Pure Michigan Holiday Tree Lightings

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.

Pure Michigan November Events Roundup

November in Michigan is a unique combination of fall festivities and holiday cheer. From festivals to parades to local tree lightings, check out our roundup of great events happening around the state. For more suggestions of things to do this month in Michigan, visit michigan.org.

Michigan East CentralEast Central

First Frost Arts and Fine Crafts Festival
November 5 – 6, 2011, Flint
Take in a glass blowing demonstration and explore artist tables filled with creations made out of wood, fiber, clay and more. For more information, call (810) 234-1695 or visit http://www.flintarts.org.

Zehnder’s Bakery Holiday How-To’s
November 15 – 17, 2011, Frankenmuth
Learn how to prepare culinary creations like the experts, as the renowned Zehnder’s Bakery will offer classes on decorating cookies, building a gingerbread house, making a yule log and more. For more information, call (800) 863-7999.

Midland Santa Parade
November 19, 2011, Midland
Take in a fun holiday parade beginning at 10 a.m. at Midland High School. The route will go down Ashman Street to Main Street and ends near Cronkright. For more information, call (989) 835-5862.

Frankenmuth Holiday Celebration & Candlewalk
November 25, 2011, Frankenmuth
The city where it always feels like Christmas will kick off the holiday season with a candlewalk from the River Place to the Chamber Platz for the lighting of the Tannenbaum. The ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m. Call (800) FUN –TOWN for more information.

Christmas Candlelight Walk
November 25 -26, 2011, Chesaning
Stroll down Christmas Tree Lane, take in a tree lighting ceremony near the railroad tracks that features the 1225 Steam Locomotive and enjoy Santa’s Village at the local fairgrounds. For more information, call (800) 255-3055.

Santa’s Arrival and Courthouse Lighting
November 29, 2011, Midland
Santa will have a busy night in Midland, as he will star in the city parade, be on hand for the courthouse lighting and then will open his magical house on Main Street. The fun starts at 7 p.m. For more information, call (989) 837-3330.

Reese Holiday Walk
November 29, 2011, Reese
The Village of Reese invites all to their holiday walk featuring horse and buggy rides, a soup cook-off and, of course, Santa Claus. For more information, call (989) 868-4291.




Grayling Christmas Walk
November 19, 2011, Grayling
The Christmas spirit will be in full effect with music, decoration and an open house with merchants from the Uptown District. Call (800) 937-8837 for more information.

Au Gres Chamber of Commerce Annual Christmas Parade
November 26, 2011, Au Gres
It will be a full night of fun in Au Gres, with a Christmas tree lighting beginning at 5:45 p.m., which will be immediately followed by the holiday parade, which concludes at the city pavilion with hot chocolate and a visit from Santa.




Iceman Cometh Challenge
November 5, 2011, Traverse City
3,700 cyclists from the United States and Canada converge on Traverse City for the Iceman Cometh Challenge – a 27-mile bicycle race through the Pere Marquette State Forest. Rain, sunshine, sleet, snow or ice – nothing stops this race. For more information, call (231) 922-5926 or visit http://www.iceman.com.

Toast the Season Wine Trail Event
November 5 -6 or November 12 -13, 2011, Suttons Bay
Choose your weekend and enjoy a special pour at each of the Leelanau Peninsula member wineries, gourmet food and a gift basket with a souvenir glass and an ornament. For more information, call (231) 256-2829 or visit http://lpwines.com/toast.

Santa is Coming to Boyne City
November 25, 2011, Boyne City
A Boyne City tradition returns for another year, as businesses will decorate the city with floats and offer shopping and hospitality. Santa will arrive on his sleigh with his elves during the holiday parade and will meet all the children at Old City Park. For more information, call (231) 582-9009.

Stafford’s Downtown Petoskey Holiday Parade
November 26, 2011, Petoskey
The party is in Petoskey for a holiday parade featuring floats from local businesses, marching bands and the guest of honor, Santa Claus. After the parade, bring the kids to meet Santa at Stafford’s Perry Hotel. For more information, call (231) 622-8501.

Michigan SoutheastSoutheast

East Lansing Film Festival
November 9 -17, 2011, East Lansing
Michigan’s largest and most diverse film festival will feature documentaries, shorts, student productions and independent films from around the world. For more information, call (517) 980-5802 or visit http://elff.com.

Tecumseh Holiday Open House
November 11 – 13, 2011, Tecumseh
Holiday shopping will be very festive in downtown Tecumseh, as lights and decorations will adorn the local businesses. For more information, call (517) 424-6003.

Silver Bells in the City
November 18, 2011, Lansing
Join 80,000 attendees in the state’s capitol city as we light Michigan’s official Christmas tree and experience a beautiful fireworks display cascading over the capitol dome. Enjoy local shopping and free admission to the city’s cultural institutions. For more information, call (517) 487-3322 or visit http://www.silverbellsinthecity.org.

Detroit Christmas Wonderfest
November 18 – 27, 2011, Detroit
Christmas Wonderfest is an indoor/outdoor international festival that will include an International Marketplace, a local showcase and gallery featuring work from the region’s finest artists, and a Central City Marketplace offering mementos from Detroit’s most beloved landmarks and cultural institutions. Wonderfest begins with the ceremonial Holiday season tree-lighting event on November 18. For more information, visit http://www.christmaswonderfest.com.

America’s Thanksgiving Parade
November 24, 2011, Detroit
A popular Michigan tradition, this year’s parade will have crowd favorites and new surprises with more than 75 parade units including floats, balloons, award-winning marching bands, clowns, specialty acts, celebrities and The Parade Company’s own Distinguished Clown Corps. For more information, call (313) 923-7400 or visit http://theparade.org.

