Celebrate the Joys of the Season on Amelia Island

From “Dickens on Centre” to Christmas concerts and fun-filled holiday happenings, Amelia Island knows how to celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s Eve.

‘Tis the season to be merry, and all the Christmas finery is coming out on Amelia Island! The shopping season has begun, and the holiday decorations and lights have been carefully placed. Look around the island and you will see historic bed-and-breakfast inns decorated with garlands and greenery. The Salvation Army volunteers are ringing their bells, and children are trying their best to be as good as possible. The past two years have been challenging for everyone, but Amelia Islanders are doing what they do best—enjoying their beautiful island paradise!

On December 2, 3, and 5, celebrate the 25th anniversary of “An Evening in December” at Amelia Baptist Church. This beloved event features the Amelia Community Choir and includes drama, uplifting music, and a Bethlehem-inspired village with volunteers from more than ten different churches. The evening will begin with a mini-concert, which will include favorite Christmas carols. It will be followed by a guided walk through the events that led up to the birth of Jesus, as well as an immersive visit to a first-century Bethlehem inspired-village.

The village will include a petting zoo and scavenger hunt for children. Since this free event has limited space, small groups and individuals must register through Eventbrite or by calling the church. Attendees will arrive at their registered ticket time and gather with others to be led through this celebration. For more information and to reserve a time slot, visit www.aneveningindecember2021.eventbrite.com or www.ameliabaptist.org or call (904) 261-9527.
On Friday, December 3, the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival launches its 21st season with an uplifting and joyful musical performance! The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guest vocalist Alita Moses will fill you with cheer as they perform their unique big-band version of holiday classics. The concert will be held at First Baptist Church at 1600 South 8th Street. To purchase tickets, visit www.ameliachambermusic.org.

A popular holiday tradition is the Annual Amelia Island Museum of History Holiday Home Tour, celebrating its fifteenth year, held December 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit four beautiful homes in historic Fernandina Beach, each decorated for the holidays by a local decorator. For tickets and more information, call (904) 261-7378 or visit www.ameliamuseum.org/holidayhometour.

Story and Song Bookstore Bistro presents a festive holiday performance featuring The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band With Bonnie Eisele, vocals; Doug Matthews, piano/keyboards; Johnnie Robinson, saxophone; and Les DeMerle, drums. The Jazz Spirit of Christmas Show is presented on Saturday, December 4, with two showtimes at 2 and 5 p.m. This exciting show features classic jazz holiday music from the Les DeMerle Band’s internationally acclaimed CD on Origin Records, “The Jazz Spirit of Christmas,” with swingin’ interpretations of holiday classics like “Winter Wonderland,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and Bonnie’s version of “Santa Baby” to get you in the mood for the season. For tickets, call (904) 601-2118. Story and Song is located at 1430 Park Avenue.

Kick off your holiday season with the annual Lighted Christmas Parade on December 4 at 6 p.m. Come enjoy the magic of the holiday season, organized by America’s Youth. The parade, which begins at Central Park, consists of bands, dancers, lighted floats, and more. For information on becoming a participant, contact John Gilbert at john@americayouth.org.

If running is your thing, consider entering the Reindeer Run Half Marathon and 5k Race on December 5. The race begins at Main Beach Park at 7 a.m. This is a running/walking event held by the City of Fernandina Beach to help raise funds for our community. If you’re not a runner, come see the race and support the participants! This year, bring your pups and join in the fun with a 5k Dog walk with all proceeds going to FAN, a non-profit that helps animals and their owners with their needs. For more information, visit www.ameliarunners.com/reindeer-run.

Also on December 5, the Jewish Community of Amelia Island is celebrating Chanukah with a Chanukah Party! Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games, and gifts. For location, time, and more information, call Deb Price at (203) 313-3925 or email her at Deb203@aol.com.

Dickens on Centre is a Victorian holiday festival that transports downtown Fernandina Beach back into the time of Charles Dickens, themed after his popular novel, A Christmas Carol. Join the festivities on Thursday, December 9, at 6:30 p.m. for the Dickens Illuminated Procession, a Victorian walking lantern parade followed by fireworks. Stay for a weekend of holiday cheer with the Dickens on Centre festival starting Friday, December 10 at 5 p.m. through Sunday, December 12 at 7 p.m. Enjoy the expanded festival footprint while you meet St. Nick in his workshop within Tiny Tim’s Kid Zone. Stay for the variety of period performances on multiple stages and in the streets throughout the festival. All Covid-19 protocols and measures will be in place for everyone’s safety.

As part of Dickens on Centre, bring the whole family to Main Beach on Saturday, December 11 a.m. for a 1-mile fun run called “Run Like the Dickens.” The course will run 1/2 mile north or south on the beach depending on the conditions of the sand, and back to the start/finish area. Pre-register through Friday, December 10 until 6 p.m. All who pre-register get an official Run Like the Dickens t-shirt, and all are welcome, including kids and dogs! To sign up, visit www.runsignup.com/Race/FL/FernandinaBeach/RunLiketheDickens21.

