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It’s Christmastime in the City

A guide to celebrating the holiday in Boston


Given the unseasonably warm weather of late, it’s hard to believe that Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner. Tomorrow is the last day of finals and residence halls close on Sunday, December 20, at noon, and remain closed until 10 a.m. on Friday, January 15. Dining facilities close after dinner tomorrow and reopen for dinner on Saturday, January 16, 2016.

While most students—and many faculty and staff—will be heading out of town for the holidays, lots of us will be staying in and around Boston over the break. The city offers all kinds of wonderful ways to celebrate this time of the year, and we’ve compiled some of the best—from the most fun holiday shopping venues to concerts, light shows, and theater events—to make your daysmerry and bright.


30th Annual Harvard Square Holiday Fair

Looking to give a unique, handmade gift? Visit the Harvard Square Holiday Fair. Now celebrating its 30th season, this popular bazaar brings together more than three dozen vendors from New England and beyond selling handcrafted jewelry, textiles, pottery, clothing, home décor, and accessories.

The Harvard Square Holiday Fair is in the lower hall of St. Paul’s Church, 29 Mt. Auburn St., Harvard Square. The fair is open through Wednesday, December 23. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Find a full list of vendors here. Take an MBTA Red Line train to Harvard Square.

Santa has taken up residence at the Prudential Center through Christmas Eve. Photo by Christopher Harting Studio

Santa has taken up residence at the Prudential Center through Christmas Eve. Photo by Christopher Harting Studio

Santa in the City! and Charity Gift Wrap at the Prudential Center

There’s still time to catch Santa in his winter wonderland before he gathers his reindeer and begins his journey round the globe. Head over to the Belvidere Arcade at the Shops at Prudential Center and have your picture taken with the big guy; then stop by some of the mall’s nearly three dozen shops—such as Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Vineyard Vines, the Body Shop, Lacoste, and Kate Spade New York—for some holiday shopping. Take your purchases to Barnes & Noble in the Prudential’s Huntington Arcade, where local nonprofits will wrap any gift for free; your charitable donations will support participating organizations.

Santa in the City! is in the Belvidere Arcade at the Shops at Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., Boston, through December 24. Santa will be available for photos December 18, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 19, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; December 20, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 21 and 22, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 23, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and December 24, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Photo packages start at $19.99. Find more information here.

The Charity Gift Wrap, sponsored by Barnes & Noble, is in front of the store in the Huntington Arcade, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., now through December 24. Gift wrapping is free, but donations are welcome. Any gift may be wrapped. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley Station.

Copley Place

When finished at the Prudential, take the walkway over to Copley Place, perhaps Boston’s toniest mall. This mall has nearly 75 stores, among them JCrew, Gap, Banana Republic, and Williams-Sonoma. But the emphasis here is luxury goods: Tiffany, Eileen Fisher, Emporio Armani, Boss, Coach, and Neiman Marcus.

Copley Place, 100 Huntington Ave., Boston, is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Find special holiday hours here.

Newbury Street

If malls aren’t your thing, head over to Newbury Street, Boston’s premier shopping district, where you can stroll along eight blocks lined with art galleries, salons, restaurants, and shops ranging from the affordable (Forever 21, bebe, and H&M) to the expensive (Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, and Chanel). Find a full list of Newbury Street stores here.

Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to the Hynes Convention Center, Copley, or Arlington stops.


Christmas Eve Services at Marsh Chapel

Marsh Chapel, in the heart of BU’s campus, is offering two worship services this Christmas Eve. The later service will include music from the Marsh Chapel Thurman Choir.

The services,  free and open to the public, are December 24 at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in Marsh Chapel, 735 Commonwealth Ave.

Theater and Performing Arts

2015 Holiday Pops

There is no more beloved tradition in Boston this time of the year than the Holiday Pops concerts, featuring the renowned Boston Pops Orchestra. Led by Keith Lockhart (Hon.’04), now celebrating his 20th year as conductor, the concerts offer a delightful mix of classic holiday tunes, the beloved Pops sing-along, and an appearance from the man in the red suit himself. Programs and artists may vary by performance. Food and drinks are available for sale during the concerts. The Pops also offer matinee performances specially designed for children, which are shorter and include a children’s sing-along and post-concert photos with Jolly Saint Nick. The concerts, which run through Christmas Eve, are popular and sell out fast, so order right away.

The 2015 Holiday Pops play through December 24 at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Tickets start at $31 and are available here. Children under four are not permitted at Holiday Pops concerts, but children of all ages are welcome to attend the Kids Matinees performances. Order tickets for those performances here. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley, then a Green Line E trolley to the Symphony stop.

The Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents The Winter’s Tale

Those looking for something a little darker this holiday season will want to check out the Actors’ Shakespeare Project production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Romance, betrayal, jealousy, banishment, and forgiveness loom large in this Shakespeare drama. The nonprofit company, launched in 2004, is devoted to bringing the work of the Bard and other famous playwrights to schools, community centers, found spaces, and churches in and around Boston and is noted both for its resident theater company and its extensive education, youth, and community outreach programs.

The Winter’s Tale runs through Sunday, January 3, at Willet Hall at United Parish, 210 Harvard St., Brookline. Find a full list of show times and buy tickets online here. Regular tickets are $33 to $50, but there are a limited number of $15 tickets available with a student ID that go on sale an hour before each performance. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at 866-811-4111. Take an MBTA Green Line C trolley to Coolidge Corner and walk two blocks south on Harvard Street.

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus annual holiday show is place Sunday, December 20, and Monday, December 21. Video courtesy of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus

Boston Gay Men’s Chorus Holiday Show

The renowned Boston Gay Men’s Chorus returns to the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall with its annual holiday show, Ho Ho Ho. This year, the chorus premieres “Forbidden Holiday,” written by the creators of the popular, long-running Off-Broadway hit, Forbidden Broadway. Expect a wide variety of entertainment from this 175-voice ensemble, including time-honored Christmas classics, a troupe of dancing Santas, and a version of the can-can you won’t soon forget.

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus Holiday Show will be performed at the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, 290 Huntington Ave., on December 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. (The December 19 show is already sold out.) Tickets range from $20 to $60 and can be purchased here. Those with special needs are asked to call 617-542-SING. Take an MBTA Green Line E trolley to the Symphony stop.

Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker

There’s no better way to get in the holiday spirit than by taking in Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Boston Opera House. This annual crowd-pleaser features choreography by Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen. The show runs through Thursday, December 31 (no performances Christmas Day). Be sure to buy your tickets in advance, as shows tend to sell out. Ticket prices range from $35 to $189.

Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker is at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston. Purchase tickets here or call the box office at 617-695-6955. Take any MBTA Green Line train to Park Street.

Urban Nutcracker

This modern version of the classic ballet has been called “a Nutcracker with real soul.” Now in its 15th season, this year’s Urban Nutcracker, presented by the Tony Williams Dance Center, features 130 dancers from diverse backgrounds. Urban Nutcracker will delight audiences of all ages with its fusion of classical ballet, urban tap, hip-hop, swing, and flamenco and an eclectic mix of music ranging from the original Tchaikovsky score to Duke Ellington melodies. The production features new costumes and sets.

The Urban Nutcracker is being performed at the Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley St., through December 27. Show times are listed here. Regular tickets run between $25 and $88 and can be purchased online here or by visiting the box office. Find the box office schedule here. Discount tickets from $20 to $35 can be purchased here while still available. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to the Arlington station.

Matchless and The Happy Prince

Looking for some wonderful family holiday fare? Central Square Theater is staging two short plays for theatergoers of all ages. Matchless is Gregory Maguire’s innovative retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic short story The Little Match Girl, the beloved tale of a poor girl’s hopeful visions on New Year’s Eve. Maguire was commissioned by NPR to compose a story with a Christmas theme in 2008 and Matchless was the result. The Happy Prince, based on a children’s story by Oscar Wilde, combines Wilde’s renowned wit with delightful fantasy to tell the story of a sparrow, a statue, and the duo’s selfless generosity. Both stories resonate with holiday themes of goodwill, charity, and hope, and are told using a combination of actors and puppets.

Matchless and The Happy Prince are being performed at the Central Square Theatre, 450 Massachusetts Ave., through January 3. Find a full list of show times and purchase tickets here. Regular tickets are $20 to $60, but discount tickets from $24.50 to $32 are still available here. Take an MBTA 47 bus toward Central Square to Brookline St. at Green St. 


In this charming musical, a haunting story about the power of music and the importance of pursuing your dreams, a Dublin busker is about to give up on his dream when a young woman suddenly takes an interest in his love songs. It won eight Tony Awards when it debuted to rapturous reviews on Broadway in 2012. This tour has been a big hit since arriving downtown earlier this month. Theatergoers would love the gift of tickets this holiday season.

Once is playing at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston, through December 27. Tickets range from $48 to $98. Student rush tickets are cash-only and are available for $26 starting two hours prior to each performance in person at the box office (limit two tickets per valid student ID). Purchase tickets online here, by calling 866-348-9738, or by visiting the box office, which is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Boylston Street.

