Holiday Happenings

New treats added to Celebration Crossing at State Museum

A ride on Santa’s Express is a tradition for many families.

Families always know what to expect when they make their traditional holiday season visit to Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum. Not this year, because they’ll find some unexpected bonuses – beginning with an extra week in January to enjoy the special multi-faceted exhibit.

Children who take the Santa Claus Express will be able to view a new mural by a Hoosier artist MK Watkins of Nashville. The artwork features several Indiana references from the state tree to a mastodon and even Abraham Lincoln.

Visitors will also be challenged to study Toy Mountain, which will be filled with artifacts representing favorite childhood pastimes. Families can also start a new family tradition by spending quality time together at Santa’s Holiday Breakfast. The buffet-style meal includes several delicious options as well as museum admission and a visit with Santa.

“We started with 25 guests in 1991 when the exhibit began and last year served nearly 1,400,” said David McDaniel, director of interpretive programs at the museum. “I have guests who have been coming for years. A couple of families are now bringing their grandchildren after years of attendance with their own children.” Santa’s Holiday Breakfast is served on Saturday and Sunday mornings through Dec. 23. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the museum at 317-232-1637.

A museum tradition will also come back to life. The animatronic animals that once appeared in the center of the train room have sadly aged and most no longer work properly. This year, visitors have the opportunity to be a part of the “Animal Preserve” by contributing money to the renovations. In exchange, they’ll have the chance to name the animal when it returns to the display.

Families can also look to the Indiana State Museum for a way to ring in the new year. The Family New Year’s Eve is an alcohol-free celebration featuring face-painting, stilt walkers and music capped off with a balloon drop at 8 p.m. to allow the little ones to welcome the New Year in style.

At Joy of All Who Sorrow: Old World Village /Market

A snowy European village will once again appear when the Joy of All Who Sorrow Eastern Orthodox Church hosts its annual Old World Christmas Village and Market on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-2.

Shoppers will find a variety of goods including fresh greenery, stained glass, hand-carved ornaments and old-fashioned toys. While they shop, visitors will be able to listen to carolers, dine at the international café or buy sweets from the bakery. The dinner menu is highlighted by the always popular beef stroganoff. There will also be two special areas just for children.

Saint Lucia will make her annual appearance, handing out sweet buns while wearing the traditional wreath of candles – and while the ancient and traditional melody, Santa Lucia, is sung. The story of her life will be told, partly narrated and partly sung, and broadcast through the market.

Saint Lucia will be accompanied by children dressed in white and carrying stars, a part of the traditional celebration added just last year to the agenda.

“The Old World Christmas Market kicks off my family’s Christmas season,” said Anya Aslanova, co-conspirator at the market’s bakery. “I get the happiest of feelings just thinking about setting up. Our recipes come from many corners of the world, and are hand-crafted with love, joy and the best ingredients.”

The Old World Christmas Market has been going on for over 30 years – but special this year is the first year of the Joy of All Who Sorrow’s capital campaign, named Transforming Joy, the goal being to purchase the historic church building.

Hours of the market are 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2.

On Delaware Street: A Candlelight Evening

Several Old Northside venues will be spotlighted during a Candlelight Evening on Delaware Street, the annual fundraiser for the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site set for Thursday, Dec. 7.

The evening of house tours and elegant dining will run from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Each building’s history will be shared, and guests will be able to walk through and explore each location. The walking tour includes the use of stairs to fully view each location.

The cost is $85.39 (which includes registration fee) and $80.12 for Presidential Site members.
To sign up or for more information, go to and click on “Events.”

At the Riley Home: A Victorian Christmas

The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home will host a Victorian Christmas Open House from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.

The free event will include walk-through tours of the Museum Home in the heart of Lockerbie Square, along with “Mr. Riley” reading poetry and interacting with guests.

Traditional music will be played on the home’s vintage player piano, an instrument built in Chicago around 1906. The holiday event will mark the first time the piano – the same one Riley used to enjoy over a century ago – has been played for the public for perhaps two decades.

Meanwhile, cookies and refreshments and photos with a Victorian Santa will be featured in the adjacent Billie Lou Wood Visitor Center.

At the Athenaeum: Sankt Nikolaus Fest

The Athenaeum Foundation will play host to the annual visit from an Old World holiday figure during its traditional
Sankt Nikolaus Fest from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3.

The nostalgic visit with Christmas past places a focus on family fun and making lasting memories, organizers said. Since 1985, the Sankt Nikolaus book of names has kept the name and age of every child who has visited with St. Nikolaus. At check in, each child’s name is added for a personalized visit with St. Nikolaus himself.

The event includes a gingerbread house-building contest, crafts, dancing, singing and a puppet show. The event is capped by the lighting of the Christmas tree, the Court of Sankt Nikolaus and a chance to meet St. Nik himself.

The cost is $8 for kids; adults are free. All proceeds benefit the care and maintenance of the Historic Athenaeum.
For more information, go to

At the Landmark Center: Holly & Ivy Concert

The pipe organ is the star of The Holly and The Ivy Holiday Concert at the Indiana Landmarks Center.

More than 40 voices from the Indianapolis Arts Chorale will take part in the annual December organ concert in the Grand Hall of the Indiana Landmarks Center on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

The Holly & The Ivy Holiday Concert will feature traditional and contemporary holiday music starring the restored 1892 Grand Hall organ, joined by piano, horns, handbells, and professional singers.

