Historic Lebanon, where many buildings date to the early to mid-1800s, will celebrate the holiday season with its 21th annual Victorian Holiday Festival this Friday through Sunday.
The event pays tribute to the city's most famous visitor, author Charles Dickens, who stayed overnight at the Mermaid House Inn in 1842. The Lebanon Historical Society will offer guided tours of the nationally registered landmark all three days.
A unique tradition opens the festival on Friday evening as store windows and streetlights temporarily go dark and horse-drawn carriages replace vehicles on brick-paved St. Louis Street. The Old Lamplighter, accompanied by a violinist and small chorus, will draw a crowd of followers as he taps on the store fronts and their display windows illuminate one by one. A special guest will pull a switch to light the park's Christmas tree and illuminate the rooflines of downtown buildings. The Lamplighter will begin his magical trek at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Lebanon's City Park at the northeast end of West St. Louis Street.
He will meet up with the Looking Glass Playhouse Victorian Caolers, many of whom are featured in the theater's upcoming show "A Christmas Carol."
Carriage rides are available from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday starting at the Visitor's Center, 221 West St. Louis St. Cost is $5 per person, children 2 and younger are free. An 8-person carriage ride is available for $40. Tickets are on sale at the Visitor's Center.
Special activities for children from kindergarten through grade 6 are planned for 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Cookies and crafts ($1 per child) are at the Visitor's Center. Classic Christmas story readings are at Ahner's Florist, 120 W. St. Louis St. There will be magic shows and games on the street.
Throughout the weekend, Father Christmas will stroll the street as will carolers and madrigal singers from local chorale groups and high schools.
Merchants and restaurants in the historic district will be open througout Friday and Saturday evenings.
Street vendors will be there too to offer "walk around" food fare. The Lebanon Chamber of Commerce will sell homemade desserts will be sold at the Visitors Center. Saturday only, the Lebanon Rotary will have a spaghetti dinner at the First United Methodist Church located at 603 W. St. Louis St.
Way of Lights
The 44th annual Way of Lights Christmas display will be open from Friday through Jan. 3 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.
More than 1 million white lights will be featured along a 1.5-mile route depicting the Journey to Bethlehem.
Other attractions include:
* Camel, donkey and pony rides and a petting zoo.
* Carriage rides by Noble Shire Carriages. Call 618-397-6700 for pricing and reservations.
* In the Visitor's Center: Children's Village, puppet show, souvenir photos, Christmas tree display, community choirs, and wreath display and auction.
* In the Guild Center: Two lazer shows share the story of Jesus' birth. One features Christmas remakes of hit pop songs and the classic show featuring traditional Christmas music.
Tuesday night is Family Night when you can receive discounts on activities and wagon rides through the lights.
Information: 618-397-6700 or visit wayoflights.org.