Don’t miss Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman as Ignatius J. Reilly in the Huntington Theatre Company’s stage adaptation of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. Photo by T. Charles Ericsson

Don’t miss Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman as Ignatius J. Reilly in the Huntington Theatre Company’s stage adaptation of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. Photo by T. Charles Ericsson

The Huntington Theatre Company Production of A Confederacy of Dunces

One of the biggest critical and commercial hits in the Huntington Theatre Company’s history, this stage adaption of John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces stars Nick Offerman, best known for his role in the television comedy Parks and Recreation, as Ignatius J. Reilly, a Don Quixote-esque slob who quotes medieval philosophy but still lives in his mother’s basement. The play, making its world premiere, has been extended through December 20.

A Confederacy of Dunces is playing at the BU Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston, through December 20. Tickets may be purchased online, by phone at 617-266-0800, or in person at the BU Theatre box office. Patrons 35 and younger may purchase $30 tickets (ID required) for any production, and there is a $5 discount for seniors. Military personnel can purchase tickets for $20 with promo code MILITARY, and student tickets are available for $20. Members of the BU community get $10 off (ID required). Take the Green Line E trolley to the Symphony stop; the theater is across Huntington Ave. from Symphony Hall. Call 617-266-0800 for more information.

ImprovBoston’s Holiday Spectacular

Here’s a holiday gift from some of Boston’s best comedy writers, performers, and producers. ImprovBoston returns with its annual holiday spectacle. Billing itself as “part-scripted, part-improvised, and all-hilarious,” the evening will yield more than a few “ho ho hos” from audience members. Those over 21 can increase their merriment with libations from the cash bar.

The ImprovBoston Holiday Spectacular is at ImprovBoston, 40 Prospect St., Cambridge. There are three remaining shows: Friday, December 18, at 10 p.m.; Wednesday, December 23, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, December 26, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $18. Find a full list of show times and to order tickets here. Take a Red Line train to Central Square.

Light Shows

Blink! Light & Sound Show

For the fourth year in a row, Faneuil Hall lights up the dark winter evenings with a holiday light and sound extravaganza with some 350,000 LED lights that have been choreographed to holiday music recorded by the Boston Holiday Pops. The spectacle draws more than 225,000 visitors each year. While you’re there, be sure to check out the marketplace’s Christmas tree—the largest in the Northeast (yes, it’s even bigger than the Rockefeller Center tree).

Blink! is at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, One Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, through January 3. (The marketplace is closed on Christmas Day). The seven-minute show begins daily at 4:30 p.m. in the South Market and runs every hour on the half hour. The North Market Show begins at 5 p.m. daily and runs every hour on the hour. Admission is free and open to the public. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street or an Orange Line train to State Street. 

The Mayor’s Celebration of Lights, Lights of Boston

The Dartmouth Street facade of the Boston Public Library will be transformed into a magical scene of lights, color, music, and 3-D projections from December 18 through20, courtesy of the nonprofit art organization luminARTZ and AGB Events. The show will provide a message of hope, peace, and unity. Originally debuted in Australia, the light installation is the first of its kind in the United States.

The Mayor’s Celebration of Lights, Lights of Boston is at the Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., through December 20, from 5 to 10 p.m., looping every 10 minutes. It is free and open to the public. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley Square.


A Muppet Christmas Carol, playing at Coolidge Corner Theatre, features Jim Henson’s lovable crew of motley creatures in a holiday movie kids and adults alike will enjoy. Photo courtesy Coolidge Corner Theatre

A Muppet Christmas Carol, playing at Coolidge Corner Theatre, features Jim Henson’s lovable crew of motley creatures in a holiday movie kids and adults alike will enjoy. Photo courtesy Coolidge Corner Theatre

Scrooged and The Muppet Christmas Carol at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

What would the season be without some holiday movies? Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre will help get you in the Yuletide spirit with two contemporary classics, both inspired by Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. First up is Scrooged, starring Bill Murray in top form as a modern-day Scrooge, a nasty network TV president visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. That film will be shown Friday, December 18, and Saturday, December 19. Equally delightful is The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Oscar winner Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, along with Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the Muppets gang. The live-action musical will be shown on Sunday, December 20.

The Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline, will show Scrooged on Friday, December 18, and Saturday, December 19, at 11:59 p.m. The Muppet Christmas Carol will be shown at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 20. Tickets are $11.25 for Scrooged and $8 for adults, $6 for children, for The Muppet Christmas Carol. They can be purchased online or at the door. Take a MBTA Green Line C trolley to the Coolidge Corner stop.

