The holidays don't always come as easy to people as they appear to in the movies. It starts out easily enough - your family arrives, the shoes are put by the fire, stockings are hung, and before you know it, your aunt is throwing stuffing across the room, Grandma is yelling because the turkey is dry, and your niece is complaining that the doll you got her is "so last year."
For those of you feeling a little claustrophobic while hosting your family, why not try getting out of the house for some holiday cheer? The region has many diverse events going on right outside your door that are just waiting to restore your faith in the holiday season.
Despite what you may have seen on HBO, the casinos are not all booze and violence. In fact, there are many family events going on all over Atlantic City. From now until Dec. 21, for instance, the Tropicana Showroom will be hosting its holiday event, Spirit of Christmas - a Celebration of the Holidays.
The Christmas extravaganza, presented in the fashion of a New York Christmas variety show, is hosted by Santa himself as he takes you on a nostalgic journey, using an eclectic mix of costumes, singing and dancing that will leave you beaming with festive joy. Tickets are priced at $25 to $35 and can be purchased from the Tropicana box office. This is an event the whole family can enjoy and will leave you yearning to sing carols by the Yule Log when you get home.
If the city is too much of a hassle for families that are either too big or have young ones that won't sit still during an entire show, don't give up yet, there are also events in rural areas of the region that have just as much to offer.
The Christmas Candlelight House Tour in Cape May is a great, self-guided tour that lets family members set their own pace as they view the beautifully decorated Victorian homes, inns and churches. Susan Krystiak, communications coordinator for The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, says, "This is the event that people associate with Christmas in Cape May." It is so widely renowned, in fact, that Krystiak urges visitors to call in advance to reserve a spot.
"The limited tickets go so fast. Everyone just loves the strolling musicians and the (heated) carriages. It just really provides everyone who visits with an enormous amount of holiday cheer," she says.
The 38th annual Christmas Candlelight House Tour's price of admission is $20 for children ages 3 to 12 and $25 for adults. Hours are from 5:30-10:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10 and 17. Tickets are available now.
Perhaps the most iconic of all holiday symbols is the Christmas tree, standing tall as a shining beacon of Christmas spirit. For even the most miserly family member, the Christmas Light Show at the Historic Smithville Inn will bring a little warmth to heart. This unique Christmas event sets itself apart from most light shows with 120 Christmas trees floating on Lake Meone that light up in sync with the music that plays all around the shore. The reflection of the lights dancing on the water makes for a beautiful sight that will bring the family together and remind you of what the holidays are for.
Innkeeper Tracy Walsh says that it is the water that makes the Smithville Light Show so exceptional. "The fact that the lights seem to chase each other on the water to the music is very fun. It draws you in and you can see it from anywhere along the shore.
"In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season," she adds, "you have the carousel going behind you, you have your cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream on it and the music is so robust and all around you that you just let all the stress melt away."
The light show is free and open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from dusk - usually around 5:30 - until 8:30 p.m.
In addition to the light show, younger family members are sure to enjoy the magic talking Christmas tree and story time with Mrs. Claus.
Story time with Mrs. Claus is a free book reading that takes place between 1 and 4 p.m. in the Village Green section of Smithville. Mrs. Claus will read a variety of classic Christmas stories, offering an opportunity to bring the holiday spirit to the sprouts of the family.
The Magic Tree is also a well-known attraction around the holidays. Completely interactive, the tree will respond to questions from guests and hold a conversation for as long as it is awake. The tree wakes up on Saturday and Sunday, starting Dec. 9. Don't miss your chance to come say hello.
So remember, when you are entertaining your family for the holidays and the traffic in your house gets to be too much, consider taking the family out to see all the beautiful sights the region has to offer. Take a little time to remind yourself what the holidays are all about. What better way to spend your time than making meaningful memories with the people you love?