This weekend, my wife and I spent four days in southern Maine to celebrate a Christmas tradition called Prelude.
For 30 years, the town of Kennebunkport has celebrated the kickoff to the Christmas season with local residents and visitors alike. The festivities include a tree lighting ceremony, a fireworks display, a Christmas parade, shopping, and great food.
We arrived late Thursday night and checked into our hotel. Friday morning and afternoon, we spent time visiting and catching up with family in the small town of Wells before heading up to Kennebunkport for the tree lighting ceremony.
The great thing about these small towns in southern Maine is that they are so close together. Kennebunkport is about five miles north of Wells and is a quaint little fishing village complete with great seafood restaurants and shopping.
The weather was clear and beautiful that Friday. Everyone commented on how fortunate they were that in the middle of December there was no snow on the ground.
I must admit, being a desert dweller in Arizona, I was a bit let down that there wasn’t any snow since we never get any around the holidays, but because it was clear, we didn’t have to mess with chains or four wheel drive and that was nice.
After a late lunch of fried clam strips and clam chowder in one of our favorite restaurants, we wandered through the local shops all decked out in holiday decorations. There were so many different kinds of shops that everyone would find something of interest. There were shops that feature handmade crafts and gifts, custom jewelry, and local souvenirs.
After spending a few hours browsing the local stores and shops, we grabbed a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop and found a place in the town center to watch the lighting of the town Christmas tree.
The beautiful tree was adorned with ornaments and ribbon. There were a few hundred people huddled in the town square waiting for the tree to be lit, while carolers sang familiar Christmas carols and lobster mascots paused for photos with anyone who might be interested.
Once the sun finally set and the carolers had sung every song they knew, the countdown started and the tree was lit, much to the delight of all who were present.
Growing up in Arizona, we never had big ceremonies like this. But when you think about Christmas in New England, this was as perfect as any postcard could ever portray.
After the tree was lit, everyone crowded onto the town bridge and local parking lots to watch a beautiful fireworks show. For almost 15 minutes, the fireworks, which were launched from a barge in the bay, illuminated the night sky. It was the perfect evening.
Saturday was spent spending time with family and exploring some of the local towns north of Kennebunkport.
In Cape Porpoise, we saw the town’s lobster trap Christmas tree and thought it was very unique and suited the town perfectly.
Sunday was spent exploring the town of Ogunquit, bordering Wells immediately to the south. Most of the shops were closed for the season, but it was nice to drive around and look at the many decorations on the old buildings.
Later that night, we had our Christmas dinner with family and a few of their friends. It was a wonderful evening of fun and fellowship and something I will always remember.
Monday was our last day in town and we spent the morning at the beach. Even though it was cold, there is something magical about the beach in winter. After checking out of the hotel, we had lunch at a great little family farm and restaurant before saying our goodbyes and heading to the airport for our flight home.
As with all of our trips to Maine, they are always too short and we never want to leave. But this year’s Prelude was the start of what I hope to be a yearly family tradition for my wife and me.
Do you have any holiday traditions you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.
Have a great weekend!
Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on Twitter at @CDGLA or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.