainment for many of us and a passion for aspiring musicians.  If you have someone on your gift list that enjoys music, check out the following.

The Tone Loft at Mill No. 5 has great gifts for friends and family including new and used instruments as well as music lessons in guitar, percussion and vocals.  Near The Tone Loft is another fine shop for local music enthusiasts, Vinyl Destination.  This record store stocks vinyl records in a variety of genres.  If you’re interested in more records, there’s always Garnick’s Records on Middlesex Street where you’re likely to find records from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s ranging from classical to jazz to rock and psychedelic music. Just around the corner on Central Street is RRR Records, a used and new record shop where you'll find plenty of hidden gems. For a music lover, these stores present a chance to discover new music or a fun gift idea for more casual shoppers.


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Art and Jewelry

The city is filled with artistic talent, and local artists and jewelry makers provide art scene gift options. So, if you’re looking for locally made art products, here are some ideas.

At Van Gogh’s Gear on Market Street you can find art supplies such as brushes, paints, drawing tools and more.  If you know someone who is interested in learning, take a trip to The Cogitation Zone in Western Avenue Studios (WAS) and learn how to make pottery at one of the classes offered.  Also at WAS, there’s Lush Beads offering finished jewelry pieces, custom designs, and private lessons in beading. Also don't forget to check out Lush Industrial's fun and funky unisex jewelry made with new and repurposed hardware.  Lowell’s local museum gift shops can also help you find a special gift.  Check out the shops of the New England Quilt Museum and the gift shop at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center.  Whether you’re looking for it or not, the city’s art scene can be a great place to find a unique holiday gift this season.


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Miscellaneous Goods

Looking for other gift ideas?  Whether you’re seeking the perfect gift or you’re unsure what to get someone, the choices that these shops provide can inspire you to find something great to gift someone this holiday season.

At Mill No. 5, visit Crose Nest and discover botanical herbs, teas, stationary, jewelry and more.  Next, stop by Bon Vivant where you’ll find an array of goods such as clothing, jewelry, candles, matches and chocolate.  Sweet Pig Press carries all sorts of stationary including journals, holiday cards and banners. On Middle Street, stop by Rogers Pool Patio & Toy Co. for a variety of games, puzzles, dolls, activities and other options.  With these shops, you’re bound to find a locally sold gift that will make someone on your gift list all that more joyful this holiday season.


Looking Back at the Origin of City of Lights

As the annual City of Lights Parade and Celebration approaches, I spent an afternoon at the UMass Lowell Center for Lowell History and looked through Father Armand "Spike" Morissette’s collection of documents from the early days of the City of Lights Parade. What began as a project and symbol of “Faith in Lowell” has now become an honored tradition for the city’s community and the beginning of holiday season festivities.  Below are some of the events’ traditions that began in the 1950s and have evolved into today’s celebration.


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Lighting the City

The City of Lights organizers wanted to demonstrate the vibrancy and joy of the holiday spirit and decided there was no better way to do so than to light up the city with lights.  Lighting of public buildings, monuments, stores and homes was encouraged.  The lights would not only fill the streets with local residents enjoying the brilliant display, but also bring people from neighboring communities to experience the beauty of a city glowing in light.   After a hiatus and a decline in the number of lighting displays, the City of Lights theme was resurrected in the late 1980s/early 1990s through a partnership between the city and private businesses.  Some 50,000 new lights and unique decorations were installed.  A holiday stroll grew into a holiday parade.  Nowadays, the tradition continues with an estimated 60,000 lights that bring the holidays to life and serve as the official start of the holiday season for many.  The City of Lights program from the 1952-1953 season began this honored tradition, one that is as popular as ever six decades later.