Santa’s Arrival & Tree Lighting in Plymouth
November 25, 2011, Plymouth
Grab the kids and head over to Kellogg Park at 5:40 p.m. to see Santa, sing holiday carols and witness the lighting of the city tree. For more information, call (734) 453-1540.

Fantasy of Lights Parade
November 25, 2011, Howell
It will be a full afternoon and evening in Howell to celebrate the holidays. Entertainment, including visits with Santa and live reindeer, begin at 3 p.m., followed by the Fantasy 5K Run and then the Fantasy of Lights Parade, each entry of which will be illuminated with at least 5,000 lights. For more information, call (517) 546-3920.

28th Annual Matthes Christmas Tree Festival
November 25 – 27, 2011, Ida
There’s nothing like a freshly-cut Michigan Christmas tree, and you can select your own at the Matthes Christmas Tree Festival. Also enjoy visits with Santa, refreshments and crafters. Call (734) 269-2668 for more information.

Michigan Southwest


Luminary Festival – St. Joseph
November 18, 2011, St. Joseph
Stroll down the candle-lit streets of St. Joseph and complete your holiday shopping as the local shops will be open late and many merchants will offer refreshments. For more information, call (269) 985-1111 or visit http://www.sjtoday.org/events/luminary-festival.html.

Battle Creek Holiday Parade
November 19, 2011, Battle Creek
The annual Battle Creek Holiday Parade has it all – classic cars, clowns, bands and, of course, floats. It will be fun for the whole family. Call (269) 420-4031 for more information.

Kalamazoo Russian Festival
November 19, 2011, Kalamazoo
This festival is the largest Russian Festival in the United States. Held at Western Michigan University’s Fetzer Center, the event features food, art, vendors and special performance by the Russian Embassy Children’s Choir. For more information, visit http://www.russiaanfestival.org.

International Festival of Lights
November 19 – December 3, 2011, Battle Creek
This two-week event kicks off with the Battle Creek Holiday Parade on November 19 and all of the displays have been updated with LED lights. One of the most popular lighting displays is the Twelve Days of Christmas which is located on the back lawn of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.bcfestivals.com/index.taf?s=4.

Upper Peninsula

Upper Peninsula

Christmas Tree Galleria
November 12 -20, 2011, Caspian
How do you decorate your Christmas tree? In Caspian, more than 50 trees with rural, ethnic and international themes will be on display at the Iron County Historical Museum Complex. For more information, call (906) 265-2617.

Paradise Christmas Bazaar
November 26, 2011, Paradise
It’s a shopper’s paradise in Paradise, as unique handcrafted holiday gifts will be on display at the Whitefish Township Community Center. For more information, call (906) 492-3434.

Starry, Starry Night in Grand Marais
November 26, 2011, Grand Mariais
Get a head start on your holiday shopping the Saturday after Thanksgiving as the local merchants and shops in Grand Marais will be  open late and offer spectacular shopping specials. For more information, contact (906) 494-2447.

Les Cheneaux Old Fashioned Christmas
November 27 – December 7, 2011, Les Cheneaux Islands
For those looking for some old-fashioned courtesies and northern Michigan charm, look no further than the tiny village of Les Cheneaux. Experience three tree-lighting ceremonies on November 28 and 29 and on December 7. For more information, call (906) 484-3935 or visit http://www.lescheneaux.org/Special_Events/oldfashionedchristmas.html.

Michigan West Central

 West Central

Restaurant Week in Grand Rapids
November 3 -13, 2011, Grand Rapids
Treat your taste buds in Grand Rapids, as more than 50 restaurants will feature a three-course menu for a fixed price of $25 in addition to their regular menu. Be on the lookout for some special items as well. For more information, call (800) 678-9859 or visit http://restaurantweekgr.com.

Grand Rapids International Wine & Food Festival
November 17 – 19, 2011, Grand Rapids
This annual event is for wine connoisseurs and novices alike. Take in a wine seminar, try some wine pairings with creations from local restaurants and try wine, beer and spirits from around the world. Adults $15. For more information, visit http://www.showspan.com.

Festival of Trees
November 17 – 27, 2011, Muskegon
The Muskegon Museum of Art presents 11 days of beautifully decorated holiday trees and wreaths decorated by local designers and sold during a silent auction. A holiday movie festival, Teddy Bear Breakfast with Santa and other holiday celebrations are offered. For more information, call (231) 720-2570.

Grand Haven Light Night
November 18, 2011, Grand Haven
Grand Haven begins the holiday season with its Light Night. Trees will be illuminated with holiday lights, and local stores will hold open houses with gift suggestions for everybody on your shopping list. For more information, call (616) 844-1188 or visit http://www.downtowngrandhaven.com.

Family Christmas in Muskegon
November 26, 2011, Muskegon
The lighting of the Christmas tree at Hackley Park in Muskegon is an annual tradition, with carolers.

Pentwater Festival of Lights
November 26, 2011, Pentwater
The village of Pentwater will be decorated for the season with shopping, dining, carolers, music, chestnuts roasting, horse drawn carriage rides and more. Santa arrives at 5 p.m. – just in time for the tree lighting ceremony.  For more information, call (231) 869-4150.

Nite Lites Drive-Thru Christmas Lights Display
November 18, 2011 – January 1, 2012, Comstock Park
Back for its 14th year, the Nite Lites offers more than 40 creative and animated displays with approximately one million lights, which covers over a mile of fun. 6 – 10 p.m. daily. For more information, call (616) 292-1431.