Kids’ Almanac (12/6-13)


Kaatsbaan hosts Vanaver Caravan/Arm-of-the-Sea Theater’s Into the Light

Do you think of “Santa Lucia” as a 19th-century Italian barcarolla about a Catholic saint taking a boat ride? Think again. That tradition may actually have its roots in the period during the Middle Ages when Sicily was a Norman fiefdom. Being descended from the Vikings, those recently Christianized Normans honored the old Norse Pagan belief in the personification of light itself, Latinized as Lucia and represented in Winter Solstice pageants as a young maiden wearing a crown of lit candles. And the time of year when the days are shortest was the time when her favor was most ardently invoked. In the time-honored process of cultural appropriation known as syncretism, the solar goddess was conflated with a fourth-century Roman martyr from Syracuse, who was assigned her December 13 festival as a feast day.

The Vanaver Caravan and Arm-of-the-Sea Theater incorporated this hybrid tradition into their winter holiday spectacular Into the Light! in which a girl named Lucia from a far northern land loses her inner light as the sun wanes. Using dance, live music and puppetry, a faithful Bear guides Lucia around the world to see how light is kept glowing through the darkest time of the year. In case you missed it at Sinterklaas in Rhinebeck, you get four more opportunities to catch Into the Light! on Friday and Saturday, December 8 and 9 at the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli. Performances begin at 1 and 4 p.m. both days.

Tickets cost $20 general admission, $10 for children and students. To order, call (845) 757-5106, extension 110, or visit For more info about the show, visit


Into the Light, Friday/Saturday, Dec. 8/9, 1 & 4 p.m., $20/$10, Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, 33 Kaatsbaan Rd., Tivoli, (845) 757-5106, ext. 110,

Kingston hosts Festival of Lights and Snowflake Festival on Friday

Fire jugglers, Victorian carolers, an outdoor movie tent, hands-on gingerbread decorating, a bike raffle, horsedrawn carriage rides, Ukrainian dancers, historic house tours, ice sculptures, hot apple cider and roasted chestnuts served by Revolutionary War reenactors from the First Ulster Militia, plus Santa presiding over a community tree-lighting at the corner of Wall and North Front Streets…what more do you need as incentives to visit Uptown Kingston between 6 and 8 p.m. on Friday, December 7?

Actually, there’s lots more going on during the brief span of the annual Snowflake Festival, whose hub will be the Senate House, its grounds illuminated by thousands of sparkling lights. To see the full schedule, visit

Snowflake Festival and Festival of Lights

Friday, Dec. 7

6-8 p.m.

Wall/North Front/John/Fair Streets

Uptown Kingston

Hanukkah Candle-Lighting in Kingston this Friday

Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley in Kingston presents a Hanukkah Candle-Lighting ceremony on Friday, December 7. The community is invited to bask in the glow of the Emanuel’s many menorahs and hear many lively tales of the season. The event also features Congregation Emanuel’s “Hanukkah Happening,” a carnival organized by religious school students featuring craft activities and games, latkes and jelly donuts and gifts to buy for the holiday.

Hanukkah Happening  carnival

Friday, Dec. 7

6 p.m.

Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley

243 Albany Ave., Kingston

(845) 338-4271

Frozendale Festival in Rosendale this Saturday

Each year, it begins with storytelling for kids at the Rosendale Library and ends with a Mac-and-Cheese Bake-Off at the Big Cheese, where spectators get to taste the savory entries after the judges are done choosing the winners. In between, you can catch a family-friendly movie at the Rosendale Theatre for free – this year it’s Annie – and claim a free collectible mug filled with hot chocolate from town supervisor Jeanne Walsh and town clerk Mandy Donald. What else could it be but Frozendale, the Festival Town’s annual winter wingding?