Enjoy great holiday food at the Dickens on Centre Dining Week, where the island’s most popular dining hot spots will offer Dickens-themed or Victorian-inspired menus. Held December 4 to December 13, folks can enjoy everything from Italian to Creole to seafood to pub favorites in participating restaurants all around the island. There are menus for every taste and budget.

Similar to the signature Amelia Island Restaurant Week, Dickens on Centre Dining Week is your chance to not only experience delicious and diverse menu items but to also get out and support our island restaurants at the holidays. Whether you’re looking to try a new spot or enjoy your tried-and-true favorite, kick off your holiday season with Dickens on Centre Dining week!

Animal lovers and fans of holiday cuteness won’t want to miss the Nassau Humane Society’s annual Parade of Paws on December 11 at 11 a.m., where beloved pets are decked out in their holiday best for a festive stroll up Centre Street from the Welcome Center. Registration is $20 per animal, with proceeds going to NHS. Pre-registration, strongly encouraged, is available now at the NHS Adoption Center and Dog Park, Second Chance and The Closet resale stores, and Redbones Dog Bakery. People-friendly and animal-friendly dogs only please. Prizes will be awarded for the best overall costumes. For more information, call the Nassau Humane Society at (904) 321-1647.

While you’re out and about on December 11, be sure to stop at the local galleries during the Second Saturday Artrageous Artwalk, held from 5 to 8 p.m. Participating galleries host art events and open houses during the second Saturday Artrageous Artwalk to showcase their resident artists. Locals and tourists alike can enjoy the various types of art that each gallery has to offer as well as meet the artists. Photography, pottery, copper, metal, fused as well as stained glass, watercolors, acrylics, oils, and batik are just a few of the varied media folks can expect to see.

“We are happy to announce we will bring Joy to the Children this year!” says Dawn Grant, president of the organization. “Since 1995, Joy has been able to serve economically disadvantaged children and their families in the Nassau County community. In recent years we have hosted 150 children and their families each Christmas Day to provide a celebration that included Christmas dinner and gifts of clothing, bedding, books, school supplies, hygiene products, and toys. The families, along with our Christmas Day volunteers, account for almost 400 people celebrating Christmas in the cafeteria at Yulee Middle School.”

Once again, due to Covid, Joy to the Children is changing how they provide Christmas for these families. They will still provide dinner and gifts, but in lieu of the usual Christmas Day celebration Joy will provide a Curbside Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the organization will distribute the unwrapped gifts to the families along with fresh fruit and essential food items that the families may use to prepare dinner.

“The families we serve are chosen with the help of the Homeless/FIT (Families In Transition) Program of Nassau County Schools,” says Grant. “While most of the families are not actually homeless, they are displaced and living with relatives or in hotels. Your donation this year will greatly help in the continued success of this local program, and that is why we are counting on your support.” To make a donation or to volunteer, visit their website at www.joytothechildren.org.

On December 18, the Fernandina Beach Library is holding a Holiday Festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on 4th Street between Centre and Alachua streets. Their mission is to provide a free, family-fun event that will also promote local businesses downtown. There will be local state and federal agencies onsite to educate families about vital services and programs that are beneficial, along with games, crafts, and much more. Come out and enjoy this free, informational event! For more information, contact Michele Ford at (904) 530-6506 or mforde@nassaucountyfl.com.

On December 18, Crescendo Amelia Big Band presents “How the Big Band Stole Christmas, featuring over twenty-five world class performers in a classic big band setting including professional singers, entertainers, dancers, and actors. This family-friendly holiday show is sure to get everyone in the spirit. Ask anyone that has attended before, and they will tell you this show is a “must-see” event. This full theatre production will include all your favorite holiday songs, local celebrity singers, dancing, acting and a few surprises! And if you’re nice, maybe St. Nick will pay a visit too! “How the Big Band Stole Christmas” will be held at Fernandina Beach Middle School, located at 315 Citrona Drive. To purchase tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/how-the-big-band-stole-christmas-fernandina-beach-tickets-203561547067.

Ring in the New Year on December 31 when Story and Song Bookstore Bistro presents a “Jazzy New Year: Venice.” Greet the New Year in Venice to the swingin’ sounds of the Dynamic Les DeMerle Trio, featuring vocalist Bonnie Eisele. Tickets include a traditional Italian dinner and a champagne toast when it’s midnight in Italy! For more information or to purchase tickets, call (904) 601-2118. Story and Song is located at 1430 Park Avenue.

On December 31, the New Year’s Eve Shrimp Drop celebration and fireworks will begin at 5 p.m. with vendors and food. Presented by “Light Up Amelia,” a non-profit community organization, the group is planning fireworks for 7 p.m. sharp! Don’t miss out on all the fun as Amelia Island rings in the New Year! For more information and updates on the event, visit their Facebook page or their web site at www.lightupamelia.com.

Visit www.ameliaisland.com for updates on these and other holiday events. Be sure to check with the local churches for the dates of their pageants and craft shows, and don’t forget our local charities. The Barnabas Center, Micah’s Place, Hope House, and many other charities need donations of time and gifts this season. Enjoy the season here on Amelia Island and spread some holiday cheer of your own!