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The Christmas season has finally arrived and, as regular as the annual visit from Santa and his packed sleigh, Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace welcomes it with this weekend with yearly parades.

Bel Air officially welcomes the holiday season, and closes out the Christmas parade weekend, with its annual Christmas celebration Sunday, Dec. 6, from 2:45 to 5 p.m.

The events in the county seat promise to pack a day’s fun and activities into a tight package. Volunteer Coordinator Mike Blum explained that the new “hard and fast” direction of the events is intentional.

“We’re really kicking off the core Christmas season,” Blum said. “We’ve simplified it to make it more fun, for sure.”

Festivities begin with the Courtland Street Concert from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m.

“We start with the street concert to basically warm up the crowd on a cold day,” Blum said. “You have to keep everything pretty short because the cold temperatures can sometimes be a problem.”

The procession follows the street concert, with a host of sports mascots, costumed characters, performing groups and marching bands.

“Its not called a parade this year,” Blum said. “Parades in the past have been too long and too complicated. This procession will be solid hooplah for about 35 minutes.”

After the procession, the annual bonfire and tree lighting will be held in Shamrock Park from 4 to 5 p.m., featuring caroling, music, hot cocoa, refreshments and even a few extra surprises.

“Shamrock Park is what the town is about, so we’re really trying to get people to come,” Blum explained. “There might be some special surprises this year as well.”

HdG welcomes the holidays

Havre de Grace opens the parade weekend with its First Fridays holiday celebration and annual parade.

The Christmas parade, which starts at 6 p.m. at the corner of Congress Avenue and Washington Street and ends at Rochambeau Plaza, where Green, St. John and North Washington streets converge, promises new excitement, thanks in part to new decorations, including strings of high-quality LED lights.

“The LED lights are bright and beautiful,” Brigitte Peters, the city’s tourism director, said. “Everyone who sees the displays are sure to love them.”

As part of its focus on local businesses, many stores along the parade route will be open late.

The parade will end around 6:30 p.m. at Rochambeau Plaza, where the annual tree lighting will commence, complete with not only the main Christmas tree, but also all the trees that line the sidewalk of Washington Street.

“The tree — it’s huge and it’s beautiful, and the whole lightscape is going to be wonderful this year,” Peters said. “There are 1,500 lights going on that tree, and it’s topped with a gold star this year, which I think highlights the season.”

At the tree lighting, children can meet Santa and/or drop off their wish lists and letters to Santa, courtesy of the North Pole mailbox stationed at Rochambeau Plaza.

Peters said the mailbox will remain for the bulk of December — which is a good thing since the U.S. Postal Service will no longer accept letters to Santa — before vanishing on Christmas Eve.

“We started doing collections for Santa to make sure the children’s letters made it in time for Christmas,” Peters said. “We had a fair amount of participation last year, but now that more people know about it, we hope it’ll be a successful annual event to set up for the children.”

Aberdeen marches on

Sandwiched between Havre de Grace’s opening night parade and Bel Air’s closing afternoon’s procession is another of Harford County’s heavyweight holiday events: Aberdeen’s annual Christmas Street celebration Saturday, Dec. 5.

The theme this year is “Christmas Wonderland,” and the day starts with Breakfast with Santa from 7 to 11 a.m. at Grace Methodist Church. There’s also a Christmas craft fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Aberdeen firehouse on Rogers Street.

“Last year, there were 150 vendors, and they’ll probably do the same this year,” Caroline Curry, event planner, said.

From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m, the Aberdeen Room Museum will host its open house and serve punch and cookies.

From 1 to 2 p.m., Grace United Methodist Church will host its annual nativity scene from 1 to 2 p.m. The display will have numerous high-quality and detailed nativity scenes.

Following the nativity, but before the parade, is street entertainment at 2 p.m., featuring performances by the Jammin’ Country Dancers and others.

The Christmas Street Parade begins at 3 p.m., when Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on their sleigh led by Rudolph.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Curry said. “The kids have a ball, and we had a lot of people lining the streets last year. We went halfway through the parade last year and then got some flurries, and that just topped off the event.”

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