Joyful, joyful — it’s a busy month in the Triangle! Take in these festive performances, craft markets, light shows and more.
by Addie Ladner
The snowflakes are up on Fayetteville Street — which means it’s officially holiday season in Raleigh. What a wonderful place to live (or visit!) each December.
Raleigh has long-standing cultural events like Ira David Wood III’s humorous A Christmas Carol, the Candlelight Tour of Victorian homes in Historic Oakwood, Carolina Ballet’s modernized The Nutcracker or Raleigh Little Theatre’s festive Cinderella. There’s also the light show extravaganza at Dix Park and plenty of gift markets to explore, including WALTER’s elevated version at Union Station.
But December’s not just about holiday events: there’s still plenty to do around town, including a Locals Seafood pop-up at Raleigh Wine Shop, a return performance of hometown Southern Gothic band Delta Rae at the Lincoln Theatre and art to browse in Boylan Heights. However you choose to enjoy this month, we hope it fills your cup. Here are WALTER’s picks for December.
Experience the Chinese Lantern Festival at Koka Booth
Now through Jan. 8, Cary’s pine-filled Koka Booth Amphitheatre has transformed into an illuminated village of Chinese lanterns in the shapes of flowers, animals and other fantastical designs. More than 40 of the handcrafted lanterns at this annual event will be completely new, some consisting of thousands of LED lights. In addition to walking amid the glowing forms, guests can expect a different cultural performance of dancing or music each night on the main stage. “We take seriously our commitment to awe and delight visitors year after year, so we have some extra-special lanterns and performances planned for 2022,” says William Lewis, Town of Cary cultural arts manager. The experience can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, including the VIP (“Very Important Panda”) tour, which delves deeper into the history of Chinese lantern festivals and how the luminaries are fabricated, and a Twilight ticket for early access to enjoy the works of art with fewer people against the setting sun.
All month | 6 – 10 p.m.; From $11; 8003 Regency Parkway, Cary; boothamphitheatre.com
Book a Drive Through Dix Park for Night of Lights
If it’s true what they say — that the third time’s the charm — then this year’s WRAL Night of Lights at Dix Park will offer even more holiday cheer than the previous two. Fill your car with friends or family to enjoy an illuminated 1.3-mile route through the park’s ancient oak trees and rolling hills, with stops like Glas Studio’s whimsical neon Elf Forest and the bright blue tunnel. There are some new elements to the light extravaganza this year, including a a Holiday Outpost package, where guests can take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus and purchase refreshments from the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s The Spinning Plate food truck, and the Igloo Experience, where they’ll spend 45 minutes in a glowing igloo that comes with a festive snack box and carafe of hot chocolate or hot apple cider.
All month; From $20; 1251 Goode Street; wralnightsoflights.com
Drive to Seagrove for Open House Weekends
Seagrove is a nationally known pottery destination just under an hour from Raleigh, and this month its resident artists are hosting a holiday-themed open house each weekend. It’s an opportunity to discover North Carolina pottery, see makers at work and check a few gifts off your list. Eighty working potters live within 15 miles of Seagrove, attracted by its abundance of natural red clay. Westmoore Pottery (4622 Busbee Road) will have its historically inspired redware, salt-glazed stonewares and green-glazed vessels on display. Jugtown Pottery (330 Jugtown Road), the oldest continuing pottery shop in the state, will offer both gas- and wood-fired pottery, including vases and candlesticks. “Everybody here is hand-making their work, and they put their whole heart and soul into it,” says Jennie Lorette Keatts, marketing chair for the Seagrove Potters Association. “What a beautiful way to share North Carolina’s deep-rooted history in clay.”
Free admission; various locations; discoverseagrove.com
See PlayMakers’ Modern Take on Emma
Head to 21st-century Highbury with a comical take on this Jane Austin classic, produced by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s PlayMakers Repertory Company and directed by Meredith McDonough. Emma, a young, self-made matchmaker, prides herself on her successful romantic facilitations — but she’s thrown for a loop when her own match is right in front of her. “One of PlayMakers’ signature programs is reimagining classic stories like Jane Austen’s, and others,” says Diana Pineda with the company. “This is the first year we are producing this particular adaptation, it’s fresh off its world premiere in Minneapolis this summer and we are so excited.”
