Disclaimer: Due to COVID-19 concerns, many events might be canceled, postponed, or changed into limited versions, sometimes at very short notice. Please check with event organizers directly for the latest updates (view the "External Resources" section below).
Christmas is an exceptional time in New England. The illuminated streets and trees of downtown Portland and historic Freeport are delightful with a blanket of fresh snow. With beautifully illuminated ship parades along the waterfront and beautiful decorations everywhere, Christmas is the time when you can see Maine at its brightest.
Monument Square Tree Lighting, Portland (ceremony canceled in 2020 | from November 27, 2020 webcam broadcast)
The Monument Square tree lighting is the annual Portland tradition that kicks off the city's Christmas season. The celebration features live entertainment and a Santa Claus appearance. Bundle up in warm clothes and enjoy dazzling Christmas lights in downtown Portland. Try some complimentary eggnog, take a family picture in Photo Frame created by SubZero Ice Carvings, and watch amazing ice-carving demos. Take a horse & wagon ride through the historic downtown, try holiday treats from The Marshmallow Cart, and warm up in the warming hut or Portland Public Library‘s cozy atrium.
Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay (November 21, 2020–January 2, 2021, driving tour)
As the night falls on Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, it turns into a winter wonderland. One of New England's largest and brightest light displays illuminates the beautiful garden with over 650,000 lights. A dramatic display of color incorporates not just natural beauty but also a magnificent sculpture exhibit. Visitors can also take advantage of gift shopping in the Garden shop and other activities. So bundle up and get into the Christmas spirit at wonderful Gardens Aglow. To avoid overcrowding, the Gardens caps attendance for each night, so make sure to buy your tickets early.
Gardiner Parade of Lights on Water Street (December 4–6, 2020, Johnson Hall Festival of Trees)
Parade of Lights on Water Street is a premier holiday event in Gardiner, Maine. The favorite family event kicks off with Small Business Saturday when local stores have open houses with various activities and refreshments. The Lighting Saturday starts with a festival at Johnson Hall Park. There is live entertainment, hot cocoa, a bake sale, and Christmas caroling. Children can meet Santa Claus in Gardiner City Hall Council Room from 5:30 to 6:30 pm Parade of Lights usually travels along Water Street from Winter Street to Waterfront Park. The parade has a different theme every year.
Sparkle Weekend in Freeport (December 4–13, 2020)
Sparkle Weekend is a massive Christmas celebration in Freeport. Maine's historic village gathers thousands of people every year for the region's most popular family-friendly holiday festival. The main attraction of Sparkle Celebration is the Freeport Parade of Lights that travels down Main Street to the iconic Talking Christmas Tree. The festivities last throughout the week and offer many free activities, such as visits with Santa, carriage rides, Christmas movie screenings, and a tuba Christmas concert. Visitors can also enjoy shopping for the L.L.Bean's Northern Lights Celebration that takes place at the same time.
L.L. Bean Northern Lights Celebration, Freeport (November 23–December 31, 2020)
The L.L. Bean Northern Lights Celebration holds one of the most popular Christmas festivals in Maine, taking place at its flagship campus in Freeport. With thousands of twinkling lights and visits with Santa and his reindeer, the festival has fun activities for all ages. Illuminated forested trails feature over 600 evergreens and one giant Christmas tree. Kids love Santa’s post-and-beam workshop where they can share their holiday wishes. Warm-up in a festive 30-foot (9-m) yurt and enjoy the famous Model Train Village. Marvel Freeport's dazzling Christmas lights while enjoying the free horse-drawn wagon rides that depart from the flagship store on Main Street.
Lighting of the Nubble Lighthouse, Cape Neddick, York (November 28, 2020–January 1, 2021)
If you want to see a classic American lighthouse, head to Cape Neddick in York, Maine. Nubble Lighthouse dates back to 1879 and is a New England icon. The 41-foot (12-m) structure sends light 88 feet (27 m) above sea level. The lighthouse now serves as a bed-and-breakfast. During the holidays, it also features a beautiful Christmas light display. Nubble Lighthouse is an excellent spot for writing, painting, photographing, meditating, and other activities that require solitude and beautiful views.
The Portland Harbor Christmas Boat Parade of Lights (December 14, 2019)
The Portland Harbor Christmas Boat Parade of Lights is one of Maine's most famous holiday events, with thousands of spectators watching the Portland waterfront's annual spectacular. A great option to watch the parade is booking a cruise with Casco Bay Lines. Many specialty and music cruises serve food, wine, and champagne to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. If you have no intention to board a boat or a ferry, the large parade of illuminated boats is perfectly visible from the Maine State Pier.