Holiday happenings around Asheville

SOLSTICE SOUNDS Amy White, pictured, and others celebrate winter with music, song and dance from Celtic, Appalachian, Scots-Irish and world traditions. Photo by Sandra Stambaugh

The holiday season is in full swing, and there’s so many celebratory possibilities that it would be easy to miss out on something big — lights shows, a trolley tour, a naughty elf and good music are all on the list.

Consider this a bit of a cheat sheet, providing a peek at festively themed craft shows, art openings, theatrical productions and concerts. Need more ideas? Visit the Community Calendar and

• Santaland Diaries started as an essay by David Sedaris about the holiday season he spent working as an elf at Macy’s. He read a version of the story on Public Radio International’s “This American Life” more than 20 years ago, and it was adapted for the stage. The one-man play returns to 35below at Asheville Community Theatre, 35 E. Walnut St., Wednesday, Dec. 14, through Saturday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m., with 9:30 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Dec. 18. $15.

• “Revel with local musicians and storytellers,” says the webpage for Christmas at Connemara, held Saturday, Dec. 17, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. The celebration takes place in the garage adjacent to the Sandburg Home. There will be cookies and cider, and craft-making in the bookstore from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 81 Carl Sandburg Lane, Flat Rock,

LIGHT IT UP: The North Carolina Arboretum's Winter Lights display, picture, is one of many outdoor LED light exhibits to visit throughout the holidays. Photo courtesy of the N.C. Arboretum
LIGHT IT UP: The North Carolina Arboretum’s Winter Lights display, pictured, is one of many outdoor LED light exhibits to visit throughout the holidays. Photo courtesy of the N.C. Arboretum

• The North Carolina Arboretum hosts its Winter Lights exhibit through Sunday, Jan. 1. The walk-through experience — “a winter wonderland [of] uniquely lit displays and landscapes composed of nearly 500,000 energy-efficient LED lights,” according to the arboretum’s website — is on view in the gardens. “Listen to the sounds of your favorite holiday tunes or enjoy a cup of holiday-inspired cocoa, cider or beer,” and the property’s Savory Thyme Café serves a holiday buffet every weekend. 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way. 6-10 nightly. $18 adults/$16 children ages 5-11 with group and member discounts available.

• Duo Vela is American flutist Marla Nistico and Australian guitarist Daniel Nistico. The married musicians started their band while attending The Eastman School of Music. Though they’ve toured extensively (including in China, Australia and New Zealand), the Nisticos recently relocated to Asheville. They’ll play a special concert as part of the N.C. Arboretum’s Winter Lights (see above). The performance of Christmas carols takes place on Sunday and Tuesday, Dec. 25 and 27, 6:30-10 p.m., on the Education Centre’s Atrium Stage.

• The Lake Julian Festival of Lights is a drive-through light show featuring thousands of colored bulbs and 50 animated and stationary displays. The exhibit is on view through Friday, Dec. 23, 6-9 nightly. $5 cars/$10 vans/$25 motor coaches. 406 Overlook Road Ext., Arden,

• Celebrate Irish and Scottish heritage (yours or someone else’s) at the annual Celtic Yulefest. “The word yule comes from the Old English ‘geol,’ which was the name of the winter festival held in many European countries around the time of the winter solstice,” says a press release. The gathering includes music from Carolina Ceili with special guests The Belfast Boys, fiddler Laura Smith and the Ashegrove Garland Dancers at White Horse Black Mountain, 105 C Montreat Road, on Saturday, Dec. 17, 8 p.m. $18 advance/$20 at the door.

• If your band name is “The Mistletoes,” you’d better book a lot of gigs in December. Actually, that group (Chris Boerner on guitar, Allyn Love on pedal steel, Casey Toll on bass and Joe Westerlund on drums) backs Raleigh-based singer-songwriter Jeanne Jolly on her seasonal-themed eight-date Jolly Holiday Revue. Expect “a mix of holiday favorites and original compositions,” according to a press release for the show that stops at the Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, 743 Haywood Road, on Saturday, Dec. 17, 7 and 9:15 p.m. $15.