Alt-Xmas at the Brattle Theatre

Tired of watching It’s a Wonderful Life for what feels like the billionth time? Head over to Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre for a film series that’s being billed as Alt-Xmas. The series includes from Tim Burton’s modern fairytale Edward Scissorhands starring Johnny Depp to Gremlins and its sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Despite the alternative vibe, the folks at the Brattle couldn’t resist throwing in Home Alone for Christmas classic diehards. And for those hankering to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen, rest easy. The Brattle will be showing the 1946 Frank Capra classic December 18 through December 20 (not part of its Alt-Xmas series).

Alt-Xmas runs at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge through, Wednesday, December 23. Find a full list of films and show times here. Tickets are $8 for children and seniors, $9 for students, military, and members of the Brattle Theatre Foundation, and $11 for adults. Tickets can be purchased  here or at the door. Take an MBTA Red Line train to Harvard Square.

The Art of Alfred Hitchcock at the Museum of Fine Arts

If holiday movies aren’t your thing, the Museum of Fine Arts is offering a retrospective of the careers of one of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock. Often called the Master of Suspense, Hitchcock created some of the scariest (and most brilliant) films of all time. Featured in the series are four of the director’s best: Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and The Birds. See if you can spot the director among such stars as Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, Janet Leigh, Kim Novak, and James Stewart—Hitchcock made a cameo in each of his films.

The Art of Alfred Hitchcock will be shown in the Remis Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., from December 18 through December 27. While entrance to the museum is free with a BU student ID, admission to each screening is $11. Find screening details here. Take an MBTA Green Line E trolley or the number 39 bus to the Museum of Fine Arts stop or the Orange Line train or bus routes 8, 47, or C2 to the Ruggles stop.

Looking for ideas on how to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Boston? Check back on BU Today December 26 for a list of events you won’t want to miss.

Kylie Obemeier can be reached at kylieko@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @kyliekobermeier.


7 Comments on It’s Christmastime in the City

  • Amy on 12.18.2015 at 6:47 am

    Wonderful, an article about Christmas in the city. Ridiculous that it isn’t also Christmas time in some way shape or form at B.U. We embrace diversity, right? Even some atheists enjoy the non-religious aspects of the holidays, correct? Sadly, B.U., like other universities, has decided to dump Christmas in public or common areas, lest someone be offended. No problem though with a student group putting a large menorah up in front of the GSU. What if THAT offends someone? The “offense” is invalid because a student group, not the university, put it there?

    Just a few years ago, there were lights in the trees in front of the GSU, and a large wreath hanging in the link. Seasonal stuff, pretty, festive things, touching on joy and goodwill, not religious at all, but it doesn’t happen anymore. Scrapped in the name of political correctness, every bit as stupid as what the Taliban does, just in the opposite ideological direction. What next? Cover the Marsh Chapel, which most certainly IS a “Christian” building? Doesn’t IT represent B.U. too?

  • Amy on 12.18.2015 at 3:01 pm

    Oops, want to add: Saying “Merry Christmas” at B.U. is a sensitive matter as well, even if you say it to people who DO celebrate Christmas. I said this to a manager the other day at a staff holiday party, and he replied with, “Happy Holidays”. Once I said “Merry Christmas” to a co-worker in our office, and people chatting near us actually stopped in mid sentence and glanced at me. Had I dropped the F-bomb, they would have done the same – or giggled. Such are the times in which we live.

  • brenda on 12.19.2015 at 11:43 am

    Agree with prior comment….merry Christmas AMY and God bless! Not ashamed!

  • Peter on 12.22.2015 at 9:03 am

    Merry Christmas to you!!!! Thank you Amy!!! I agree!!

  • Manny on 12.22.2015 at 11:14 am

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  • Dan on 12.22.2015 at 2:46 pm

    A women overheard me wishing someone a happy holiday in the cafeteria, and told me that I was oppressing Christians. She specifically accused me of mocking “Christmas, the day Jesus died for your sins” and went over to the manager to complain, upon which she apparently was informed that I didn’t work at that company.

  • Judge NOT on 12.23.2015 at 4:45 pm

    Merry Christmas to you all. In response to Dan’s story – Wow – Christmas is the day Jesus was born (not died). Sorry you had an unfortunate encounter with a lunatic. Inclusion is the concept that everyone should feel comfortable expressing their views and practicing their religion ….. as long as they don’t restrict others from doing the same. Unfortunately, that is a concept in the good ole USA – not necessarily agreed with in other parts of the world. I think a Menorah belongs on campus for the Jewish holidays, and a Christmas Tree for Christmas,,,etc. That shows that all religions are encouraged here. Robert Frost has a great poem about “good fences make good neighbors”. With some respect for boundaries – we all should be able to coexist.

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