Ho Ho Hold on a minute! What are you doing this weekend (and the next couple for that matter)? ILLINOISouth knows how to celebrate the season in style. There are several communities in our region that host unique Holiday events and gatherings. We’ve combed through our event calendar and picked out a few that will pique your interest!
For a trip back to Christmas past, pay a visit to Lebanon on November 19 and 20 for their ever-popular Victorian Holiday celebration. Follow Ol’ Lamplighter as he strolls down Brick Street lighting up the store fronts, and take a horse drawn carriage ride! There are also carolers and madrigals dressed in Victorian-era attire, and of course there are plenty of holiday treats and sweets to go around.
The community of Red Bud REALLY gets into the holiday spirit, with a handful of events planned over a few different weekends. It all kicks off on Friday, November 26 with a tree lighting ceremony downtown. On the 3rd, 10th, and 17th Santa’s Village downtown will host visits with Santa – which is great facetime for the kiddos to tell the big man exactly what they want for Christmas! On the 7th and 8th you can have dinner with Santa as well.
This open-air German Christmas market is open weekends leading up to Christmas, starting the Friday after Thanksgiving. Admission is free, and you can shop from many different vendors who have their wares displayed from their chalets. There are FREE trolley rides on the weekends, and children can visit with Santa on the Square during weekends as well!
Take a drive around Charley Brown Park to enjoy the beautiful Christmas Lights. Drop a letter in Santa's mailbox. Visits from Santa, cookies with Santa, Carriage Rides and a family Christmas Movie Night will be some of the events taking place each weekend! Donations are also welcomed in the donation box located inside the park.
This is the first year for what promises to be an amazing Holiday event in Sainte Marie! This Jasper County community is set to be all decked out for Whoville on Saturday, November 27 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will be an ice skating rink, Christmas tree sales, wagon rides, and appearances by the Grinch, Cindy Lou Who, and Mrs. Claus! There also plans to be a town tree lighting and caroling at dusk. If you’re looking for the feel of Christmas in a small town, this is it!
Come Home for Christmas is a downtown event that includes a Christmas parade, live music, window decorating & lighting contests, free popcorn, hot cocoa and other fare. There will also be a Christmas Tree decorating contest and auction. Local businesses will have specials to celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 27.
For a chance to take the family to chat with Santa, there are multiple opportunities in downtown Highland. Jolly Saint Nick will be welcoming kiddos for Santa on the Square starting on November 27, and again each weekend through December 23 from 6-8 p.m.
Ladies, grab your best girls and enjoy an evening of fun, food and festivities! There will be an auction for beautifully decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, porch planters and centerpieces on November 29 at 8th Day Avenue in Vandalia. For only $20, you get two drink tickets, a light dinner buffet and chances to win very cool stuff! It’s going to be quite the event.
The 33rd Annual Christmas on the River in Chester is slated for December 3-5. Scavenger Hunts, craft and vendor sales, Santa visits, a lighted parade, community tree lighting and more! The Hometown of Popeye would love to have you for this family-friendly event.
Enjoy a Christmas Shopping Stroll in Downtown Centralia on Friday, December 3 from 3 -7 p.m. Activities include horse-drawn carriage rides, an opportunity to meet Santa, carolers and other musical performances, a live Nativity scene, and much more. Best part is, the Christmas Stroll is free to attend!
For an iconic Holiday experience, a trip to Mt. Carmel’s Christmas Uptown is a must. This year’s festivities are scheduled for Friday, December 3 from 4-9 p.m. There is a plethora of holiday themed activities including carriages, wagons, trains, ponies, photo ops, shopping, food and fun for the entire family.
The quaint community of Okawville plays host to folks each year for their Annual Christmas Stroll. This year’s festivities are scheduled for Friday, December 3 from 4-9 p.m. There will be food trucks with live music and short kids movies throughout the evening. A live nativity will begin at 6 p.m., and there will also be caroling in the park and decorated porches throughout town.
