Favorite Bronx Holiday Traditions

Cityscape from the New York Botanical Gardens 2022 Holiday Train Show

‘Tis the season to close your deals or push them into next year. Between that and supporting our local retailers, try to leave time to celebrate the season with some classic Bronx holiday traditions. Most of the local BIDs have already lit their displays so take a stroll to see your favorite neighborhood aglow in holiday splendor. Santa is making regular visits to the major shopping areas with other special family activities. Menorah lightings and Kwanza celebrations will close out the month. Among so much local merriment, The Bronx also enjoys these enduring holiday traditions.

Songs to Fill the Air

For many classical music lovers, it isn’t Christmas until they hear the music of Handel’s Messiah. If that’s you, St. Helena’s Roman Catholic Church in Parkchester will hold its 41st annual Christmas Concert on Saturday the 17th at 2:30 pm. Tickets are required to see The Bronx Concert Singers perform this 18th century opera about the greatest story ever told.

If you can’t get tickets, catch the Riverdale Choral Society Handel’s Messiah Sing-Along at Christ Church on Henry Hudson Parkway. Free and open to the public, Saturday at 3pm. Scores will be provided if you don’t have one, or just come to listen

WBC Nutcraker 2022 at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts
WBC Nutcraker 2022 at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts (photo: lehmancenter.org)

Nothing speaks to holiday tradition more than The Nutcracker. You can catch one of several performances this weekend at the Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts. The Westchester Ballet Company will bring their cast of 100 dancers in an opulent performance of Tchaikovsky’s 19th century holiday classic.

Make sure to get your tickets ahead of time at Lehmancenter.org and check out the eclectic offering of events on the calendar at one of The Bronx’s important cultural institutions.

If Handel and Tchaikovsky are too fancy for you, the Lehman College & Community Band celebrates the season with “Holiday Cheer!” a free concert featuring a mix of holiday selections and classics for wind band. Open to the public, on Sunday, December 18, at 2 p.m. in the Lovinger Theatre on the northern end of Lehman’s Kingsbridge Heights campus.

Family Fun for the Holidays

Children not patient enough for musical recitals can enjoy other Bronx holiday traditions. None is more popular than the New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show featuring model trains traversing a magical landscape of 190 New York landmarks made from plant materials such as birch bark, lotus pods, and cinnamon sticks.

Fans have been coming back for more than 30 years to wonder at the craftsmanship reflecting the subtle changes to the New York Cityscape. Tickets are required for specific time slots to keep the crowds manageable.

While you’re there, enjoy a new Bronx holiday tradition. NYBG Glow returns for its third year of illuminating the beautiful backdrops and historic buildings of the NYBG’s magnificent collections. Round out a fun-filled evening with art, music, and pop-up performances around the Garden. Check dates and times for tickets.

Holiday Lights lanterns at The Bronx Zoo
2022 Holiday Lights lanterns at The Bronx Zoo. (photo: Julie Larsen Maher, Bronx Zoo)

If your favorite date sells out, go across the street to The Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights festival. You can actually ride the Holiday Train at this one, or walk through the park as it comes to life in immersive light displays with custom designed animal lanterns and animated light shows sparkling across the zoo.

Classic holiday entertainment, music, and treats make this a beloved tradition for all ages. Tickets and time slots are required here too.

Holiday Tea at the Mansions

If you are looking to avoid the crowds, The Bronx has some more relaxing holiday traditions too.

Raising future soldiers, senators and a President of the United States must make for hectic parenting. For the few years that Rose and Joe Kennedy lived on Riverdale’s Independence Avenue, they must have needed special times to relax. You can imagine them going across the street to have Holiday Tea at Wave Hill.

The festively decorated Mark Twain Room features local and seasonal ingredients from the onsite organic Katchkie Farm. The holiday edition of Tea and Cocoa is perfect for an intimate afternoon. Or, let the youngsters explore the expansive old growth gardens and wooded trail, but no touch football allowed on the quiet lawns. Complimentary entrance to Wave Hill is included with each tea purchase. Reserve ahead for 90 minute seating times at 11:30 and 2:30.

Holiday Tea at Bartow Pell Mansion
Holiday Tea at Bartow Pell Mansion (photo: bartowpellmansionmuseum.org

If the Hudson River is too far, check out Pelham Bay Park’s Bartow Pell Mansion near the Long Island Sound, originally built by Thomas Pell after he purchased 50,000 acres east of the Bronx River from the Lenape natives in 1654.

Candlelight Holiday Tree tours take place on several evenings in the next two weeks, or explore at your own pace on other evenings. Kids are allowed to strike up a touch football game on Bartow Pell’s expansive lawns.

Little kids love the Teddy Bear Tea Party, a child-approved, bright, colorful, and deliciously decadent holiday-themed menu, story time with the Bartow snow queen, and a sing-along. Perfect for 3- to 5-year-olds accompanied by a favorite adult.

Or leave the kids at home and come with your favorite adults to Sparkling Holiday Tea, a special Bartow Pell holiday creation. Enjoy an afternoon with friends and delight in the season after exploring the mansion in all its holiday glory!

Tickets and reservations are required for most Bartow Pell events.

Still to Come

Chanukah begins this Sunday the 18th which The Bronx Jewish Center on Pelham Parkway will commemorate with their annual concert at 2pm. Chabad Lubavitch of Riverdale will kick off their Chanukah calendar with the Giant Menorah Lighting at the Bell Tower Monument at 4pm on Sunday. The Riverdale Y will have their celebration on Wednesday morning the 21st. Other local Chanukah events run through December 26th.

That’s also the first day of Kwanza which will be celebrated with the annual festival at St Helena’s Catholic Church in Parkchester on December 30th from 4 to 8pm. This year’s celebration will focus on creating unity in the community. Get discounted tickets ahead at this link.

We’re going to find time for our special Bronx holiday traditions and wish you and your loved ones a joyous season and prosperous 2023. We’ll be back with fresh market data in the new year.

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Featured Image: The New York City skyline in the NYBG Holiday Train Show, nybg.org

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