• The historic Smith-McDowell House offers special insight into a Victorian-era Christmas. “Six rooms of the Smith-McDowell House representing the 1840s-1890s will be on display with costumed interpreters describing the evolution of Clement Moore’s poem through the 19th century,” says a press release. The theme of the house’s holiday display is Moore’s famed A Visit from St. Nicholas. The Smith-McDowell house is open to the public Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday, 1-4 p.m. Christmas decorations will be on view through Friday, Jan. 6; general daytime admission is $9. 283 Victoria Road,

• “Using the most technologically advanced equipment in the industry, Christmas Wonderland magically expresses what Christmas means to us,” say the organizers of Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland, a “drive-through, fully synchronized, LED Christmas light and music show” held in six locations. One of those spots is the WNC Agricultural Center, 1301 Fanning Bridge Road, Fletcher. Visit the display through Friday, Dec. 30, dusk-10 p.m. $25 cars and family vans/$40 activity vans.

FUN FOR ALL: “Whether you honor Kwanzaa, Hanukah, Christmas, Solstice, all of them, or just the days getting longer again, there will be something for everyone," says the Billy Jonas Band, pictured, of its all-faith holiday show. Photo courtesy of the band
FUN FOR ALL: “Whether you honor Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice, all of them, or just the days getting longer again, there will be something for everyone,” says the Billy Jonas Band, pictured, of its all-faith holiday show. Photo courtesy of the band

• Local collective The Billy Jonas Band combines conventional instruments with homemade noisemakers (“buckets and barrels, keys and cans, bells and body percussion,” according to a press release) to craft sounds that appeal to a range of ages. The group performs an all-faith holiday show — “Whether you honor Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice, all of them, or just the days getting longer again, there will be something for everyone. … Our goal is truly to put more love in the world” — at White Horse Black Mountain on Sunday, Dec. 18, 3 p.m. $10 advance/$12 at the door.

• Winter Wonderland at The Grove Arcade runs through Wednesday, Jan. 4. Events are free and open to the public and include a visit from Santa on Sunday, Dec. 18, and a gingerbread house display in partnership with The Omni Grove Park Inn’s annual gingerbread house competition. 1 Page Ave.

• The annual Swannanoa Solstice concert celebrates winter with “a splendid selection of Celtic, Appalachian, Scots-Irish, and world-influenced holiday music on guitars, mandolins, Appalachian dulcimer, Celtic harp, bouzouki, piano and world percussion,” according to a description of this year’s show. Multi-instrumentalists Al Petteway, Amy White and Robin Bullock perform with musician and storyteller David Holt, dancers Phil Jamison and Ellie Grace, and Highland bagpiper E.J. Jones. Doug Orr hosts. Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 and 7 p.m. at Diana Wortham Theatre, 2 S. Pack Square. $45 general/$40 students/$20 children.

• The Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley Tour offers a trip through “the lights and sights of the holidays, stories of local holiday traditions, and singing of classic carols,” according to the tour’s website. The 75-minute ride runs Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. through Friday, Dec. 30. $23 adults/$11 children ages 5-11, reservations required. The trolley departs the Olde World Christmas Shoppe, 5 Boston Way.

• Montford Park Players presents its Day with Dickens Festival and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18. The festival — crafts and food in the setting of “a tranquil Victorian village,” according to a press release, takes place from 3-5 p.m. “There will be outdoor space heaters and free hot cider and hot chocolate for the wee ones, and mulled wine available for purchase. The place will be lit up, as the season should be, and a festive atmosphere will prevail, despite the presence of mean, old Scrooge.” A performance of the beloved holiday play follows at 5 p.m. Both events are free and take place at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater, 92 Gay St. Theatergoers are asked to bring donations of dry or canned goods for MANNA FoodBank.

• Grovewood Gallery brings back its Vessels of Merriment exhibit — the work of 14 ceramic artists showcasing “everything from beer steins and growlers to porcelain sake sets and decorative moonshine jugs,” according to a press release — throughout the holiday season. It will remain on view through Saturday, Dec. 31. To add to the imbibing theme, the galley also hosts its final Holiday Sip & Shop events on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 16 and 17, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Craft demonstrations by local artists, wine, warm cider and cookies are part of the festivities. 111 Grovewood Road,

• The Asheville Symphony Chamber Chorus performs Carol Reflections: an evening of Christmas music featuring “24 stellar voices and harp,” as the group’s schedule describes it. The concert takes place on Friday, Dec. 16, 8 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 40 Church St. $15.


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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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