The towns that nestle along New England’s rocky, spectacular coastline are legendary for many things: remarkable history, breathtaking beauty, and incomparable character. These many towns may all be remarkable, breathtaking, and incomparable – at any time of year, or any moment within that year – but there is one town that shines especially, and never more so than a special time of year. While some may think first of the shimmering, vibrant hues of autumn; the glimmering, dewy blossom of spring; the sparkling, lush flash of summer. But in Portsmouth, there’s one season that glitters more brightly – the wintery holiday season. The glisten of untouched snow, glowing candles in windows, woodsmoke dancing in the crisp air. Nothing shows off our harbor as the Christmas Capital of North America quite as well, unless it’s the bevy of wonderful events that celebrate it all.


There’s nothing merrier than starting off the month of festivities with an fabulous, town-wide party – and December 3rd’s Parade and Tree Lighting couldn’t be more perfect. Setting downtown at its loveliest vantage, live music performances start the evening off in the square, followed by the gorgeous tree lighting to signal the beginning of the holiday season, and then immediately followed by a luminescent parade through the town.


For the elfing inclined, there’s nothing quite so jolly as a day spent shopping for the ones we love the most. This year, let that shopping help an important local organization in attending the Center for Wildlife’s Holiday Bazaar! Transformed into a magical forest shop, and open every Saturday until December 25th, the bazaar has gifts ranging from handmade jewelry to an organic chef’s delights, based in all the beauty nature has to offer. Those who join also have the opportunity to meet owls, falcons, and hawks up close – perfect for the tiniest elves who might need a bit of entertainment distraction during shopping.


There are few spaces as gracefully majestic and opulently welcoming as The Music Hall. Originally built with majestic lines and stunning structural work, TMS Architects was honored to renovate and redesign the Loft and adjoining spaces of this historic edifice – and much like the rest of our town, it is most radiant when hosting its vast array of holiday offerings. This season, the performance to see is the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra’s Family Holiday Pops on December 20th & 21st, a féte unlike anything else with special guests Taylor O’Donnell and Chris Klaxton filling the hall with beautiful music.


If celebrating Christmas now is delightful, stepping back in time to see how Portsmouth celebrated as the Christmas capital for the past 350 is pure wonder. Luckily, with the Strawbery Banke Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth’s Candlelit Stroll, every brilliant facet throughout that history is on display on each weekend through New Year’s. Visit sumptuously decorated homes adorned with thousands of handmade ornaments, sit by the resplendent bonfire, and experience the cherished traditions of eras past – all by the magic of luminous candlelight.


Portsmouth’s glorious beauty is unquestionable at any moment of the year; but there’s something in December’s light that brings an even greater richness to these moments. Yet even with the music, the decorations, and the glowing firelight, there’s only one element that makes these last moment of the year shine so bright – Portsmouth’s people, supporting and celebrating everything they do to make their town a wonderland, in winter and beyond.