Jody Mace: On the Cheap

Get a start on the holidays – for free

Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are done. Now it’s time to get in the holiday spirit. There’s plenty to do in the Charlotte region this time of year, and much of it is free. Here’s a list of 20 free holiday events and activities. Want more? Visit CharlotteOnTheCheap.com.

Leonard Bearstein’s

Symphony Orchestra

Through Dec. 26 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Founders Hall, 100 N. Tryon St. foundershall.com.

Every day this animatronic orchestra, led by the charismatic Leonard Bearstein, entertains audiences with 45-minute sets, repeated throughout the day. Check the website for when they will be playing other engagements.

Belmont Abbey

Christmas Concert

Fri 8 p.m. Abbey Basilica, Belmont Abbey College, 100 Belmont-Mount Holly Road, Belmont. Chorus, voice, instrumental and organ students present the annual holiday concert. belmontabbeycollege.edu.

Community Nativity Festival

Fri-Sat 4:30-8:30 p.m. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7036 McIlwaine Road, Huntersville. nativityfestival.com.

View 500 Nativities, enjoy nightly musical performances, make and take children’s crafts, dress in Nativity costumes and take a photo for your family Christmas card.

Santa’s Bag

Fri 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 4:30-7 p.m.; (also 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday). ImaginOn, 300 E. Seventh St. ctcharlotte.org.

Children under age 12 can shop for pre-wrapped gifts priced from .50 cents to $5, with the help of “elves.” In addition, they can meet Santa. Parents can take pictures.

A Golden Christmas

Sat 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Reed Gold Mine, 9621 Reed Mine Road, Midland. nchistoricsites.org/reed/reed.htm.

Enjoy the only Christmas candlelight tour you can take in the daytime. The underground mine tunnels will be decorated for the holidays, and special holiday-themed tours will show how Christmas was celebrated over the years at Reed Gold Mine.

Christmas in Davidson Festival

Through Sat 6-9 p.m. Downtown Davidson. christmasindavidson.com.

Visit Santa’s house, enjoy hayrides and carriage rides, participate in an ugly sweater contest, watch live music and dance performances, see a dog fashion show, shop for Christmas trees, let the kids make holiday crafts and much more.

Plaza Midwood’s

Holiday Central

Sat 2-6 p.m. Commonwealth Avenue, between Thomas and Pecan. plazamidwood.com.

This family-friendly festival includes live music, lighting of the art tree, kids’ crafts, free popcorn, coffee and hot chocolate, photos with Santa and photos of your dog with the Grinch.

North Mecklenburg

Community Chorus Concert

Sat 3 p.m. (Also 7 p.m. Monday). Two locations. nmccsings.org.

This community chorus is presenting two Christmas concerts: Saturday at Community in Christ Lutheran Church, 7621 Norman Island Drive, Cornelius; Monday at First Baptist, 119 N. Old Statesville Road, Huntersville.

Providence Chamber Music Recital

Sun 7 p.m. Providence United Methodist Church, 2810 Providence Road. providenceumc.org.

The church’s Chancel Choir and orchestra, under the direction of Adam Ward, present their annual Christmas Concert with performances of Francis Poulenc’s “Gloria” and Robert Shaw and Robert Russell Bennett’s “The Many Moods of Christmas.”

Ballantyne Gingerbread Village

Dec. 11-28 Ballantyne Hotel, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway. theballantynehotel.com.

Admire gingerbread artists’ creations at no charge. Attendees may vote on their favorite entries with a $1 minimum donation per vote. All proceeds will benefit Levine Children’s Hospital.

Fifth Annual Latke Festival

Dec. 12 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Atherton Mill and Market, 2104 South Blvd. athertonmillandmarket.com.

Visit Pickleville at the market and sample traditional and unique versions of the traditional Hanukkah potato pancake, including Cajun, Tex-Mex, curried, gluten-free, chocolate and vegan latkes.

NoDa Krampus Krawl

Dec. 13 5:30 p.m. NoDa neighborhood. nodakrampuskrawl.com.

Krampus is a figure in Central European literature. You could say he’s Santa’s enforcer, or the evil side of Santa. He’ll be in NoDa for the Krampus Krawl. If you see him coming, ask one of the Krampus wranglers for a sticker identifying you as “naughty” or “nice.” If you’re nice maybe you’ll get a piece of candy. Festivities start at Heist Brewery at 5:30; the official procession starts at 6:30 in front of the Johnston YMCA.

NoDa Tree Lighting Celebration

Dec. 14 6 p.m. Front lawn of the Johnston YMCA, 3025 N. Davidson St. qcchurch.com.

Festivities include hot chocolate, cookies, Christmas crafts and carols in addition to the tree lighting. Rumor has it that Santa might attend, too.

Hanukkah Celebration

at SouthPark mall

Dec. 16 4:30-6:30 p.m. Circle Court at SouthPark mall. chabadnc.org

Celebrate Hanukkah with a Menorah lighting, Hanukkah treats, face-painting, music and children’s entertainment.

Grand Menorah lighting at Stonecrest Shopping Center

Dec. 17 5:30 p.m. Stonecrest Shopping Center, 7832 Rea Road. Jewishballantyne.com.

The event will take place near the fountain. Enjoy hot drinks, latkes (potato pancakes), doughnuts and crafts. Presented by Ballantyne Jewish Center.

Christmas at the Library

Through Dec. 23 5-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Thur.; 5-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Billy Graham Library, 4330 Westmont Drive. billygrahamlibrary.org.

View lights and a live Nativity scene, listen to carolers and hear the Christmas story. Also enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides through the lights, for a fee. Bring the kids from noon-2 to pet the animals.

Charlotte Bronze Handbell Ensemble

Dec. 21 4:30 p.m. (also 7 p.m. Dec. 22). Two locations. charlottebronze.org

Enjoy two handbell concerts: Dec. 21 at Morning Star Lutheran Church, 12509 Idlewild Road, Matthews; and Dec. 22 at First United Methodist Church, 501 N. Tryon St.

Kwanzaa Event at Gantt Center

Dec. 23 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, 551 S. Tryon St. ganttcenter.org.

Get ready for Kwanzaa by creating your own kinara and Kwanzaa candle in these drop-in workshops co-led by Girl Scouts from the Hornet’s Nest Council. Educator and performing artist Kami Shalom will lead a program highlighting the history of Kwanzaa and the principles and symbols important to this weeklong celebration. Free with donation of two food donations per person for Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.

Kannapolis Celebration

of Lights

Nightly, except Dec. 24-25 Starting at 6. Village Park, 700 W. C St., Kannapolis. kannapolischristmas.com.

The park is decorated with more than 250,000 lights. Walk through for free or take the Winterland Express train for $2. Meet Santa, roast marshmallows and make s’mores. The park will host a few special activities as well, including a Christmas festival, a Christmas parade and a Nativity night. Check website for details.

CLT New Year’s Eve

Dec. 31 7 p.m. NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza, Martin Luther King Boulevard and South Brevard Street. charlottecentercity.org/events.

This alcohol-free, family-friendly event brings in the New Year with live music, activities and performances. Count down to 2015 with fireworks and the raising of the Queen City Crown.

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