Taking place along the walkable downtown stretch of Rosendale’s Main Street, a/k/a Route 213, on Saturday, December 8, this community-generated festival also features all sorts of discounts, refreshments and giveaways at local restaurants and businesses. The Redwing Blackbird Theatre will present a free live puppet show. The Library holds its Holiday Booktique from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. RosenSpace, located in the building behind the Big Cheese, hosts an assortment of craft vendors for its Winter Gift Sale. The Woodcrest Bruderhof Brass Band and Carolers will perform seasonal music at the 1850 House Inn and Tavern, and the Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band and Social Club will lead the parade to the 5 p.m. Mac & Cheese finale. For details, including how to enter the Bake-Off, e-mail or visit


Saturday, Dec. 8

10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Main Street (Route 213)


(Photo by John P)

Holiday Cookie Decorating for Kids

Attention: all parents of kids 6 to 11 years old who can’t wait to decorate holiday cookies! Local doyenne of things-sweet-and-scrumptious Jill Gerety will hold forth in the spacious kitchen at the Watergrasshill Bed & Breakfast this Saturday to conduct a workshop geared just for them. A fun and festive two-hour class will include premade snowflakes, gingerbread people and other delectable shapes for the children to spruce up, using various decorating methods and techniques with different icings, sprinkles and much more – not to mention test-tasting their creations and taking home a box of leftovers!

“Gerety has taught cookie-decorating and cooking classes for kids before,” says Alana Colucci, proprietor of the historic B&B with the curious name. “We’ve done three other classes for children since opening at the end of June, and this is our first holiday season. For the class on Sunday, we can sign up a maximum of 12 children, and registration closes on Friday. A lot of kids are into cooking and baking, and we have some repeaters registered. Parents can drop them off and go get some holiday shopping done.”

Watergrasshill is named for a village in County Cork, Ireland, where Colucci’s family has its roots. After visiting in 2016, they were inspired to reproduce the sort of hospitality in an exquisitely renovated 19th-century farmhouse.

“The B&B has been very busy this fall. We held Hudson Valley Farm-to-Table dinners in the warmer weather, and we’ll continue workshops every month for adults: classes in floral design, sip and paint and others.” This Sunday, the younger set of cookie-decorators will enjoy snacks and pretzels while they’re hard at work. See the schedule on the website for upcoming workshops to be held in the kitchen studio or barn.

– Ann Hutton

Holiday Cookie Decorating for Kids, Sunday, December 9, 11 a.m-1 p.m., Watergrasshill Bed & Breakfast, 105 Phillies Bridge Road, Gardiner; (845) 419-2661,

Storybook train rides for the holidays depart from Kingston, Arkville

Aside from their year-round nostalgia appeal, there’s something about old-fashioned steam trains that just naturally evokes the feel of a Victorian Christmas story. So, this is a time of year when we are especially blessed to have not one, but two relics of the golden age of railroads nearby and still in operation. If you’ve got out-of-town visitors coming for the holidays, or want to treat some special kids to a magical experience, here are some options that you might want to put on your December activities calendar.

The Catskill Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express

Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express is a much-loved picture book that tells the story of a skeptical boy who reluctantly boards a mysterious train allegedly headed for the North Pole. Along the way, he has a series of adventures with his fellow travelers – some of them potential friends and others a bit sketchy – before being called upon to do some heroics and earn the “first gift of Christmas” from Santa himself: a silver sleighbell whose tinkling can only be heard by believers. In 2004 it was made into an animated film, whose fumbles with early CGI motion-capture led it to be cited by many critics as a textbook example of that phenomenon of creepy not-quite-humanness that is known as the “uncanny valley.”

Said valley is a destination that one need not visit while taking the Polar Express operated out of Kingston by the Catskill Mountain Railroad. But passengers will get to enjoy readings from the book and music from the movie soundtrack, along with caroling and other interactions with costumed characters from the story. You’ll be served hot chocolate and cookies, and be able to take home your punched golden ticket and a “magical” sleighbell as keepsakes.

Excursions are scheduled for December 7 to 9, 14 to 16, 20 to 23 and 26 to 28, with several departures each day. Pro tip: After-dark rides are more conducive to suspension of disbelief in older children, but there are some early-afternoon rides that might better suit the sleep schedules or fear of the dark of littl’uns. There are no bathroom facilities on the train, and passengers are asked to arrive at the Polar Express tent at the Westbrook Lane Station – located at 149 Aaron Court, just outside Kingston Plaza – a half-hour before departure time. Ticket prices cost $49 for adults and $39 for kids aged 2 to 12 during peak periods, $40 for adults and $32 for kids off-peak. See the full schedule at for lots more detail; you can also reserve tickets at (845) 332-4854.