The performers invite the audience to sing along on favorite carols under the soaring dome of the Grand Hall, where colored lights and snowflakes alternate to suit the music.

Professional organist Randy Frieling will be joined by pianist Phoenix Park-Kim, horn player John Huntoon, Circle City Ringers handbell ensemble, and singers Diana Huntoon and Rick Vale.

The concert will last from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
Tickets are $15 per person and $12 for Indiana Landmarks members.
Children age 10 and younger are free.
Tickets are available at the door or by registering online at or by calling 317-639-4534.

At the History Center: Festival of Trees

The Indiana Historical Society is hosting its annual Festival of Trees, which boasts 80 elaborately decorated trees throughout the Indiana History Center. The exhibition (spotlighted in last month’s issue of Urban Times), will continue through Jan. 6. The History Center will also stay open until 9 p.m. Tuesdays through the holiday season, with live music to enhance the festival of holiday lights.
The Indiana History Center will also host a number of seasonal events, including:

  •  Saturday, Dec. 2 and Dec. 9 – KEEPSAKE CORNER, where participants can try their hand at fashioning traditional holiday crafts and games to take home. Noon to 4 p.m. Free with admission to the Indiana Experience.
  • Saturday, Dec. 16 – CHRISTMAS STORY DAY, an afternoon celebrating the iconic film A Christmas Story (written by Hoosier Jean Shepard), with themed trivia, photo ops and Chinese take-out crafts. Noon to 4 p.m. Free with admission to the Indiana Experience.
  •  Thursday, Dec. 14 – GOOD BEERS AND UGLY SWEATERS, described as “a hoppy hour” where participants can wear their ugliest Christmas sweater and enjoy some holiday cheer in the form of complimentary seasonal beers produced by local craft brewers. Visitors will be able to explore the Historical Society’s Festival of Trees exhibition, win prizes for the best holiday sweater and enjoy live karaoke. 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 for Historical Society members, $15 for non-members are $20 at the door, and include craft beer tastings and hearty appetizers.

Daily and weekly programs at the Indiana History Center include:

  • Saturdays and Sundays from Thanksgiving to Christmas – VINTAGE SANTA, with Santa from the past strolling through the History Center to hand out special treats to children of all ages. 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Daily – HOLIDAY SING-ALONG in the Cole Porter Room, with a singer leading visitors through holiday-themed songs and Porter standards.

More Holiday Activities ….

Astronaut Jerry Ross, racing analyst and former driver Derek Daly and award-winning children’s author Michele Wood will be among those featured at the Indiana History Center’s HOLIDAY AUTHOR FAIR, set for noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2.

The Indiana History Center will host the Holiday Author Fair on Saturday, Dec. 2.

More than 60 authors are scheduled to be on hand for book signings, including Author Fair veterans James Alexander Thom and Dark Rain Thom. The event is free.

Candlelight Theatre performances of ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE… will take place Friday through Sunday, Dec. 15-17, at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site.

The production, written by James Trofatter, is described as “a heartwarming interactive theater experience for all ages in the historic Harrison mansion.” The audience will be able to sip hot cider, enjoy complimentary treats, and be delighted by holiday figures from tradition and folklore.
Audiences will travel from room to room viewing the performances throughout the Harrison mansion. Audiences will travel up and down two flights of narrow stairs (elevator assistance is available). Guests will view entire performance standing, although some seating is available.
The hour-long performances will begin every half hour. Cost is $14.95 for Presidential Site members and students ages 6 to 12, and $17.95 for non-members. (There is an additional online ticket fee.) The production is not recommended for children under 6. Past performances have sold out, so reservations are strongly suggested. Go to and click on “Events.”

The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site will be an especially festive place on Saturday, Dec. 2, when the Old Northside venue hosts LIVE! FAMILY CHRISTMAS.

The event is set in 1888, when President Harrison, some of the family from Ohio, and the household staff will be “home for the holidays” talking about the excitement of Christmas Day, wrapping presents, and chatting about the upcoming move to Washington and whether or not there will be a Christmas tree in the White House.

Tours will begin on the hour and half-hour from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students ages 5 to 12. Members are admitted free.

The Indianapolis Propylaeum will host HOLIDAY CHEER ON DELAWARE, an open house event set for 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6.
The free event will include wine and hors d’oeuvres in the Old Northside mansion which will be decorated for the holiday season.

Last year’s move of the INDIANAPOLIS SCHOOL OF BALLET’s production of The Nutcracker – to accommodate larger audiences – was so successful that the Downtown organization has added a fourth performance to its 2017 schedule.

The Indianapolis School of Ballet will perform The Nutcracker at the Murat Theatre.

The 11th season of The Nutcracker will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21;
and continue with performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22; and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23.

As is its tradition, the School of Ballet will precede the public season with a “community outreach performance” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20.
Tchaikovsky’s famous score will be performed live, this year by the Indianapolis Ballet Orchestra.

Earlier this year, the school announced the launch of the Indianapolis Ballet professional company – and members of that new group will perform some of The Nutcracker’s featured roles in support of the cast of student performers.

Tickets range from $20 to $80. They can be obtained by phone at 1-800-745-3000,
in person at the Old National Centre Box Office and online at

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