Dec. 1 – 4 | 2 & 7:30 p.m.; From $28; Joan H Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Road, Chapel Hill; playmakersrep.org
Laugh Out Loud at Raleigh Little Theatre’s Cinderella
For kid-friendly holiday entertainment, consider Raleigh Little Theatre’s annual take on the Charles Perrault classic. This comical rendition of the timeless fairytale offers festive singing, dancing and costumes mixed with a bit of folklore — and culminates at a grand Christmas Eve ball where there just might be opportunities for the audience to partake in caroling.
Dec. 2 – 18; From $28; 301 Pogue Street; raleighlittletheatre.org
Support Local Artists at Boylan Heights Art Walk
Shop locally made ornaments, ceramic pots, jewelry, paintings and more at the annual Boylan Heights Art Walk, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Dozens of selected local and regional artists will set up shop on the porches and front yards of the neighborhood to showcase work like Micah Mullen’s colorful cityscape paintings, River Swirl Creation’s glass mosaics and studio artist Marina Bosetti’s clay pieces. Pop into Rebus Works for a warm beverage to sip on while you mosey around the historic community.
Dec. 4 | 12 – 5 p.m.; Free admission; Boylan Heights neighborhood; boylanheights.org/art-walk
See Delta Rae at The Lincoln
Americana band Delta Rae will bring the magnetic energy of its six members to Lincoln Theatre for a special two-night show. The first show will be a full performance of their album Acoustic, recorded last February, with some fan favorites to round it out. The second show will be a full performance of their recently recorded holiday album Hours Before Morning, plus a mix of other Delta Rae fan favorites. After this gig, the Durham-born band, known for its melding of rock, folk and soul sounds, will be back on the road for its national Return of the Witch tour. “We always look forward to coming home to North Carolina to play a hometown show. Some of our favorite live experiences of all time have been in Raleigh at the Lincoln Theatre and, as our only headlining shows of the year, these two nights stand to be especially magical,” says band member Brittany Hölljes.
Dec. 7 & 8 | From $45; 126 E. Cabarrus Street; lincolntheatre.com
Head to Union Station for WALTER’s Celebrate the Season
Half party, half shopping event: Browse a curated selection of local makers and businesses at Union Station for WALTER’s annual Celebrate The Season event, a festive evening of great food and wine, shopping and live music. Look for vendors like Peppertrain, selling their colorful handmade earrings; selections from the NCMA’s museum store; plus local favorites like Logan’s Garden Shop, One and Only Paper, BOHO Beads and dozens more. With ticket purchase, guests receive a limited-edition WALTER tote bag, heavy hors d’oeuvres by Catering Works and libations by Lonerider Spirits and Brewery and Westgate Wine.
Dec. 7 | 6 – 9 p.m. From $25; 501 W. Martin Street; waltermagazine.com/celebrate
Take the Kids to see Raleigh Dance Theatre’s Storybook Tales
Raleigh Dance Theatre will present its annual Storybook Tales at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Children and teen dancers will take the audience through several different whimsical children’s tales including Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly, based on the popular Jane O’Connor children’s book series; Rayne and the Yellow Dress, inspired by the children’s book about experiences of Black ballerinas in the 20th and 21st centuries; and Act 1 of Coppelia, which follows a girl, a boy and the doll that comes between them. This performance is great for people of all ages, but especially young ones who aspire to twirl on the stage one day.
