As the holidays draw closer, anticipation of the joyous season builds in the air. As soon as the Thanksgiving dinner tables are cleared, people hit the stores to catch the Black Friday sales, families begin to put up their Christmas trees and holiday music blares from the radio. But most of all, community initiatives are organized to further amplify excitement for the holidays — and in Charlottesville — several events have been planned to spread the joy.
The first of these events included the Grand Illumination and “Elf” screening Dec. 2, hosted by the City of Charlottesville, the U.Va. Community Credit Union and the Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall.
The Grand Illumination is an annual event that ignites Charlottesville locals with holiday spirit with the lighting of the community tree. On the Downtown Mall at Central Place, it attracts people of all ages, from children to college students to parents and grandparents.
Aside from celebrating with friends and family, attendees also had the opportunity to benefit the City of Charlottesville. Toy Lift Charities — an organization committed to increasing volunteerism and collecting toys for local families — was on site, exchanging toys for raffle tickets.
After the annual tree-lighting ceremony at 7:30 p.m., a free screening of the blockbuster comedy “Elf” took place at the Paramount Theater, and the laughter at the adventures of Buddy the Elf reverberated throughout the Downtown Mall.
Before the event, students, such as first-year Caroline Hanes, anticipated traveling beyond the confines of Grounds to indulge in the spirit of the community.
“I'm really excited for the Grand Illumination downtown because I love the holidays and it'll be fun to go off Grounds,” Hanes said.
Once the Grand Illumination officially commenced the holiday season in Charlottesville, more events — such as the Great Charlottesville Santa Fun Run/Walk on Dec. 4 at 11 a.m. — took place.
This mile-long course started and finished at the Sprint Pavilion on the Downtown Mall and was hosted by the Arc of the Piedmont — a local organization that strives to ensure complete inclusion of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Upon arrival, participants received either a Santa suit or a set of elf ears — costumes they donned as they raced along the streets of Charlottesville. The ultimate mission of the event was not to measure the speed of the runners and walkers, but rather to raise the most money for those with disabilities in Central Virginia who cannot participate in the event themselves.
Many Charlottesville locals and U.Va. students — such as first-year College student Gigi Mensah — looked forward to this opportunity to run for a cause.
“It seems like a fun event to go to with your friends while also raising money for a good cause,” Mensah said. “I think it’s a great way to commence the holiday season by dressing up as an elf or Santa.”
Even after finals begin and students burrow in the libraries, events such as Barnes & Noble’s Harry Potter Magical Holiday Ball will take place to further bring together the community in the holiday season.
This enchanting event, taking place Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Barracks Barnes & Noble, offers a chance to dress up as a favorite Harry Potter character and revel in the magic and wonder of wizardry.
All those who seek spellbinding surprises and Harry Potter-themed activities should attend this Magical Holiday Ball — inspired by the Yule Ball in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” This event aims to promote merriment and celebrate the spirit of the holidays.
The event also encourages people to read more by demonstrating the magic that can emerge from the pages of a book. Its mission is to strengthen the connection between the Harry Potter world and the lessons that lie in the stories themselves.
“We invite guests to come dressed for a ball in their favorite Harry Potter character, Harry Potter themed craft making station, photo op areas throughout the store, activity and coloring stations, and a Dobby Sock Box,” Sandi Cararo, community development manager for Barnes & Noble, said.
The Magical Ball — as well as the Grand Illumination and the Great Charlottesville Santa Fun Run/Walk — is an effort meant to enhance the holiday spirit that pervades throughout Grounds and the community of Charlottesville. These events offer the chance to dress up in a spirited costume and revel in the merriment of the holidays, while also giving back to Hooville and all those who reside in it.
Nothing captures Christmas quite like music, and the annual Family Holiday Concerts embody the traditional essence of the holidays through classic holiday songs. The concerts bring joy and delight to the members of the Charlottesville community who travel to Old Cabell Hall for the shows.
This year, the 10th annual Family Holiday Concerts took place Dec. 3, at 8 p.m. and Dec. 4 at 3:30 p.m. in Old Cabell.
Founded in 2005 by Associate Prof. Michael Slon, the University director of choral music, the Family Holiday Concerts have become a principal element of the holiday season, and — excluding the montage of performances at the Lighting of the Lawn — the Family Holiday Concerts are the largest concerts on Grounds. The University Singers and Charlottesville Symphony come together to organize the shows, rehearsing several times before the weekend of the concerts.
“The singers in the chorus always enjoy getting together with their colleagues in the symphony to perform, and the festive music adds a lot of merriment to the end of the semester,” Slon said.
The Holiday Concerts are unique shows on Grounds because their influence extends beyond students at the University and permeates throughout the wider Charlottesville community.
“While fall and spring University Singers concerts tend to draw larger numbers of students, the Family Holiday Concerts tend to sell out, largely drawing an audience from the wider Charlottesville community, including families with children, and so form a bridge from U.Va. to our surrounding community through music,” Slon said.
Whether it’s through the illumination of a Christmas tree, the festivities of a Magical Ball, the mile-long course of a Santa Fun Run or the harmony of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the Charlottesville community goes to great lengths to capture the essence of the holiday spirit — both on Grounds and off.