5 Local Holiday Experiences Your Family Should Share

by brandae scherr

We know how fast your calendar fills up during the holiday season with party engagements, school holiday programs, dance recitals, company visiting, gift exchanges, and more. However, you still want to enjoy local events celebrating traditions and family time. We have come up with the top family-oriented, budget-friendly and festive places you must take your family this holiday season:

Moss Mansion’s “Family Festival”: This year, “Father Christmas” fills the Mansion with traditions from the 1900 to 1920s, and a visit from Father Christmas himself. A total of 15 Christmas trees, decorated by the community, will bear the theme of “A Literary Christmas.” Enjoy Christmas music, cookies and apple cider, making your own holiday ornaments, open tours, and many more fun activities for the family. A special performance from the Rimrock Opera Chorus will be present on Saturday singing Christmas carols. Joyce Mayer, Executive Director of the Moss Mansion said, “This annual event is to thank the community for their support.” If you cannot attend this Moss Mansion event, be sure to check their website, www.mossmansion.com, for additional tours and events.

Saturday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 14, 1-5 p.m.; $7/adult, $5/senior, children free with paid adult. For more information, call 256-5100.

Emmanuel Baptist Church: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Traditionally, Emmanuel Baptist Church presents a live Christmas tree performance for the community. Due to construction on the Church over the past two years, the church congregation performs a Broadway-style musical at the Alberta Bair Theater. Associate Pastor and Worship Leader, Ronnie Ward, direct the play consisting of a large cast all from the Church’s congregation and choir. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is set during the golden age of radio just before World War II.  This musical about family and hope follows the lives of those living in an apartment building in San Francisco. The admission fee is a nominal $5 to cover the costs at the Alberta Bair; Ward said, “this is our contribution to the community.”

Friday, Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m. $5/person. For more information, call 652-3161.

Luminaries on Mariposa Lane. Marge McFarlane and her family moved to Billings from Albuquerque, N.M. in 1959. Nearing their second Christmas in Billings, her son Bobbie was hit by a car while riding his bicycle and died. As a tribute to this young boy, McFarlane’s neighbors set out luminaries along their driveways and sidewalks that Christmas Eve. McFarland no longer lives on Mariposa Lane, but the tradition has carried on for 47 years now.

    McFarlane shares that the tradition of the luminaries began in New Mexico during the Pioneer days when families made do with what little they had. On Christmas Eve, women would fold brown paper so sand would sit on the bottom and hold a candle, creating light. Luminaries were placed on the sidewalks and driveways lighting the way for the Christ Child to enter their homes.

1700 and 1800 blocks of Mariposa Lane on December 24.

Christmas lights at 948 Arrowhead Road, Billings Heights. The Bolt family electrifies their Heights neighborhood during the holidays. With over 25,000 lights displayed on their property, inflatables, hand-made Christmas trees made out of ski poles, and a walking path through their yard, you cannot miss this spectacular view. The Bolts have won numerous awards for their lights display over the years, including the 2005 Griswold Award. Tina Bolt said, “Every year is different and we have big plans this year!” In addition, the Bolts collect non-perishable food for the Billings Food Bank. So, bring some food to help local families and take in the sights this Heights family has to offer your family.

948 Arrowhead Road, off Alkali Creek Road; through January 4.

Zoo Montana’s “Winter Carnival” and Easter Seal’s “Fantasy of Lights.” These annual events have become a family tradition for many Billings families. The Winter Carnival will host a “Sneak Peek” on Friday, Dec. 12, and Saturday, Dec. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. The Carnival continues on Friday, Dec. 19 and runs through Dec. 24. Holiday activities and crafts will be held in the main building, hot cocoa will be sold and Santa will take your kids on an exclusive four-wheeler tour through the festively lighted sensory gardens. Tickets will be sold to use for the crafts, refreshments and Santa ride. Enjoy this delightful and unique way of meeting Santa!

    The Fantasy of Lights tour will run Dec. 12 through Dec. 27, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Look forward to a few new lighted displays titled, “The Happy Tooth” and an elf on a scooter. Before heading out, get your kids dressed in their warm Pjs, bring some hot chocolate and yummy treats, and cozy down in your car. The lines can be long, so make it a night and tour this windy, half-mile long, awesome display of lights - you will be glad you did! The proceeds benefit Easter Seals Goodwill, this year funding their PLAY project (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters). For more information about the PLAY project, contact Audrey at: 252-9600.

ZooMontana; 10/car, $15/nursing home van, $25/40 person bus. For more information about “Winter Carnival” call: 652-8100 or go to www.zoomontana.org. For more information about “Fantasy Of Lights” call: 252-9600. SFM

Brandae Scherr is a freelance writer, works at The Copper Colander and is raising three princesses.