Holidays at Home

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Northern Lights Holiday Parade

What could be more heartwarming than parades and Christmas lights? Flagstaff combines the two with the Northern Lights Holiday Parade, which grows each and every year, so much so, states the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, that parade entries have been limited to 100 applications on a first-come, first-served basis. This year’s 12th annual parade already had close to 70 applicants by the end of summer. “Thousands of locals and visitors are drawn to downtown Flagstaff to watch the parade every year,” says Molly Brown, a parade organizer.

Come and join the people lining the streets to witness the dazzling dash of floats, vehicles, marching bands and pets, all decked out and aglow with the latest and greatest the world of Christmas light décor has to offer. Decide for yourself who among the throngs has the most outrageous imagination, Christmas-themed innovation or spiritual inspiration; all entrants are competing for cash and prizes. Make sure you stay for the entire parade – the grand finale generally offers a very round-bellied, rosy-cheeked special guest, whose special ho, ho, ho’s come but once a year. – John D. Ruane

Northern Lights Holiday Parade, Dec. 11, 6 p.m. Free. Downtown Flagstaff beginning at the corner of Beaver and Elm streets (928-774-4505)

Festival of Lights

We try not to be biased here at Sedona Monthly, but here’s the truth: Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village’s Festival of Lights is our favorite Sedona holiday tradition. Picture an Old World village with cobblestone streets filled with thousands of people, young and old, bundled up and cradling cups of apple cider. Then the village’s rustic bell tower chimes 5 p.m., and everyone begins lighting the 6,000 luminarias that line the walkways, streets, courtyards, terraces and patios. It’s pure magic. Luminarias, brown paper bags each containing a single candle and weighted with sand, originated in New Mexico as a way to guide the spirit of Christ into homes, but Tlaquepaque started its own Festival of Lights 37 years ago. In addition to the lighting of the luminarias, live entertainment is provided by Tom and Shondra Jepperson, the Rojas Family Mariachis, the River of Life Tabernacle Choir (back for the 14th year) and the Chavez Jazz Trio. Santa Claus will also make a special appearance, and boutiques and galleries keep their doors open late to accommodate holiday shoppers. Each year, the American Cancer Society sells luminarias with proceeds benefiting cancer research – the luminarias are purchased and decorated in remembrance of cancer victims and survivors. – Erika Ayn Finch

Festival of Lights, Dec. 11, 3-8 p.m. Free. Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, 336 Hwy 179 (928-282-4838)

Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express

From now through Jan. 8, Grand Canyon Railway will be making the perennial hourlong round-trip journey from Williams Depot to “The North Pole” – a picturesque three-dimensional village complete with glowing storefronts – during its annual Polar Express. Along the way, listen to a telling of the classic Christmas tale The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, and enjoy hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies while the scents, sights and sounds of the holiday season fill the train car with warmth and wonder. No journey to Santa’s realm would be complete without a visit from the man in red himself who, Elf Bernard in tow, boards the train and greets eager pajama-clad boys and girls with alms and awe befitting his legend.

The Polar Express departs at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. most evenings through the holiday season. The Christmas Eve Limited promises an even more memorable experience, complete with special surprises and exclusive gifts. Speaking of gifts, Arizona Law Enforcement hosts an annual toy drive. New, unwrapped toys and cash donations for families in need will be accepted in the Polar Room at the depot throughout the season. Rally ’round your neighbors; the true spirit of Christmas lives aboard the Polar Express. – John D. Ruane

Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express. Now through Jan. 8, trains depart at 6 and 8 p.m. $29 for adults and $19 for children ages 5 and younger ($58 for adults and $38 for children for the Christmas Eve Limited). Grand Canyon Railway, 233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd. in Williams (888-848-3511)

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