While Casey is well known for their WIDE array of large items sprinkled throughout town, there is another thing that the community likes to tout. Candy Canes on Main is a holiday event that features SO many different activities. Santa arrives to Casey on Friday, December 3 at the end of the parade during Candy Canes on Main. This originally started as a shop small event, and has since evolved into so much more. While there are terrific shopping opportunities throughout the weekend, there are other great aspects. A fan favorite is Santa himself reading a bedtime story from the second story balcony of a local shop.
For a chance to shop for several of your friends and family, look no further than the Holiday Pop-Up Market in Robinson! Several local makers, crafters, and artisans will be on hand at Cross Street Station on Saturday, December 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a variety of baked goods, handcrafted décor, boutique apparel, jewelry, was candle melts, food truck and so much more!
Tucked in the heart of Washington County between Nashville and Okawville, you will find Rainbow Ranch. This farm full of amazing animals is truly a hidden gem. This time of year you can see the camels, miniature donkeys, and other critters in the 150+ year old barn, all decorated for the holidays. Rainbow Ranch will be operating on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from Noon-4 p.m. through December 19.
In the beautiful college town of Charleston (home of Eastern Illinois University), there is a years-long Holiday tradition called Christmas in the Heart of Charleston. The festivities include carriage rides, refreshments, musical entertainment, costumed characters, roasted chestnuts, a DanceLife Performance, Santa, and much more. This event is slated for Saturday, December 4 from 4:45-7 p.m.
Located just south of Charleston lies Cumberland County, home to communities like Neoga, Toledo, and Greenup. Businesses in the county will have various specials on Saturday, December 4. Be sure to check the Facebook page for Cumberland County Development Corporation for further information regarding what the specials are at each business and location and hours of Santa in the County. This event is county wide!
Celebrate the holiday season in traditional German style in Maeystown! Enjoy hammered dulcimer and strolling bass brand music alongside German and traditional carol singers. An Old Fashioned German Christmas also includes a Weihnachthaus tour (mini house tour) featuring three homes, complementary carriages rides throughout the village, photo opportunities in a Victorian horse sleigh, visits with Sankt Nikolaus, and traditional foods like glüwein, weihnacht stew and a Taste of Christmas dessert samplings. Children can enjoy stories by Frau Kringle or make their own German craft while adults learn to fold German paper stars. And you won't want to leave before you stop by the quilt show, observe a Santa wood carver at work and see the wrapped sassafras tree. The entire family can enjoy shopping at the unique local shops and the Chriskindlmarkt, and then finish the day with a carol sing around the lighting of the village Weihnachtsbaum. This day full of fun is set for Sunday, December 5 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Hear your favorite holiday music performed by the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America in their holiday concert. All events are open to the public and held at the 488-seat performing arts center at McKendree University. Ticket prices range from $5 for children, to $38 for adults, with discounts for students and seniors. The concerts will be held at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts on December 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., each night.
Take in a beautiful piece of history while it’s all decorated for the holidays. The Old Statehouse will host visitors for cookies, hot apple cider, music, candlelight tours and the first 100 families will receive the annual Statehouse ornament. This has become a long-running tradition in Vandalia, and can be experienced on Saturday, December 11 from 5-7 p.m.
One of the most popular markets in ILLINOISouth comes back to life for one day to host it’s Winter Market! Vine Street Market at O’Fallon Station in O’Fallon will feature carriage rides, live music, food trucks, children’s activities, and over 50 vendors to shop from. Everything is slated for Saturday, December 11 from 3:30-7:30 p.m.
Lighted Christmas Parades are yet another holiday tradition, and so many communities throughout ILLINOISouth host them. Of course, you should always do a quick Internet or social media search for more information on parades near you as details can change. That said, here are a few notable parades to mark on your calendars for the coming weeks!
Saturday, Nov. 27
Friday, Dec. 3
Saturday, Dec. 4
Saturday, Dec. 11
It’s worth noting that the events and parades listed above are just a portion of what goes on in ILLINOISouth each week. For a detailed list of everything to do on a particular day in our neck of the woods visit illinoisouth.org/events.