There is a joy to participating in community traditions and celebrations during the holidays, from walking along a sidewalk with the streets decked out for the holidays, to shopping in local stores, 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. 26.
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 in a variety of places.
Everyone will do some of their shopping at the mall. Everyone will shop online. Many will answer the call of the big box. But local shoppers should be sure to do some celebrating, shopping and dining locally. We promise it brings more joy.
Be sure to go to some of the hometown Christmas events coming up. Visit our holiday calendars to find more. — Mary Kimm firstname.lastname@example.org
Attend some hometown holiday events
- VIENNA: Santa Claus is Coming to Freeman Store Historic Vienna. Good old St. Nick will visit the Freeman Store on Sunday, Dec. 4, and again on Sunday, Dec. 11, from noon to 2 p.m. each day. Bring your children and bring your own camera to capture the moment.
- VIENNA: Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. From mid-November until just after New Year’s Day, the 100-acre site is transformed into an animated lighted fairyland of scenes and vignettes. Roasting marshmallows, hot chocolate, and a snowflake shop round out the spectacle. The Winter Walk of Lights is open every day through Jan. 8, 2017, 5:30-10 p.m. Open Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, too. To buy timed tickets online, go to www.novaparks.com/events/winter-walkof-lights
- VIENNA: Church Street Holiday Stroll Church Street Holiday Stroll, Monday, Nov. 28, 6 to 9 p.m. Historic Church Street closes down for the evening as the area between Vienna Presbyterian Church and Center Street is ablaze with sparkling lights, a visit from Santa, a petting zoo, firepits for marshmallow roasting, live entertainment, and shopping. Santa arrives at 6:15 p.m. on an antique fire engine; at 6:20 p.m., Santa and Mayor Laurie DiRocco light the tree. After the tree-lighting, Santa takes his seat to hear the wish-list of children who come to him. Local schools and choral groups sing seasonal music throughout the evening. The Vienna Community Band performs on the Showmobile Stage. Historic properties, including the train depot, Freeman Store, Little Library, and caboose, will be open. Church Street will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at 5 p.m. For more information, contact Historic Vienna, Inc. at 703-938-5187.
- McLEAN: On Sunday, Dec. 4, the eighth annual WinterFest parade in McLean will welcome in the holidays as fun and fancy participants proceed down Old Chain Bridge Road. Pre-parade entertainment begins at 2:30 p.m. The parade steps off promptly at 3:30 p.m.
- GREAT FALLS: Celebration of Lights, Great Falls Village Centre Hill, Sunday, Dec. 4, 4-6:30 p.m. Celebrate the beginning of the season with our Annual Christmas Tree Lighting. Drink hot cider or cocoa next to the fire as you listen to local children’s choral groups sing seasonal music. The petting zoo and pony rides will keep the children busy until Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrive by antique fire truck.
- RESTON: Friday, Nov. 25, 26th Annual Reston Holiday Parade. 11 a.m. with Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees, more. Reston Town Center, 11900 Market St., Reston. Reston Holiday Parade on Market Street, tree lighting at Fountain Square. Rain or shine. https://www.restontowncenter.com/
Visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. Reston Town Center 11900 Market St. next to Skate Shop. Donations for a 5 x 7 portrait benefit South Lakes High School Chorus.
Mini-Train Rides 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. Reston Town Center 11900 Market St. Departures on Market Street next to Talbots. Donations benefit Cornerstones.
Conservatory Ballet Performance 5 p.m. Fountain Square Reston Town Center 11900 Market St.The Nutcracker’s Land of the Snow dance will be performed by Conservatory Ballet Repertoire des Etoiles in front of the huge Christmas tree.
Tree Lighting and Sing-Along 6 pm, Fountain Square Reston Town Center 11900 Market St. See Santa and Mrs. Claus light up the Christmas tree, followed by a holiday sing-along with The Reston Chorale.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides, 6:30 - 10 p.m. Reston Town Center 11900 Market St. Departures on Market Street next to Talbots. $5 per person, children 5 and under ride free. All proceeds benefit Volunteer Fairfax.
- RESTON: Jingle on Lake Anne will take place on Saturday, Dec. 3. Santa arrives by boat. Music. Market. Activities. http://lakeanneplaza.com/event/jingle-on-lake-anne/
- HERNDON: The Herndon Community Center at 814 Ferndale Avenue will be the scene of a number of holiday happenings, including a large Arts and Crafts Fair and a Holiday Storybook Holiday Celebration Sunday Dec. 4 from 10 - 4 p.m. Storybook Holiday Celebration Saturday Dec. 17 from 10 - 11:30 a.m. Admission is $9 per child and includes craft projects, a visit with Santa and a reading of a holiday story by a special guest.
- HERNDON: Holiday Homes Tour, a time-honored tradition that kicks off the holiday season and allows the public the opportunity to visit local homes decorated for the holidays. Homes on the tour are selected for their historic, architectural or community interest.
The 2016 tour will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. www.facebook.com/holidayhomestour.
