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Stepping Out

Holiday adventures

‘Tis the season for cherished traditions


The holiday countdown isn’t just about gift buying. Give yourself (and your wallet) a break to take in some of the spirited seasonal festivities going on throughout the area. Many of these events reflect the time-honored rituals of decades long ago.

Old Westbury Gardens’ holiday glitz

    Westbury House, the elegant country estate at Old Westbury Gardens, offers a festive glimpse of early 20th century holiday merriment, before it closes for the winter. The celebration — in full swing right now, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., through Dec. 22 — reflects what the festive season was like during the opulent years of the early 1900s when the Phipps family lived there.

    The period rooms in which John S. Phipps  — the eldest son of Henry Phipps, Andrew Carnegie’s partner at Carnegie Steel — and his family spent their days are impeccably decorated with wreaths, mantelpiece arrangements, topiaries, plants and other horticultural accoutrements. Antique clothing and toys add to the charm of the decorated rooms.

    Bring the kids to create some holiday crafts, share their holiday wishes with Santa and enjoy hot cider and cookies on the West Porch, among other activities throughout the holiday period.

    Sixty years ago the first visitors were welcomed to Old Westbury Gardens and Peggie Phipps Boegner’s dream of creating a public garden in her mother’s honor became a reality.  Since then, the estate has becoming a thriving cultural landmark that provides visitors an enchanting place to experience history, and find inspiration in what is often referred to as one of the 10 best gardens in the world.

    “December makes for a very a magical time to visit Old Westbury Gardens,” says Nancy Costopulos, Old Westbury Gardens President/CEO. “This year is particularly momentous since, after months of restoration work at Westbury House, we are finally able to re-open the doors for visitors to come inside the Phipps’ family home. I believe everyone will enjoy seeing Westbury House in pristine condition while participating in our fabulous seasonal activities.”

    “I urge everyone to get into the holiday spirit by visiting Westbury House, which is elegantly transformed for the holidays. It is a must-visit for the entire family. Each historic room of the house is elegantly decorated “

    Special programming includes “Savor the Season,” a wine and chocolate tasting, which pairs artisan chocolates from around the world with wine, Friday, Dec. 13, 8-9:30 p.m. Enjoy the fusion of aroma, texture, and flavor in the Red Ballroom amidst Westbury House’s dazzling holiday decor.

     Varied local ensembles also perform throughout the weekend. Valley Stream’s Holy Name of Mary School Hand Bell Choir and Choir Concert present seasonal favorites, on Saturday, Dec. 14, 1-2 p.m.; Long Island High School for the Arts Singers appear on Sunday, Dec. 15, 11 a.m.; followed by Suzuki on the Island’s holiday concert, 2 p.m.

    Also, visitors can participate in a Winter Owl Prowl during the holiday celebration’s final weekend, Saturday, Dec. 21, 4-5 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m. A wildlife expert from Volunteers for Wildlife brings live owls for a meet and greet, followed by an outdoor search. For further information, contact (516) 333-0048 or visit www.oldwestburygardens.org.

Old Bethpage Village by candlelight

    Journey back in time during “Candlelight Evenings,” Old Bethpage Village Restoration’s popular 19th century holiday celebration. The historic village is aglow in its “Hallmark Card”-inspired setting during the annual spectacle, Friday through Sunday, Dec. 20-22 and Dec. 27-29,

    Flickering candles illuminate the historic homes that display their holiday finery while showcasing the village’s festive spirit. An annual ritual for many at this time of year, the nighttime ambience lends a distinctive dimension to the charming setting.

    The many activities enchant guests of all ages. Entertainment includes Civil War-era Christmas songs, contra-dancing, the Holiday Brass Quartet and fiddlers, along with an appearance by Olaf, familiar to all who are fans of “Frozen.”

    Stories of Christmases past and classic children’s holiday tales are retold each night, set against the backdrop of the grandly decorated Christmas tree circa 1866. Visitors can gather around a rousing bonfire in the village’s crossroads and enjoy hot mulled cider and refreshments. New this year, an illuminated path to visit Santa at his North Pole workshop adds to the festivities.

    The village is open evenings only for this event. For information, contact (516) 572-8401 or www.obvrnassau.com.