Celebrating the Holidays on Amelia Island

While Covid-19 is changing how we celebrate Christmas and the holidays, we can still find plenty of special occasions to enjoy Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve.

What could be better at Christmastime on Amelia Island than spending a quiet morning walking on the beach in a pair of flip flops! It’s hard to miss a white Christmas when we have our own “white stuff” along the beautiful coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Christmas on Amelia means warm weather, gracious hospitality, friendly shopkeepers, gourmet restaurants, and historic charm. Much of the island is decorated in holiday finery, and everything you need for a joyful celebration is right here. The year 2020 has been difficult for everyone, but Amelia Islanders are busy doing what they do best—enjoying their beautiful island paradise!

Kick off your holiday season with the 14th annual Amelia Island Museum of History Holiday Home Tour, held December 4 and 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit five beautiful homes in historic Fernandina Beach, each decorated for the holidays by a local florist/designer. For tickets and more information, call (904) 261-7378 or visit ameliamuseum.org/holidayhometour/.

On Saturday, December 5 from 6 to 8 p.m., the annual Lighted Christmas Parade on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach will feature a marching band, walkers, dancers, cars, and floats decorated with Christmas lights, and of course, Santa Claus! This event is sponsored by America’s Youth, Inc. For more information contact Sherry Thompson-Cobb at (904) 335-7496.

Stop by the Amelia Island Marketplace (Farmers Market) on December 5 to meet some of Nassau Humane Society’s Adoption Waggin’ volunteers and adoptable pets from 10 a.m. to noon. One of the best gifts you can give this year is compassion and a new home to a deserving animal companion. Consider making a donation to the Nassau Humane Society this Christmas by visiting their website at nassauhumane.org and clicking on “Donate.”

Also on December 5, Story & Song Bookstore Bistro is hosting a Book Fair to benefit St. Michael’s Academy. Twenty percent of proceeds from book and gift sales will be donated to St. Michael’s Academy. And on December 6 and 13, Story & Song presents a staged reading of “A Christmas Memory,” an autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote’s rural Alabama childhood. Ron Kurtz, Arlene Filkoff, and Avery Hilliker paint an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls—one young, one old —and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals. Admission is included with the cost of the Dickens Week lunch special. Safe seating capacity is 25 per CDC guidelines. RSVP by calling (904) 601-2118. Story and Song Bookstore Bistro is located at 1430 Park Avenue.

A downsized Dickens on Centre will be presented this year, with all the lights and festive flair from years past, but not held in its traditional format. The Victorian Christmas-themed street events will feature a beautifully decorated historic downtown, with lots of Christmas decor and dazzling shop windows, along with a Christmas Wish Tree.

The event will be held December 10 to 13. There will not be a Kid Zone, stage entertainment, or vendor shopping booths this year, but the community is encouraged to shop locally and enjoy Fernandina Beach’s charming downtown during the holidays.

Get ready to kick your “bah humbugs” to the curb at the all-new 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 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 with lunch prix-fixe menus at $12 and dinner prix fixe options at $21, $31 or $41.

Like the signature Amelia Island Restaurant Week, Dickens on Centre Dining Week is your chance to not only experience delicious and diverse menu items, but also to 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!

For many years, Amelia Baptist Church, together with the Amelia Community Choir, has been presented “An Evening in December” to 800 to 1,000 people on one weekend in December. This year’s event will be an outdoor venue which includes drama, singing, and a Bethlehem-inspired village with volunteers from more than 14 different churches on December 4, 5, and 6. An original script called “Wise Men Still Seek Him”, written by Peggy Strickland and Peter and Emma Sawyer, will be performed on five outdoor stages on the church’s west lawn.

Small groups and individuals must register through Eventbrite or by calling the church for this free event. Attendees will arrive at their registered ticket time and gather with others to make up a small group that will be guided to walk through the events that led up to the birth of Christ. These portrayals will be communicated through drama and by several small vocal ensembles.

