There is a joy to shopping in local stores at the holidays, to participating in community traditions and celebrations, to walking along a sidewalk with the streets decked out for the holidays, to being greeted by someone likely to be the owner of the store, to finding gifts that are not mass-produced.
One way to be sure holiday shopping comes with some holiday spirit is to do a portion of your shopping in some of the area’s locally owned stores. There is special holiday ambiance available by shopping in the heart of a town that is decked out for the season. Small retail shops are part of defining any community. Their livelihood depends on the livability and quality of the neighborhoods around them. A small business owner pays attention to every detail in his or her business in a way that is otherwise unmatched.
We all benefit when local stores thrive, when local business districts beckon. An effort to support locally owned businesses has resulted in the recognition of Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, also called Shop Small. This year that day is Nov. 29.
Locally owned retail shops, services, restaurants depend on vibrant local communities to thrive, and communities depend on those businesses as well. Most small, locally owned businesses invest in community, helping to transform our towns and communities with a sense of place.
Frequently, it is the small retail person who is active in fundraising for local charities, advocating for improvements, for fire and rescue service, for local schools and in organizing holiday events.
Local retail stores, mom-and-pop stores, face tough challenges right now. Competition from big box stores and online sellers makes the holiday shopping season all the more important to locally owned retailers. But local families will literally spend millions of dollars to shop and exchange gifts during the next month, spending tens of millions of dollars in a variety of places.
Everyone will do some of their shopping at the mall. Everyone will do some shopping online. Many will answer the call of the big box. But local shoppers should be sure to save some shopping time and dollars for local stores. Spend some time shopping in your own community, and also plan an excursion to a nearby town to check out the local businesses and holiday spirit there.
The Connection is participating in Shop Small 2014, email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Bull Run Festival of Lights & Holiday Village, Nov. 19 - Jan. 4, Bull Run Regional Park, 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville, Monday - Thursday: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Fridays - Sunday and holidays: 5:30 to 10 p.m. call 703-631-0550 Mondays-Thursdays, $15 per car ; Fridays-Sundays and holidays, $20 per car. Santa's Enchanted Lights, with more than 40,000 animated lights set to music. Off Interstate 66 in Centreville, on Rt. 29 (Lee Highway).
Christmas at Mount Vernon, Daily, Nov. 28 - Jan. 6, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; George Washington's Mount Vernon, 3200 George Washington Memorial Pkwy, Mount Vernon, Regular Estate admission. Themed decorations (including 12 Christmas trees) and historical chocolate-making demonstrations will be offered. Tour the rarely-open third floor of the Mansion and learn how the Washingtons celebrated Christmas. In 1787, George Washington paid 18 shillings to bring a camel to Mount Vernon for the enjoyment of his guests. During Christmas at Mount Vernon, visitors can meet a camel on the grounds.
Black Friday Holiday Celebration at the Workhouse. Nov. 28, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., Workhouse Arts Center, 9601 Ox Road, Lorton, 703-584-2900, free. Explore the artwork of nearly 100 artists, join in interactive demonstrations and find that perfect gift while supporting local artists. Festivities will also include Doughnuts with Santa, fine-art projects for children, and holiday music and theatrical performances throughout the day.
Reston Holiday Parade. Friday, Nov. 28, 11 a.m. Reston Town Center, 11900 Market St., Reston. Come for a full day of community, charity and cheer including the Gingerbread Man Mile & Tot Trot, Santa, tree lighting, sing along and horse-drawn carriage rides.
The Thanksgiving Story. Friday, Nov. 28, 11 a.m. Frying Pan Farm Park, 2309 West Ox Road, Herndon. Bring the family and holiday guests to this lively and interactive retelling of the Thanksgiving Story. After the show, stroll the park and visit our animals or take a ride on our carousel or wagon rides. Admission: $5 per person.
Shop Small, Saturday, Nov. 29, Small Business Saturday
Vienna Historic Church Street Holiday Stroll, Dec . 1, 6-9 p.m., Church Street between Lawyers Road and Mill Street, Vienna. 703-938-5187, free. The annual Holiday Stroll on historic Church Street is held the Monday evening after Thanksgiving. Church Street is closed to vehicular traffic between Lawyers Road and Mill Street and visitors are invited to stroll along the street amid the sights and sounds of the holiday season. Santa Claus greets children at the Freeman House.
Herndon Towne Square Singers. Friday, Dec. 5, 7:30-9 p.m. Herndon Community Center, 814 Ferndale Ave., Herndon. Annual holiday concert with cider, cookies and sing-along carols. $12. 703-435-6800.
32nd Annual McLean Holiday Crafts Show. Friday-Sunday/Dec. 5 - 7, Friday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean. Admission: Adults, $3; $1, ages 13 and under. Good all 3 days.
