Princeton, NJ is rich in traditional events for the holidays. There are performances, carolers, lightings, and amazing events happening in the borough and township. Of course, Santa makes several appearances in various parts of town. The holiday season is not just about receiving all of what the Princeton has to offer. It’s also about giving. Many residents volunteer their time to raise money for food and gifts for those less fortunate, and to serve in soup kitchens. It warms my heart to see so many in the community supporting the needy during the holiday season.
The day after Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday shopping season. Area merchants offer items at Black Friday sale prices. The Historical Society of Princeton holds an annual Holiday Shopping Party. Princeton, NJ offers a charming shopping atmosphere of mostly local shops mixed with some brand retailers. There are no cookie cutter malls in town, but there is a shopping center just north of the downtown area which is also home to mostly local small businesses. Many residents enjoy leisurely walking around town and at the shopping center to find unique gifts, as opposed to going to a busy mall to purchase mass-produced items.
The America Repertory Ballet‘s (ARB) performances of Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker at McCarter Theater also begins after Thanksgiving, starting the season of holiday productions. This is followed by A Christmas Carol at McCarter, who offer special tickets to a performance coupled with a Fezziwig party on two separate evenings. The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) holds a POPS! Holiday Concert at Princeton University‘s Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, for those who enjoy classical music, and there are many other seasonal performances in Princeton held in venues around town.
Princeton holds an annual Christmas tree lighting at Palmer Square. Though it’s smaller, this tree actually has more lights than the one in NYC’s Rockefeller Center! There is also a Menorah lighting with Klezmer music for Chanukah at Palmer Square. Morven Museum & Garden (the former NJ governor’s residence) hosts its annual open house and festival of trees. The Morven galleries and trees are festively decorated by local businesses and garden clubs. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails are served as holiday music is played. The current governor’s residence, Drumthwacket, also hosts a holiday open house this time of year displaying its seasonal decor.
Just north of town is the Princeton Airport, where Santa flies in on Christmas Eve. He delivers toys to all the boys and girls attending (which parents supply), and in return asks for toys to distribute to the needy. While waiting for St Nick’s arrival, the Princeton Airport Flying Tigers serve the kids cookies and hot chocolate, and a favorite local folk singer Pat McKinley, leads the crowd in Christmas carols.
During the month of December, carolers, musicians and Santa can be spotted around Palmer Square. If this doesn’t get you in the mood for the holidays while shopping or strolling through town, I don’t know what will. Horse and carriage rides through downtown Princeton are also a highlight for many.
Of course, New York City and Philadelphia are both an hour away for even more festivities, but when you just want to stay local, Princeton has a lot to offer during the holiday season. Some agree that Princeton, NJ has everything they need to get in the holiday spirit, and that there is no place like home for the holidays!