Reclaiming the Holiday Spirit

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By Kristina Schnack Kotlus, Contributing Writer

Let’s have what I like to call a “moment of honesty.” Since the stores all start creeping up the “holidays” to the point where you start seeing Santa in August, by the time the actual season arrives, you’ve heard “Jingle Bells” so many times that you’re cheering for the antlered beast in “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” And if the woman in front of you in line doesn’t stop chatting with the cashier so you can go home, you just may deck her halls.

I understand.

However, sometimes all you need to get back in the holiday spirit is a little break from the shopping frenzy and a little fun with your family. Seeing the joy on a child’s face can be just the reminder you need that this season—with all its lights, snowflakes and happiness—can be a magical time.

Celebrating the season of lights with your children is especially fun in Greater Prince William. With a number of secular and religious celebrations and activities in the community, there’s something for just about everyone. Here are a few highlights. Look for additional ideas in the online calendar at

Tree Lightings

On Friday, Dec. 6, make time to enjoy old-fashioned family fun at the “Merry Old Town” celebration in Old Town Manassas. e holiday fun begins at 5:30 p.m. with holiday music and at 6 p.m. when Santa arrives at the Manassas Train Depot via the VRE. The tree lighting is at 6:30 p.m. at the Manassas Museum.

Carriage Rides

Horse-drawn carriage rides will leave from the Manassas Train Depot and take you around Old Town from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. the Sundays of Dec. 8, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22. There is no admission charge for this event.

Plays and Performances

Join the Workhouse Arts Center, located at 9601 Ox Road in Lorton, for a Saturday afternoon of adventure with Vianlix Mestey’s original story, “In Santa, We Believe,” live onstage. Just when you thought everything was going great, Santa’s workshop grinds to a halt! Will Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves do what it takes to make sure Christmas Day happens? Come find out as this tune-filled story unfolds.

Show dates: Saturdays, Nov. 30 to Dec. 28.
Show time: 1 p.m. (55-minute show, with one intermission).


The 68th annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade will take place on Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. Line up along Center Street for a good view of all the entries in this year’s annual procession. The shops in Old Town Manassas also hold an annual gingerbread house contest. Visit participating shops and vote for your favorite.

The Town of Dumfries holds its 39th annual Christmas Holiday Parade on Dec. 14 beginning at noon at Town Hall (17755 Main Street).


The Worship Center, a non-denominational church in Woodbridge, offers the popular “A Living Nativity” Dec. 12-14 at the Hylton Memorial Chapel, located at 14640 Potomac Mills Road in Woodbridge. The free event, which is from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., drew more than 10,000 people last December, according to the Worship Center’s lead pastor, Ron McCormick.

In eight lighted scenes with costumed actors, “A Living Nativity” tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The scenes, accessible by car and on foot, are staged along the entrance road on the gated chapel grounds, McCormick said. For more information, call 703-928-2105 or visit

Ice Skating

The Harris Pavilion in Manassas has outdoor ice skating for $8 per adult and $7 per child (age 10 and younger). Skate rentals are available for an additional $3. Hours vary. Check for details and the

Harris Pavilion’s event calendar for hours. In January, skating is free on Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Ice skaters only pay for skate rental.

The Haymarket IcePlex offers indoor ice skating for $7 per adult and $6 per child (age 12 and younger). Skate rentals are an additional $3. Hours vary. Check out for more information.

Prince William Ice Center in Dale City charges $7 ($6 for seniors) as general admission to its indoor rink. Excluding holidays and when school is on break, the price drops September through May to $6 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., when skate rental is also only $1. Skate rental other times is $3.

Additionally, Prince William Ice Center has “Snow and Story” times, when children may play in the “snow” shavings and then hear a story and enjoy hot chocolate. Visit for details.

Musical Offerings

The Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas has several seasonal concerts planned, including:

  • Chanticleer: “A Chanticleer Christmas,” Dec. 1 at 4 p.m.
  • Danú: “Christmas in Ireland: An Nollaig in Éirinn,” Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.
  • Manassas Chorale: “’Tis the Season!” Dec.7at 5p.m.and8p.m.
  • American Festival Pops Orchestra: “Holiday Pops: Songs of the Season,” Dec. 13 at 8 p.m.
  • Vienna Boys Choir: “Christmas in Vienna,” Dec. 15 at 4 p.m.

Woodbridge Community Choir will present its annual Christmas concert on Dec.14 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. at the Ferlazzo Building, located at 15941 Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge.

Nutcracker Performances

The season would not be complete without a performance of “The Nutcracker.” Dance companies putting on the production at the Hylton Performing Arts Center include Manassas Ballet Theater, which has multiple performances scheduled Dec. 20 through Dec. 23. Asaph Dance Ensemble will perform “Clara’s Christmas,” which is based on “The Nutcracker,” Dec. 8 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

No matter what you do to celebrate this season of lights, I hope it’s merry and bright for all of you.

Kristina Schnack Kotlus is a local mother of three children and the owner of, a resource for parents and families in Prince William County. Visit her site or Facebook page for an events calendar, reviews and more ideas for fall fun.


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