After their 75-minute journey, attendees will walk the east lawn and immerse themselves in the atmosphere of a first-century Bethlehem-inspired village coordinated by Dillon Whitaker. At the village, people will be greeted by shopkeepers with first-century wares and other unique sights. There will be an inn and stable where children may pet animals, like a modern-day petting zoo.

Children attending with their families will also be challenged to complete a fun scavenger hunt before exiting at the refreshment tent where they will be invited to sing carols. For more information and to reserve a time slot,
please visit eveningindecember2020.eventbrite.com or www.ameliabaptist.org or call (904) 261-9527. Organizers request that participants bring a mask to wear as needed.

Animal lovers and fans of holiday cuteness won’t want to miss the Nassau Humane Society’s annual Parade of Paws on December 12, where beloved pets are decked out in their holiday best for a festive stroll up Centre Street from the Welcome Center, ending at the Green Turtle Tavern. There will be a registration table set up outside the Welcome Center starting at 12:30 p.m. Please social distance for your safety, and as always for animals who are unfamiliar with each other. Masks are encouraged if social distancing is not possible.

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 top three best overall costumes. Honorable mention will win 1-month Dog Park Membership for best Victorian costume, most original, cutest personality, and the dog who looks most like his or her owner. For more information please call NHS at (904) 321-1647. (Membership is non-transferable, and must meet Dog Park regulations on vaccinations, age, and spay/neuter.)

While you’re out and about on December 12, be sure to stop at the local galleries during Second Saturday Artrageous Artwalk, held 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 four hundred people celebrating Christmas in the cafeteria at Yulee Middle School.”

This year, due to Covid-19, 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 is providing a Curbside Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Joy will distribute the unwrapped gifts
to the families along with fresh fruit and essential food items. To make a donation or to volunteer, visit their website at joytothechildren.org.

On Saturday, December 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., The Dynamic Les DeMerle Trio presents “The Jazz Feeling of Christmas,” featuring vocalist Bonnie Eisele and Doug Matthews on keyboards. Performing holiday favorites at Story and Song Bookstore Bistro, the concert offers safe theatre-style seating limited to 25. Purchase $25 tickets in advance by calling (904) 601-2118.

Also at Story & Song on December 31, the second story will be transformed into a Parisian cabaret as The Dynamic Les DeMerle Trio celebrates the New Year in Paris. Bistro table seating at safe distance is limited to 12 tables for parties of 2 to 4. $50 tickets include appetizers and champagne. Purchase tickets in advance by calling (904) 601-2118.

Crescendo Amelia’s holiday show, “How the Big Band Stole Christmas” is back! This year, they are performing on the outdoor stage at Amelia Musical Playhouse on December 20, with two shows at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. To keep guests safe, Crescendo Amelia is limiting their seating, promoting social distancing, and taking every precaution to ensure concertgoers have a safe and memorable evening.

Featuring 23 musicians with a variety of professional singers, entertainers, and acts, this family friendly holiday show is sure to get everyone in the spirit. Ask anyone who attended the last six years, they will tell you this show is a “must-see” event! Gates open at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. General admission tickets are bring-your-own chairs, and spots are first come, first served. All seating is outside on grass, so make yourself comfortable and bring whatever you need with you. Amelia Musical Playhouse, located at 1955 Island Walkway, is selling drinks, and there will be a food truck available along with CABB merchandise for sale. For group rates, program ads, and sponsorship opportunities, or for ADA accessible seating, please email dennis@crescendoamelia.com or call (904) 878-0037.

On December 31, the New Year’s Eve Shrimp Drop celebration and fireworks is moving forward, calling the event “Goodbye and Good Riddance 2020 Shrimp Drop Extravaganza.” Presented by “Light Up Amelia,” a non-profit community organization, the group is planning double the fun this year with even more fireworks! For more information and updates, visit their Facebook page or lightupamelia.com.

Visit 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, Joy to the Children, 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!