From the streetlights to the busy sidewalks to the plethora of different events, Alexandria is surrounded by holiday merriment.
Beginning with the City of Alexandria's tree lighting ceremony in Market Square on Friday, Nov. 24, through New Year's, there are events and activities that cater to all ages.
Here's a look at some of the notable holiday happenings this season:
<sh>Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
For the seventh year, the Potomac River will be illuminated by dozens of colorful lit boats at the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. This year, the parade will be headed by a special guest vessel. "Schooner Virginia is a recreation of an early 1900's schooner. The folks that run it take it up and down the state, use it for special events. They're going to come and they're going to lead the parade," said Laura Overstreet of the Alexandria Visitors Center. The boat will be open for tours on the Saturday before the parade, and will be decorated for the holidays.
Alexandria's Saturday waterfront events begin from 3- 5:30 p.m. at the marina behind the Torpedo Factory Art Center, with holiday music on the deck of the Chart House restaurant. Santa will arrive via boat during that time and will be available for photos — as will "Santa's helper," who will be available for dog photos sponsored by Barkley Square Gourmet Dog Bakery & Boutique. The Starbucks cheer patrol will provide free refreshments.
From 5:30 - 6:30 p;.m. the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights will be held on the river. The parade follows a route that will take it to Washington Channel where another spectacular boat parade will begin at 7:30 p.m. The Washington DC fireboat The John Glenn will lead the parade with a dramatic water show. Georgetown's Sunday Holiday Boat Parade of Lights begins at 5:30 p.m. at Washington Harbour, located at 3000 K Street, NW, with festivities preceding the parade.
The event is hosted by the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association, the Georgetown Business & Professional Association, and the Washington Waterfront Association. There will be collection boxes for Toys for Tots at each location.
<sh>Kwanzaa Craft and Game Workshop
Call it a Krash Kourse on Kwanzaa.
Louis Hicks, director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, said those who attend the annual Kwanzaa Craft and Game Workshop "go through a formal ceremony, explaining the history of the celebration and why it was created."
The free workshop is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at the Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe St. "Our staff members teach families activities and explain the principles of Kwanzaa so they can practice them in their homes during the holidays," said Hicks.
The objective is to create a simple craft that the staff members develop, one that can be made using found objects or inexpensive materials. "A craft that families can make on the spot," said Hicks.
The event is suitable for all ages, this event is free. Call 703-838-4356 or visit www.alexblackhistory.org for more information.
Kwanzaa will be celebrated from Dec. 26, 2006 - Jan. 1, 2007 this season.
<sh>Calls From the Clauses
It's one thing to sit on Santa's lap in a crowded shopping mall and tell him want you want for Christmas. It's another to actually receive a call from the jolly old elf — and his Mrs. — and have him already know what you want.
Ask any of the 400-500 Alexandria children who receive Calls from the Clauses each year, thanks to the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities.
Beginning on Dec. 5, Mr. or Mrs. Claus will begin calling children between the hours of 6-8 p.m. Parents can request calls by filling out a form that can be found on http://ci.alexandria.va.us/recreation/culture/culture.html and then mailing the request to Mr. and Mrs. Claus, c/o ARPCA/Events, 1108 Jefferson Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-3999. Letters without using the form are also accepted, as long as they include the child's name, a telephone number to reach them, the child's gender, and a few items of personal information about the child for Santa's information (F.S.I.).
This free program is open to children who live in Alexandria. Cheryl Lawrence, special events supervisor, said Calls From the Clauses will be accepting requests through the beginning of December.
<sh>Torpedo Factory Holiday Open House
There's live music, food and drink, and a big-ticket item up for auction. But what has Tara Zimnick-Calico excited about the Torpedo Factory Art Center's annual Holiday Open House is the artists themselves.
Zimnick-Calico, director of special events, expects the majority of the Factory's artists to be on hand to talk to their regular customers and to new visitors during the event, which is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 30 from 6-9 p.m. Many of the studios will have their own refreshments; the Factory itself will provide wine and other beverages.
Music will be provided by The Satin Doll Trio, a jazz group that is featured at La Porta's.
There will also be what's being called an "unprecedented art raffle," as visitors can win a $6,500 sculpture cast and the chance to work with artist Chris Erney during the casting process. The casting will take place during the Factory's extended shopping hours on Dec. 7, 14 and 21.
For more information call 703-838-4565, ext. 2, or visit www.torpedofactory.org.
<sh>Gulf Branch Creations
Gulf Branch Nature Center, 3608 Military Rd. in Arlington, is offering a few December programs for holiday gift creation.
On Thursday, Dec. 7 the center will host a Holiday Animal Crafts workshop from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. The program, geared for ages 5-10 accompanied by an adult, will offer the opportunity to create ornaments and decorations inspired by animals and nature. There is a $5 fee and registration is required. Visit https://registration.arlingtonva.us/vsiwebtrac.html or call 703-228-4747.
On Friday, Dec. 8, the center will host a soap brewing seminar for ages 12 and older from 6:30 - 8 p.m. The soap is created with basic "melt and pour" soap base. The center provides soap-making materials, including molds, color and other additives. There will also be crafters who will explain about soap-making lore — hey, you need something to do while the soap is solidifying, right?
There is a $3 fee per soap tray. Visit https://registration.arlingtonva.us/vsiwebtrac.html or call 703-228-4747 for more information and registration.