Everything You Can Do in Boston This Holiday Season

Consider this our gift to you.

There’s a reason that everyone has put their holiday lights up early this year: We need something to feel happy about. Things could not feel more out of whack this year—yet rest assured that freezing weather and shopping deadlines are still hurtling towards us like a giant snowball. Once again it’s time to embrace the city in all its frantic, brightly lit holiday glory. So what, exactly, does that mean in this neverending pandemic age? Some traditional activities have gone virtual, others have moved outside, and still others have been canceled entirely. But there’s still plenty to do to boost your seasonal spirits while staying safe and healthy. Here is everything you must do in Boston during the holiday season.

Get in the holiday spirit with A Christmas Carol

Through January 3
Huntington Theatre Company
While our in-person theater days are still in the future, Huntington has figured out how to bring the holiday experience to our homes. Rent their new staging of the Dickens classic and settle in for an evening of “live” theater that will bring a bit of seasonal joy to this otherwise stressful time. 
Cost: $50

Leave holiday stress back on land thanks to Classic Harbor Line Boston

Through January 1
Rowes Wharf
Mainland life can be a little much right now. When you need to escape (who doesn’t?!), hop aboard a 1920s-style motor yacht for an off-shore reprieve. Classic Harbor Line is all about themed cruises for the holidays, including versions for jazz, brunch, and sunset. And this year it’s also all about safety, with 50 percent capacity limits, designated seating zones, mask requirements, and a more flexible cancellation policy. 
Cost: $40-185

Embrace the perverse via The Slutcracker

Through December 31
Somerville Theatre/Online
It’s not so much a retelling as it is a bawdy reinvention of Tchaikovsky’s ballet classic. (There’s a reason John Waters is a massive fan.) The adults-only parody of the beloved children’s show, which recasts the kids as adults with names like The Dildo Prince, is also a raunchy, burlesque movie, and this year is available for viewing in the privacy of your own home. If ever there was a balm to 2020, this is it.
Cost: $15 for a 48-hour rental

Settle in for a family film at the Mendon Christmas Drive-In

Through December 27
Mendon Twin Drive
During every weekend for the rest of December, the Mendon Drive-In will air a holiday classic (Elf seems to be the default) paired with a carol-singalong laser light show—sometimes before and sometimes after the movie. 
Cost: $30 per car for laser show; $50 per car for laser show and movie

Hit up a new spot for your Christmas tree

Through December 24
Suffolk Downs
A former dog racing track turned Christmas tree market? We dig. For the first time, Suffolk Downs is hosting a seasonal spot to purchase your tree, wreaths, lights, and other holiday greenery. It’s outdoors, it’s safe, and it even offers home tree delivery. (PS: there’s a similar market at the Seaport this year, and with a snack shack to boot.)
Cost: A la carte (or is it a la foot?)v

Go all out at the Holiday Cr[eat]or Market

Through December 20
Boston Public Market
Sustainable grocery shopping plus sustainable gift shopping equals an easy excuse to spend money. The fourth annual artisan pop-up takes place for four weekends leading up to Christmas; parse the wares of regional artisans making jewelry, home accessories, foodstuffs and more. 
Cost: Free admission

Use ZooLights as your excuse to hit the zoo (again)

Through January 4
Stone Zoo
Our local zoos have proven popular spots during this pandemic, and for good reason: outdoor space plus adorable animals make for a needed reprieve. Add in thousands of LED lights brightening up the homes of residential black bears, arctic foxes, and reindeer, and you have a guaranteed good holiday time. Lantern displays along the way will serve as your guides—just keep in mind that tickets are likely to sell out quickly.
Cost: $13-14

Maccabee Bar
Maccabee Bar | @maccabeebar

Give Hanukkah its proper due at the Maccabee Bar

December 2 - January 3
Bow Market 
Bartender extraordinaire Naomi Levy is not here for your Christmas-only celebrations—and she’s also not here for COVID-19. She’s hosting our city’s third annual Hanukkah pop-up at Variety Bar, this time in a safe outdoor space, to still bring you holiday-inspired cocktails. And not to fret if you’re not feeling up to going out: there’s also a full lineup of Macabee at Home options. 
Cost: A la carte; reserve space through Resy

