Now that the turkey has been stuffed (and so have we) and the annual shopping frenzy has begun, the winter holidays are truly upon us. Although holidays can be stressful, for many it is the best time of the year because it is full of occasions that bring comfort and joy. Carroll County has a wealth of opportunities for people to find those heartening events and carry on traditions that feed into the positive glow of the season.
'O Christmas Tree'
Trimming the tree is a tradition that many families share, and there is no shortage of places to find a fresh evergreen in this part of the country. Many residents also enjoy joining friends and neighbors in a town-wide holiday tree-lighting ceremony year after year.
Taneytown will have its tree lighting at 6 p.m. Saturday at the police station. But first, residents and visitors will get to preview some the town's best holiday trees, wreaths and centerpieces at New Windsor State Bank on Baltimore Street. The annual Holiday of Trees, which begins Tuesday, is a fundraiser for the Taneytown History Museum.
"It's always a special time," said Rhonda Danner, who helped organize the event. "It's a community event that has been really successful in the past, and each year it seems to be growing."
Danner said more than 20 trees had been donated along with nearly a dozen wreaths and centerpieces. Many pieces include gift certificates as part of the package visitors can bid on in a silent auction that ends Dec. 21. Prizes will be awarded for items that receive the most votes via monetary contributions. Each cent deposited into a collection box for a particular tree, wreath or centerpiece equals one vote for that item.
Another larger tree auction is already taking place in Westminster. The 7th annual Festival of Trees is under way at the TownMall. The event features 65 trees with accompanying gift packages and will benefit The Shepherd's Staff. The silent auction ends Dec. 14.
The 16th Annual Festival of Wreaths is under way at Carroll Arts Center in Westminster. More than 150 creatively-themed wreaths are on display at the week-long silent auction that is the Carroll County Arts Council's most significant fundraising event of the year. A different activity is planned at the center every day until the close of the festival Dec. 8.
'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'
Some towns have already held their biggest holiday events of the year, but some are still to come.
Sykesville will host a "Merry Main Street" on Saturday. The Grinch, Rudolph and Frosty will be among the costumed characters meeting children at the Town House for activities from 1 to 4 p.m. Mrs. Claus will hold storytime there about every half hour, and holiday music will be provided by the String Echoes. Kids can make a reindeer cupcake, write a letter to Santa and make other crafts.
At the same time, the town of Sykesville is hosting the downtown events, Friendship Baptist Church will hold "A Cowboy Christmas" just a couple of blocks away in Millard Cooper Park. Activities at the park include a puppet musical, pony rides and a petting zoo.
Carolers arrive at the Town House at 5 p.m., and Santa makes his way there via fire truck at 6 p.m. to light the tree before going to the caboose for photos. An outdoor screening of "Frosty the Snowman" will wrap up the event-filled day in Sykesville.
Mount Airy's Main Street celebration will also be held Saturday. This year, the town is introducing a Holiday Art Show by the Arts Alliance as part of the festivities. Visitors can peruse the pieces from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Town Hall. A tree lighting in the Plaza will take place at 5 p.m., followed by musical performances from high school and middle school groups. The Twinkling Santa Parade starts at 7 p.m., with the man in red available for visits afterward at Firehouse Pottery and Arts.
"We really hope people come down and spend this time with their families," said Community Development Coordinator Melissa Hoyle. But, if they miss Santa, "there will be a special mailbox set up outside for children to mail their letters straight to the North Pole."
'Away in a Manger'
Nativity scenes are one way Christians observe the holiday that is among the most sacred of the year. Many individuals and churches are setting up the vignettes depicting the birth of Christ. One group is hosting a "Community Celebration of Christmas" that will feature displays of nativities from all around the world. The event will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 22 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Ridge Road in Mount Airy.
Organizer Martha Marsh said the celebration will also include musical performances from different church choirs from around the area.
"We wanted the whole community to be able to celebrate Christmas," she said.
For some who have lost loved ones, this time of year comes with the holiday blues and painful yearnings for those who can no longer share the season. The Carroll Hospital Center Auxiliary and Carroll Hospice will host "A Season to Remember" starting Monday to help individuals and families honor those who died as well as to raise funds for the two organizations that focus on helping people at a time of great loss.
The week-long event begins with the illumination of the Tree of Lights at 7 p.m. Monday in the hospital's meditation garden. A Memorial Tree Ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 in Dove House. Memorial lights and ornaments may be purchased for display on the trees. A silent auction of 30 decorated trees will also be held through 5 p.m. Dec. 10. Throughout the week, music and drama groups will provide entertainment.