Dec. 8 – 10 | 2 & 6 p.m.; From $17; 2 E. South Street; raleighdance.org
Head to a Holiday Craft Market
North Carolina is rich with talent from craftspeople — and these destination craft markets offer a chance to support local and explore at the same time. The Durham Hotel’s Holiday Market (Dec. 7; 6 – 9 p.m.; $10; 315 E. Chapel Hill Street, Durham; thedurham.com) will serve champagne and eggnog while guests get to know local businesses like Exotique, which offers African-style clothing, art, instruments and decor; Lo & Behold Naturals, a maker of natural body care products; and Vert & Vogue, a boutique for upscale-casual contemporary clothing. Along the Haw River, The Saxapahaw Holiday Market at the Haw River Ballroom (Dec. 10; 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Dec. 11 8a.m. – 4p.m.; Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road; hawriverballroom.com) will offer wares from loads of local makers with a special appearance from the Paperhand Puppet Intervention.
Enjoy Oysters and Vino at the Raleigh Wine Shop x Locals Seafood Pop-Up
Don’t have time to cook as much this time of year with all the cookie parties and holiday performances? Raleigh Wine Shop and Locals Seafood have you covered with a fun pop-up at the wine shop’s newish location. A dream collaboration for oenophiles and ocean fare enthusiasts, savor dishes like fish and chips and North Carolina oysters for dinner and sip a glass (or two) of perfectly paired wine.
Dec. 9 | 5 – 8 p.m. Price dependent on order; 317 S. Bloodworth Street; theraleighwineshop.com
See Theatre in the Park’s A Christmas Carol
An award-winning Triangle tradition since 1974 — that’s also toured in England and France — the Ira David Wood III production of A Christmas Carol infuses the classic Charles Dickens story with humor, warmth and Raleigh nods. Perennial audience members are known to keep their eyes and ears open for new cultural Easter eggs each year, from movie references to political jokes.
Dec. 9 – 18 | From $36.50; 2 E. South Street and 123 Vivian Street, Durham; theatreinthepark.com
See Justice Theatre Project’s Black Nativity at NCMA
Grab your coziest blanket and comfiest picnic chair for this soul-satisfying show (free and open to the public!) from The Justice Theatre Project at the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Helmed by artistic directors Dr. Asabi (Stephanie Howard) and Ray Watkins, the lively 45-minute rendition of the birth of Jesus Christ is told through West African and contemporary dancing, powerful gospel singing and vibrant costumes.
Dec 10 | 11:30 a.m.; Free but donations suggested; 2110 Blue Ridge Road; thejusticetheaterproject.org
Experience Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Most folks know the story of The Nutcracker, in which a young Clara ventures through the Land of Sweets where she battles the Mouse King and meets the Sugar Plum Fairy. This year, Carolina Ballet director Zalman Raffael has updated the choreography and reenvisioned the story to be more inclusive, with same-sex couples and interracial families represented within the cast. “We will honor past productions by George Balanchine and Robert Weiss and move this holiday classic forward into our times,” says Raffael.
Dec. 10 – 24; From $50; 2 E. South Street; carolinaballet.com
Head to Historic Oakwood’s Candlelight Tour
Take a walking tour through Raleigh’s oldest neighborhood and the unique architecture that’s preserved there, from Victorian-era Queen Anne cottages to Neoclassical Revival manors to contemporary designs. With structures dating to the 1800s, the 10-home tour brings guests through interiors while sharing stories of the homes’ history, architecture and inhabitants. “The sights of these beautiful homes in their holiday best is the perfect way to kick off the season,” says Naudain Machen, tour chairperson. “Whether this is your first year attending the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour or your 51st time, I have no doubt it will put you in the holiday spirit.”
Dec. 10 & 11 | 1 – 7 p.m.; From $30; start at 418 N. Person Street; historicoakwood.org
Hear the North Carolina Master Chorale’s Joy of the Season
Get your evening humming with a playlist of modern holiday tunes like “Silver Bells” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” mixed with classical carols from the voices of the North Carolina Master Chorale. Directed by Alfred E. Sturgis and featuring a brass ensemble, this year’s performance marks a milestone of 80 years for the esteemed choral group.
Dec. 13 | 7:30 p.m.; From $28; 2 E. South Street; ncmaster-chorale.org
This article originally appeared in the December 2022 issue of WALTER magazine.