Be of good remote cheer at the Boston Common Tree Lighting

December 3
Boston Common/Online
In normal times, it’s the official kickoff of the city’s holiday season. This year, it’s virtual. But still join in as Mayor Marty Walsh plugs into the holiday spirit by lighting the Boston Common Christmas tree.
Cost: Free

Head west for a Holiday Tree Walk

Starting December 4
Lenox, Massachusetts
It is sad but understandable that so many of our annual winter strolls have been canceled this year. But our favorite Berkshires town is beginning its own new tradition, with its first-ever formal tree lighting on December 4, followed by a season-long opportunity to stroll the downtown area to admire trees decorated by local artists. 
Cost: Free

Watch the most contemporary theater performance ever: This Is Who I Am

December 5 - January 3
American Repertory Theater
The synopsis is almost too close to home: “Separated by continents, an estranged father and son reunite over Zoom. From their respective kitchens in Ramallah and New York City, they recreate a cherished family recipe and struggle to bridge the gap between them, one ingredient at a time.” We’re in.
Cost: Single viewing starts at $16

Make like the Europeans do at a Holiday Artisan Market

December 5-6
Fruitlands Museum
Shop safe and shop local at a weekend-long, open-air bazaar featuring handmade jewelry, pottery, photography, mixed media, and more.
Cost: $10 per car (for non-Trustees members)

Find holiday balance at Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights

December 9
Museum of Fine Arts
Hanukkah is earlier this year, which means we have earlier reason to celebrate. But don’t fret. The museum is still here for you, with remote live musical and dance performances, virtual talks, and a menorah created by local artists that still serves as the centerpiece of a communal candle-lighting.
Cost: Free

Buy your Black Nativity tickets right now

December 12
Emerson Paramount Theatre
Why? Because in normal years, the annual staging of Langston Hughes’ nativity retelling always sells out quickly. This year? The National Center of Afro-American Artists has reimagined the show on its 50th anniversary, putting on a remote live celebration of the renowned poetic performance, followed by a digital film retrospective available starting the day after.  
Cost: Tickets start at $35

Hit the home gym ahead of the Santa Speedo Run

December 12
Back Bay
Get your IG filters ready. Cheer on hundreds of joggers as they take over the streets of Back Bay, well spaced apart and sporting little more than red hats and scandalous bathing suits (though folks get creative with their costumes). The annual run raises money for Play Ball Foundation, which funds sports in Boston middle schools, and this year is no exception. There’s no after-run party, obvi, but there are multiple ways to support the cause even if you don’t run. 
Cost: $30 to register

Get dressed up in-home for the Holiday Pops Concert

Starting December 10
Keith Lockhart has all our backs—he and the Boston Symphony Orchestra pre-recorded a new Holiday Pops concert inside Fenway Park to satisfy all our inside party needs for the next month. And oh, by the way, a smaller ensemble of the BSO is performing virtual concerts throughout the winter.
Cost: $30 donation

Feel badly about your own decorations after the Illuminations Tour

December 12 - January 1
Somerville City Hall/Online
As you know, Somerville residents traditionally go all in: over-the-top lights, ornaments, shrines, and inflatable lawn decor. And you still get to see them all. Somerville town hall will be creating a digital map to allow you to take, on your own time, a “deconstructed tour” (their words, not ours), to partake at your leisure. We say, Bravo. 
Cost: Free

Get your Nutcracker fix courtesy of The Gift

December 17-27
Boston Ballet/Online
It’s actually nice to shake things up once in a while. Boston Ballet company members are reimagining the seasonal classic by dancing short numbers to the sounds of Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite. It’s imaginative, it’s contemporary, and it’s viewable remotely. 
Cost: Single ticket is $40; subscribe to the bb@yourhome for $180

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Meaghan Agnew is doing her damndest to get into the holiday season—and even succeeding a bit. Follow her efforts by following her on Instagram.