Photo by Valerie Hoffman
Today, nothing evokes the holiday spirit quite like a brightly-lit tree, but light wasn’t part of the original concept. The celebratory tree tradition traces all the way back to decidedly low-tech 15th century Germany. The first instance of decorative light – in the form of wax candles – wasn’t recorded for another 300 years.
Candle-lit holiday trees took off as an American tradition after 1850, when a drawing of Queen Victoria’s “Christmas Tree” appeared in Philadelphia’s “Godey’s Lady’s Book.” Electric lights became a popular trimming after President Coolidge flipped the switch on the first “National Christmas Tree” in 1923.
If you can’t make it to Washington for the lighting of the 89th National Christmas Tree this December 1, there are plenty of towns across Michigan hosting their own tree lighting ceremonies this month and next. The list below likely includes a celebration near you.
Grand Haven Light Night
November 18, Grand Haven
Enjoy downtown Grand Haven as the lights begin to turn on in the trees for the first time in the holiday season. Participating stores will be holding their holiday open houses with excellent ideas for everyone on your holiday list.
Silver Bells in the City
November 18, Lansing
Celebrate the season with 80,000 attendees of downtown Lansing’s annual electric light parade, including the lighting of Michigan’s official Christmas tree and a beautiful fireworks display cascading over the capitol dome.
Christmas in the Village
November 18 – 19, Manchester
This Manchester event features horse-drawn wagon rides, a parade, Santa greetings, a bake sale, and the annual Christmas tree lighting.
Frankenmuth Holiday Celebration & Candlewalk
November 25, Frankenmuth
The perfect way to start the Christmas season. Hot chocolate and cookies at 6pm. Candlewalk from the River Place to the Chamber Platz for the lighting of the Tannenbaum. Santa will be in the Pavilion from 6:30-8:30pm on Friday, November 25.
Santa’s Arrival & Tree Lighting
November 25, Plymouth
Santa arrives in Kellogg Park, November 25 at 5:40pm with a Christmas carol sing-a-long and tree lighting to follow. After caroling, Santa will be escorted to his house.
Au Gres Chamber of Commerce Annual Christmas Parade
November 26, Au Gres
The tree lighting starts at 5:45 pm, followed by Christmas Parade at 6. The parade ends at Au Gres City Pavilion, on North Main Street with hot chocolate and Santa visits!
Family Christmas – Muskegon
November 26, Muskegon
Hackley Park hosts the Muskegon tree lighting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Santa will be there, and hot chocolate and hot dogs available for purchase.
Festival of Lights
November 26, Pentwater
Pentwater is decorated for the season with shopping, dining, carolers, music, chestnuts roasting, horse drawn carriage rides and other fun scheduled throughout the day. The Pentwater tree lighting and Santa’s arrival takes place on the Village Green at 5 pm.
Santa’s Arrival and Courthouse Lighting
November 29, Midland
Santa’s arrival parade starts at the Tridge at 7:00 pm, followed by the Courthouse lighting ceremony and the opening of Santa’s magical house on Main Street.
Les Cheneaux Old Fashion Christmas
November 25 – December 4, Les Cheneaux
Tree lightings take place on the 25th and 26th, with the Les Cheneaux Holiday Arts and Crafts Bazaar on November 26.
Goodrich’s Downtown Christmas
December 1, Goodrich
The Goodrich tree lighting ceremony includes Santa, choirs, carol singing and the reading of the Christmas story. Throughout the downtown area there will be street vendors, music and more.
Santa’s Arrival in Traverse City
December 2, Traverse City
Santa will join the carols, receive the key to his house from the Traverse City Mayor and then help light the tree at 6 pm, before spending the rest of the evening (6-8 pm) visiting the little ones at his holiday house across at Cass and Front Streets.
Cadillac’s Downtown Storybook Christmas
December 2 – 3, Cadillac
Downtown Cadillac will bustle with activity all weekend. Enjoy store specials, holiday menus and Santa’s arrival before Christmas trees are lit around the lake front.
Victorian Sleigh Bell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend – Manistee
December 1 – 4, Manistee
The Festival of Trees follows an authentic Victorian parade complete with period costumes and horse-drawn units.
Lexington Christmas Tree Lighting & Merchant Candle Walk
December 3, Lexington
Join in the Lexington Christmas Tree Lighting and merchant Candle Walk. Santa arrives at 7 pm, followed by a sing along, trolley rides and more.
Circle of Trees – North Muskegon
December 4, Muskegon
Walker Park in North Muskegon hosts the annual Circle of Trees, including a lighting ceremony, dog parade and community carol sing-a-long.
The Big, Bright Light Show – Rochester
November 28, 2011 – January 1, 2012, Rochester
All the buildings on Main Street from the south bridge to Romeo Rd. will be covered in over a million points of light, along with East and West Fourth Street. Also, there will be large, lighted displays on Walnut from Third to University, The Dazzling Tree of Lights at the Depot Plaza (E. University & Water), and The Snowflake Spectacular on the Western Knitting Mill on Water Street.