December is here, as the light snowfall last Sunday briefly reminded campus before sending along unseasonal echoes of spring. Putting this aberration aside, Maine generally goes all out when it comes to holiday festivities, seen in the multitude of outdoor activities and the cozy indoor events replete with hot cocoa and Christmas lights.
And for those who need a distraction from reading period—take a break to explore some of the local attractions that define a Maine holiday experience.
Melding intrinsic Maine-ness with holiday cheer, L.L. Bean lights up Freeport every December with the L.L. Bean Northern Lights. From November 16 to December 31, the store illuminates downtown Freeport with a nightly Musical Holiday Light Show. The ubiquitous Maine company also hosts horse-drawn wagon rides, musical performances, and sled dogs throughout the holiday season.
Stop and admire one of the largest Christmas trees in the state outside of L.L.Bean while you are shopping at the outlets, or soaking up the glitz of Freeport Sparkle Weekend, which starts today and continues through this Sunday.
The event-packed weekend begins tonight with the popular Sparkle Parade of Lights and culminates in a tuba concert Saturday afternoon. Don’t forget the Talking Christmas Tree, which provides constant narration and caroling to passersby throughout the weekend.
A quick car ride south, the city of Portland bustles with events during December, from craft fairs to theatrical performances, and makes for a great all-around downtown Christmas shopping and window shopping experience.
The Maine College of Art Holiday Sale features handmade gifts by students and professors, and runs tomorrow December 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For DIY products and vintage goods, visit The Picnic Holiday Sale, an indie craft fair that takes place this Sunday, December 9 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m in downtown Portland.
The Portland Stage Company is currently showing two seasonal performances: A Christmas Carol and David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries. These stylistically polar opposites—little winter pun there—both promise holiday fulfillment, whether through the thought-provoking themes of Dickens’ Christmas classic or the equally thought-provoking, yet infinitely snarkier satire by the modern comedic legend.
For those who don’t have access to wheels, or simply want to experience the Maine holiday season on foot, Brunswick is a festive little town in its own right.
Keep an eye out for particularly extravagant window decorations, as the town holds its annual Window Wonderland decorating contest that many of the local shops downtown participate in.
The Brunswick Farmer’s Market, reincarnated in Fort Andross as the Brunswick Winter Market in November, is a warm haven of hearty breads, fresh vegetables, and fragrant handmade soaps Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Frontier Café also has an impressive line-up in the month of December, ranging from a documentary about the ever-disappearing glaciers in the Artic, to an evening of holiday comedy acts next Friday, December 14, with performer Karen Morgan.
Maine has a variety of festivals and other organized events that commemorate the holidays, but if the snow starts falling, it opens up a whole new window of opportunity for winter activity. Yes, the state is home to over a dozen commercial ski areas, but more impromptu outdoor adventures are waiting just outside the boundaries of the Quad. Borrow equipment from the Bowdoin Outing Club and snowshoe or ski through the Maine woods (the Town Commons is beautiful when blanketed in snow), as long as you are careful not to stumble over a well-camouflaged root.
If you are fortunate and have the resources in acquaintances and supplies, grab a friend who hails from Maine or who knows what he or she is doing and go ice fishing on a local pond. Bundle up, bring a thermos of hot cocoa, and be prepared to catch way too many pickerel.
Live a balanced northern New England life this holiday season; juxtapose paper-writing with a chat with the Talking Tree with a jaunt out in the wilderness. You are, after all, a Polar Bear.