- CENTREVILLE: Bull Run Festival of Lights and Holiday Village Nov. 23, 2016 - Jan. 8, 2017 7700 Bull Run Dr. Centreville. A 2.5 mile stretch will be illuminated by holiday light displays. Drive the festival route from the comfort of your car; turn out your headlights and just follow the magical glow. After viewing the lights, bring family and friends to the holiday village to enjoy rides, refreshments, and of course, photos with Santa Claus. The cost of driving through the light show is Monday-Thursday, $15 per car; Friday-Sunday & Holidays, $20 per car.
- CITY OF FAIRFAX: Saturday, Dec. 3 City of Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols, noon - 7:30 p.m. Old Town Square 10415 North Street, Fairfax. 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. http://www.fairfaxva.gov/about-us/special-events/festival-of-lights-and-carols for more.
Lunch with Santa 11:30 - 12:30 p.m. Old Town Hall, 3999 University Drive. Children ages 10 and under. Two lunch seatings, 11:30 a.m. and another at 12:30 p.m. Tickets: $6 per child on sale at the Parks & Recreation office at City Hall, Sherwood Center, and Green Acres Center. Limit of 10 tickets per person. Pre-Registration is required for this event — children 1 years of age and younger may attend at no cost but still must be registered. Parents do not need to purchase tickets. All are welcome — both Fairfax City residents and non-Fairfax City residents. Tickets can be purchased online at:https:// apm.activecommunities.com/ fairfaxcityrecdept/Activity_Search/ 9853
- BURKE: Holiday Book Sale 10 - 4 p.m. Burke Centre Library 5935 Freds Oak Road, Burke .Peruse and shop a selection of gently used holiday-themed books collected by the Friends of the Burke Centre Library. Visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/ library/branches/bc/
- BURKE LAKE PARK transforms into a Winter Wonderland the first weekend in December, Dec. 5-6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Hop aboard the Holiday Express for a train trip through the park. Set sail on the U.S.S. Rudolph. Snuggle up on the Snowman’s Wagon Ride. Take a spin on the Caroler’s Carousel, and test your skills with Gingerbread Man’s Golf. Stop to let Santa know how good you’ve been this year, and treat yourself to s'mores by the fire. Sip some hot chocolate or spiced cider, and munch on candy canes as you enjoy all the fun. Join in the giving spirit of the season by bringing a new toy or a canned food item for donation.
Passes are $15 per person through Dec. 4 and $20 per person on the day of the event. The passes include all the activities plus a craft item, hot chocolate and s'mores. Or a la carte: Train $4, Carousel $3, Mini Golf $8, Wagon & Tour Boat Ride $9, S’mores $1, Hot Drink $1.
- WORKHOUSE ARTS CENTER presents “A Christmas Carol” adapted from the original story by Charles Dickens. Performed at Workhouse Arts Center, Theater W-3, 9518 Workhouse Road, Lorton. Performance on Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15 to $25. Call 703-584-2900 or visit www.workhousearts.org. Note: Runs approximately 80 minutes in one act. Appropriate for audiences of any age but best suited for ages 10 and above.
- MOUNT VERNON CANDLELIGHT TOURS Nov. 25-Dec.18
A candlelit tour, complete with characters, caroling, and 18th-century dancing on select dates. Tour the Mansion in all its holiday glory and learn about Mrs. Washington’s infamous festive cooking. Tickets are required and may be purchased online http://www.mountvernon.org/plan-your-visit/calendar/events/mount-vernon-by-candlelight/
- MOUNT VERNON Christmas Illuminations, Dec. 16-17
Fireworks over the Potomac River are accompanied by visits from George and Martha Washington. Enjoy music from local choirs, snuggle by the bonfire, and sip some hot cocoa during this Christmas event. Special tickets are not required; general admission fees do apply.
- ALEXANDRIA: The City of Alexandria Tree Lighting Ceremony at Market Square will kick off the holiday season on Friday, Nov. 25 at Market Square, 301 King St. The event will include a welcome by the town crier, the mayor, other city officials and a visit by Santa.
- ALEXANDRIA: 46th Annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend and Parade. Dec. 2-3, presented by the Campagna Center. Scottish Christmas Walk Parade, Heather and Greens Sales, Taste of Scotland, Holiday Home Tours.
During the last week of each year, The Connection devotes its entire issue to the creativity of local students and children. It is a keepsake edition for many families. The annual Children's Connection is a tradition of well over a decade.
We publish artwork, poetry, essays, creative writing, opinion pieces, short stories, photography, photos of sculpture or other creative efforts.
We ask that all submissions be digital so they can be sent through email or delivered on CD or flash drive. Writing should be submitted in rich text format (.rtf). Artwork should be photographed or scanned and provided in jpeg format.
We welcome contributions from public and private schools, individuals and homeschoolers. To be published, we must have first and last name of the student. Please include the student’s age and/or grade, school attended and town of residence, plus the name of the school, name of teacher and town of school location. Please provide submissions by Friday, Dec. 2.
Email submissions for the Children's Connection to Herndon@connectionnewspapers.com.