The Delaware & Ulster Railroad’s Silver Sleigh Flyer

Further up into the Catskills, you can board a steam train in Arkville and take your part in an original tall tale about how a passenger train in the Catskills helped Santa complete his rounds when a winter storm forced him to make an unscheduled landing along the tracks. Rudolph’s red glowing nose may serve as a useful beacon during whiteout conditions, but it helps to have a little-engine-that-could on hand as well.

The scenery visible by daylight from the windows of the Silver Sleigh Flyer is wilder and, being at a higher altitude, more likely to look snowy than that glimpsed on the outskirts of Kingston from the Polar Express. On board, there’s somewhat less of an elaborate storyline, although Santa does interact with young passengers. Snack time will feature hot chocolate, coffee and tea and gingerbread people.


Excursions depart from the Delaware & Ulster Railroad depot at 43510 Route 28 in Arkville at noon and 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through December 23. Ticket prices are $28 for adults, $24 for children aged 3 to 12. Advance reservations are required; call (845) 586-3877, e-mail or visit

– Frances Marion Platt

Catskill Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express, December 7-9, 14-16, 20-23, 26-28, $49/$40/$39/$32, Westbrook Lane Station, 149 Aaron Court, Kingston; (845) 332-4854,

Silver Sleigh Flyer, Saturday/Sunday, December 8-9, 15-16, 20-23, noon & 3 p.m., $28/$24, Delaware & Ulster Railroad, 43510 Route 28, Arkville; (845) 586-3877,

A Christmas Carol performed at Murray’s in Tivoli this Saturday

Historic Red Hook presents A Christmas Carol, a family-friendly performance of Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic produced by Theatre on the Road and performed in the space above Murray’s Restaurant in Tivoli on Saturday, December 8. The event also includes Victorian caroling and the lighting of the Tivoli Holiday Tree at 4:30 p.m. This performance is free and open to the public.

A Christmas Carol

Saturday, Dec. 8

4:30 p.m. 

Murray’s Restaurant

73 Broadway, Tivoli

(845) 758-1920

Holiday open houses at Dutchess County historic homes

Spend a few hours immersed in the opulence of Christmastime in an earlier era, when certain highly privileged Hudson Valley families decked out their mansions in stately splendor. Check the list below of great estates and historic homes in Dutchess County that still do up the holidays in grand style and note which ones you haven’t ever visited, or would like to visit again. Many of these tours and open houses also offer complimentary refreshments, live music, costumed docents and reenactors, storytelling and/or children’s activities. Find a full overview of sites and seasonal events at

Wilderstein Tours: Dec. 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 1-4 p.m.


Yuletide Tea: Dec. 8, 1 p.m.


Wilderstein Historic Site

330 Morton Rd.


(845) 876-4818

Staatsburgh Gilded Age Christmas: Thursday-Sunday, from now until Dec. 23, Dec. 26-31, 12-4 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 21, 6-8 p.m.


Staatsburgh State Historic Site

75 Mills Mansion Dr. (off Old Post Rd.)


(845) 889-8851

Vanderbilt tours: Now until Dec. 31, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Christmas on the Hudson Holiday Gala: Friday, Dec. 14, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site

119 Vanderbilt Park Rd., Hyde Park

FDR Home for the Holidays at Springwood: Now until Dec. 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Open House: Saturday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Make Holiday Cards for Troops: Saturday, Dec. 8, 1-4 p.m.

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

4097 Albany Post Rd. (Route 9)

Hyde Park

(845) 229- 9115

Christmas at Val-Kill: Thursday-Sunday, from now until Dec. 31

Holiday Open House: Saturday, Dec. 8, 4-7 p.m.

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site

(via shuttle from Wallace Center)

4097 Albany Post Rd. (Route 9)

Hyde Park, (845) 229-5302

A Child’s Christmas at Clermont:
Candlelight Tours: Sunday, Dec. 9, 3-6 p.m.


Christmas at Clermont Open House: Saturday, Dec. 15, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.


Clermont State Historic Site

1 Clermont Rd.


(518) 537-4240