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Music and Poetry

With holiday singalongs, caroling, concerts, movies and more fun entertainment in the City of Lights Parade this year, it’s no secret that the community loves to be entertained.  The origin of the City of Lights shows that this tradition goes back to the 1950s when music and poetry defined the entertainment of the Parade at the time. Songs like “Lights On In Lowell Town” written about the City of Lights by Paul Bordeleau and Henry Fournier were the embodiment of bringing the holidays alive in the community. Poems were the other big form of entertainment, with a poem called “Christmas Lights” being printed on the back of the City of Lights 1952-53 program book.  Other poems were included in the actual event, with local poets being chosen to have their poem become the “Official City of Lights Poem” every year.


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Contests and Activities

Nowadays, the Parade includes a multitude of activities such as the Festival of Wreaths, Photos with Santa, Strolling Carolers through Downtown and more. In the 1950s, many of the activities revolved around garnering participation for the City of Lights project. Contests helped do this, especially when it came to decorating. Home decoration contests allowed the community to get involved in the celebration and to show how festive they were in decorating their home. These contests had first, second and third place plaques that were awarded. Today, downtown stores compete in a window decorating contest and eateries compete in the Hot Chocolate Competition.  It’s delightful to see how the activities have grown through the years and how the spirit of the early City of Lights program continues today and displays Lowell’s love for holiday festivities.

3 great reasons to kick off the Holiday Season in Lowell

The next 6 weeks (give or take) of this season that comprise "the Holidays" offer an exciting flurry of of activities! Between shopping, family time and cooking large meals, time flies by and before you know it, it's over and you'll be kicking off the New Year. 

As the month of November wraps up and we enter into the "official" start of the Holiday Season, we invite you to start shopping in Lowell and discover why There's A Lot To Like especially for the Holidays!

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1. City of Lights Holiday Parade & Celebration

Ring in the holidays in Lowell and join us for this year's City of Lights Parade and Holiday Celebration! Take the afternoon to stroll the city streets and enjoy live performances, holiday shopping, photos with Santa, and more! The daytime fun leads to the nighttime extravaganza -- The City of Lights Parade and City Hall Lighting -- which marks the City's official start to the holiday season!
Free parking is available in all downtown Lowell parking garages from November 25 through 27.

Here are some of the highlights from this year's City of Light celebration:

Hot Chocolate Competition

A fun and tasty way to get into the Holiday Spirit is our 8th Annual Hot Chocolate Competition happening Saturday, November 26th from 2 to 4pm. Taste delicious hot chocolate samples at locations throughout downtown Lowell and vote for your favorite! 

Children's Shopping Day

Enjoy one-stop shopping at the Pollard Library! Select from hundreds of donated, gently-used items ranging from $1 to $5 and have your kids take advantage of a special gift wrapping service! Everyone is invited.

City of Lights Parade

Don't miss the Merrimack Valley's largest and only nighttime Holiday Parade. Get your spot along the parade route in the Canalway Cultural District of Downtown Lowell. With over 50 parade entries from classic cars and marching bands to a variety of festive floats, our parade will surely lift your spirits up!

Festival of Wreaths - Contest and Raffle

Join The Brush Art Gallery & Studios for this year's Festival of Wreaths. View and win one (or more) of over 25 beautifully decorated wreaths donated by local organizations and individuals. 

Holiday Craft Market

New in 2016, join Made In Lowell on the corner of Lucy Larcom Park and Merrimack Street for a Holiday Craft market. Enjoy locally made arts and crafts, food trucks, games and entertainment. 


2. The Canalway Cultural District

This Holiday Season discover the Canalway Cultural District in the heart of Downtown Lowell. Experience performances and entertainment at a dozen venues, or shop local at over twenty local shops. Find that special gift at over a dozen art galleries, and celebrate at one of over 40 restaurants and coffee shops.

3. Dine Out Lowell

Give your taste buds a world of flavors. From November 26 through December 4, Dine Out Lowell will showcase the many flavors that make up Lowell's Culinary scene. Enjoy a variety of restaurants and eateries in the Canalway Cultural District, Downtown Lowell and other neighborhoods. 

Some restaurants will offer special menus and discounts.

Happy Hour Parking is available after 5pm in selected downtown parking garages.