2014 Annual Reston Holiday Book Sale. Friday, Dec. 5, 7:30-9 p.m. 10 a.m. - 5p.m. Reston Regional Library, 11925 Bowman Towne Center, Reston. Books, gifts, and surprises to delight readers of all ages.
Herndon Holiday Arts and Crafts Show. Saturday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Herndon Community Center, 814 Ferndale Ave., Herndon. More than 70 arts and craft vendors offer unique gifts, decorations and handmade items. Free. 703-787-7300. http://www.herndon-va.gov/
City of Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols. Saturday, Dec. 6. Sherwood Community Center, 3740 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax. Come enjoy live holiday music, hot cider, s'mores by the Yule log, petting farm, Ferris wheel, caroling and lighting of the Christmas tree in the winter wonderland. Visit www.fairfaxva.gov/about-us/special-events/festival-of-lights-and-carols for times and locations.
Plantation Christmas, Dec. 6, 2-7 p.m., Gunston Hall, 10709 Gunston Road, Lorton, 703-550-9220, Admission: $15 adults, $5 children (6-18). Let the Christmas Past become part of Christmas Present. Ride in a horse-drawn carriage, sip warm cider by the fire, and sample period food prepared in the hearth kitchen. Return to the 18th century as costumed characters greet visitors in the house and throughout the grounds. Visit with Santa.
Holiday Sing-A-Long. Saturday, Dec. 6, 4 p.m. Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1645 Trap Road, Vienna. No tickets are required, but patrons are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy donation for Toys for Tots. For more information, visit wolftrap.org.
Celebration of Lights, Great Falls Village Centre Hill, Saturday, Dec. 6, 5:30-8 p.m. 5:30 Refreshments available, 6 Santa & Mrs. Claus arrive to light the Christmas Tree, 6:15 Village Green Day School Chorus, the petting zoo and pony rides begin, 7:15 Sing-a-Long, 7:30 Live Nativity Scene.
Reston Jingle on Lake Anne. Saturday, Dec. 6, 11 a.m. Lake Anne Plaza, 1609 Washington Plaza, Reston. Community organizers and plaza retailers will host a variety of festive activities ranging from a special visit from Santa (arriving on a lake barge), strolling carolers, a petting zoo, music, wine tastings, merchant specials, children’s crafts, cookie and ornament decorating, holiday arts and crafts market, holiday entertainment and more.
Herndon Towne Square Singers. Saturday, Dec. 6, 7:30-9 p.m. Herndon Community Center, 814 Ferndale Ave., Herndon. Annual holiday concert with cider, cookies and sing-along carols. $12. 703-435-6800.
Herndon Holiday Homes Tour. Saturday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Herndon Community Center, 814 Ferndale Ave., Herndon. Tour five different homes that are decorated for the holidays. $15-$20. http://www.herndon-va.gov/
McLean WinterFest Parade. Sunday, Dec. 7, 3:30 p.m. Old Chain Bridge Road, McLean. Groups interested in participating in the parade should go to www.mcleanwinterfest.org to complete the registration information and submit it to parade officials. Each entrant will receive confirmation of their registration with this year’s parade rules.
"Christmas in Camp" - Civil War Living History, Dec. 7, 12-4 p.m., Historic Blenheim and the Civil War Interpretive Center, 3610 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, 703-591-0560. Discuss Civil War-era holiday customs, make Victorian ornaments, and participate in camp drills with Company D, 17th VA Infantry, "Fairfax Rifles" C.S.A. Guided tours of Historic Blenheim House.
Sugarloaf Crafts Festival, Dec. 12 - 14, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Dulles Expo Center, 320 Chantilly Shopping Center Drive, Chantilly, 800-210-9900, Adults: $8 online, $10 at the door; Children under 12: free; Parking: free. More than 250 artisans will display and sell their handcrafted work.
Holiday Horse Drawn Hayrides at Lake Accotink Park, Dec. 13, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 7500 Accotink Park Road, Springfield, 703-222-4664, $10 per person (free for 2 and under). Enjoy holiday music and merriment on a horse drawn hayride through the park. Warm up with seasonal treats available for purchase at the snack bar, and settle in to share stories around a toasty campfire. Also visit with Santa and share a wish list. Remember to bring a camera and make it a holiday family photo.
A Christmas Carol. Saturday, Dec. 20, 7 p.m. Art Room, Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center, 3740 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax. Solo performance. NYC actor / playwright, Greg Oliver Bodine performs his one-man performance of Charles Dickens. Children over 10 and adults. General admission $15 / $10 Seniors and Students. www.artful.ly/store/events/4306.
Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights. Now through Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, 5:30 p.m. Meadowlark Botanical Garden, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna. A winter wonderland, including a flowing stream of softly glowing lights, a two-story animated fountain and a Gingerbread Village. Admission: $13 adults, $8 children ages 3-12; children under 3 are free. http://winterwalkoflights.com/