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Central Maine celebrates the holidays

Holiday events have been popping up all around central Maine. In Waterville, Augusta, and Bangor, many organizations have hosted— or plan to host— Hanukkah, Christmas, and winter-themed events throughout December.

After eight days of celebration, Hanukkah ended on the evening of Dec. 6. In Bangor, Chabad of Bangor lit a nine-foot menorah to celebrate Hanukkah’s  third night. The event featured music, a juggling performance, and food. The event’s organizers said that the giant menorah’s purpose was to share light and joy with the entirety of northern Maine.

On Dec. 2, the University of Maine held a menorah lighting in front of the Folger Library.

The Beth Israel congregation of Waterville hosted an event on Dec. 5 to celebrate the final night of Hanukkah. After being unable to hold the celebration in person last year, the event’s organizers were happy to gather again with the community. About fifty people attended the event, which culminated in a potluck dinner. Attendees ate latkes and sufganiyot, a Hanukkah delicacy.

As we close in on Dec. 25, Mainers will have more opportunities to celebrate at a variety of events. For the second consecutive year, however, Waterville has canceled its popular Parade of Lights. Maine’s rising COVID-19 rates dissuaded the organizers from hosting the event, which posed the risk of spreading the virus to vulnerable Waterville residents.

Luckily, on Nov. 27, Waterville Creates!, the Maine Film Center, the Waterville Public Library, the Colby College Museum of Art, and the Children’s Discovery Museum hosted the fourth-annual Joy to the Ville event. For four hours on a Saturday afternoon, families were able to partake in a variety of holiday-themed events, including arts and crafts, a free showing of the film Scrooged, and a visit from Santa.

The Children’s Discovery Museum in downtown Waterville hosted a sleigh ride for Santa and Mrs. Claus. As part of the event, organizers also set up “Kringleville,” a small Santa’s Village for children.

The Children’s Discovery Museum is also currently holding its second-annual Light Up the Town event. After registering with the museum, businesses and residents compete to see who can hang the most lights and decorations on their buildings.

A panel of judges then decides which of the displays is the best. As of Nov. 27, competitors have completed their displays, and people can visit them by picking up a map of locations from the organizers.

Like last year, the museum has tried to make the Light Up the Town competition as safe as possible for families. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event’s organizers initially hesitated to hold it again. Popular demand, however, convinced them to host it with some added safety protocols.

Through the museum, families can also schedule virtual visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. These calls will take place over the phone or through Zoom. Families can schedule them for each weekend of December leading up to Christmas. In addition to speaking with the Clauses, every child receives a free Christmas-themed storybook.

Families can also mail letters to Santa using the mailbox in Kringleville at Castonguay Square. Children who include a return address will receive a letter back.

On Nov. 26, the city of Augusta began its 12-day Grinch-themed holiday celebration. The first event was a tree lighting in Market Square. Throughout the month, Augusta will continue to hold events based on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. On Dec. 18, Augusta will cap off the festivities by showing “The Grinch” in Mill Park at 5 p.m.

For more Christmas and holiday-themed events, check local governments’ websites. Many town and city websites, including Waterville’s, have a calendar for the rest of December.

~ Matt Rocha `23

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