Guide to Christmas in Gettysburg: Events, Shopping, and Lights

Shriver House Museum, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Shriver House Museum

The Christmas season is a great time to visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This historic town, known for its three-day battle in 1863, is a year-round destination with a wide range of attractions and a variety of special events throughout the holiday season.

In 2018, events kick off just after Thanksgiving with the annual Gettysburg Christmas Parade and continue for four weeks with concerts, open houses, special holiday displays, and great decorations throughout the town. During your holiday vacation, you can stay in one of Gettysburg's cozy bed and breakfasts, enjoy a weekend of shopping, or just take a walk through the downtown district taking in the charm of the historic town.

This holiday season, get into the holiday spirit with live performances at the historic Majestic Theater or head to Liberty Mountain Resort in nearby Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania, to enjoy a day of skiing, snowboarding, or snow tubing. Wherever you go in the area, you're sure to find some festival Christmas holiday fun.

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Pick Out a Christmas Tree

In addition to the many festive events that Gettysburg has to offer, Adams County is an ideal place to gather the family to pick a fresh Christmas tree to take home. The countryside is brimming with evergreen tree farms, many of which offer special holiday events, wagon rides, and cut-your-own Christmas tree experiences.

The Gettysburg Tree Farm, also known as the Breighner Tree Farm, is perhaps the most popular destination for picking out your own special tree. However, the Showers Tree Farm in Aspers, Pennsylvania, hosts a series of special events and activities throughout the holiday season including visits from Santa Claus, a Christmas Craft Store, hayrides, a petting zoo, and an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest on December 8, 2018, at 2 p.m.

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Do Some Holiday Shopping at the Outlet Shoppes

Two miles south of Gettysburg, you can visit the Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg, where you'll find more than 70 stores for holiday shopping. Of course, you can also always stop by the Christmas Tree Hill store in the Outlet Shoppes any time of year if you need a little taste of the holiday spirit—even in July.

A highlight of the season at the Outlet Shoppes is "Merriment on Main Street," which sees the main strip of the shops decorated in thousands of white holiday lights and bright ribbons. Guests of the Shoppes can either walk on foot or travel by horse-drawn carriage down Main Street from 5 to 8 p.m. nightly to witness all the lights and decorations.

Santa Claus will also be making visits to the Shoppes throughout the month of December, and several shops will be donating items to a charity raffle with weekly large-ticket giveaways.

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Watch the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

On November 23, 2018 (the day after Thanksgiving), the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants' Association (GARMA) will host its annual Tree Lighting Celebration from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Lincoln Square in downtown Gettysburg.

This free event will include visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, strolling carolers singing classic Christmas favorites, and light refreshments provided by GARMA. Member stores and restaurants will also be open for extended hours, and many will offer extra hospitality to celebrate this festive season.

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Candlelight Christmas Tours at the Shriver House

The Shriver House is a historic museum that preserves the history and experience of family in pre-Civil War Gettysburg. You can take tours of this living museum year-round, but during the holidays, you'll have several opportunities to experience how the holidays were celebrated in the 1800s.

At the Shriver House, you can experience a Candlelight Christmas Tour of the museum and hear how the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War changed the Shriver family’s lives forever. Tours will take place in 2018 on Thanksgiving evening at 5 and 7 p.m.; on Friday and Saturday, November 23 and 24 at 4, 6, and 8 p.m.; on Fridays through December 14 at 8 p.m.; and on Saturdays through December 15 at 4, 6, and 8 p.m.

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Experience an Eisenhower Christmas

Celebrate Christmas at the Eisenhower National Historic Site and see the family’s home decorated as it was during their presidential years in the 1950s. From December 1 through 31, 2018, you can tour the historic estate of the First Family of Gettysburg.

Walk through historic halls adorned with poinsettias and boughs of holly, take a peek at the large fir tree surrounded with presents, and awe at the dining room set for a traditional holiday meal in the 1950s. In the living room, you can listen to park rangers tell stories about the Eisenhower's Christmas traditions.

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Lay a Holiday Wreath at the Gettysburg National Cemetery

On November 30, 2018, you can help assemble and lay wreaths at the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Sponsored by the Sgt. Mac Foundation, a non-profit charity honoring fallen veterans, this annual event works in tandem with the National Wreath Project to make sure that the gravesites at National Cemeteries are adorned for the holiday season.

Over 500 of these holiday wreaths will be constructed in the Giant Foods Parking Lot starting at 8 a.m. on November 30. A large portion of these wreaths will be placed at the Soldiers National Cemetery at 1 p.m., and the remainder will be placed at the Quantico National Cemetary on December 1 at 10 a.m.

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Attend the Olde Getty Place Christmas Parade

On December 1, 2018, you can head to downtown Gettysburg to watch or participate in the annual Olde Getty Place Christmas Parade—the highlight and official kickoff of the holiday event season. This annual parade starts at 7 p.m. and will immediately be followed by the tree lighting ceremony in Lincoln Square, which includes a special holiday carol sing-along.

If you want to participate in the parade, the formation will begin at 6 p.m. on Lefever Street in front of Gettysburg Area Middle School. The parade route runs along Baltimore Street down to Lincoln Square before turning onto York Street and continuing on Liberty Street back to the middle school.

This year's parade will be led by the U.S. Army Old Guard File and Drum Corps—the official escort and ceremonial unit to the President of the United States.

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Catch a Show at the Majestic Theater

The historic Majestic Theater in Gettysburg offers modern entertainment in a preserved venue throughout the year. However, from December 14 to 23, 2018, you can catch a performance of a new adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" produced in association with Gettysburg Community Theatre and the Totem Pole theater company.

In this holiday classic, Scrooge is visited by the spirit of his former partner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Audiences will be entertained by talented actors adorned in classic period costumes and will see the magic of the newly constructed stage sets.

In addition to the multiple performances of "A Christmas Carol," the Majestic Theater will also kick off the month of celebrations with a special screening of "It's a Wonderful Life" on December 1, 2018.

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Listen to the Annual Tuba Carol Festival

If you're looking for a different way to enjoy your favorite holiday carols, you won't want to miss the annual Tuba Carol Festival in Gettysburg's Lincoln Square on December 14, 2018. 

During this unique event, tuba players from around the country will perform holiday hits new and old and encourage the crowd to sing along to their 7 p.m. mainstage performance. If you're in town early, you can also see the rehearsal at 6 p.m. at the Prince of Peace Episcopal Church two blocks south of Lincoln Square.

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Go to the Jingle Ball at the Gettysburg Museum

You can join the Adams County Arts Council at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center on December 15, 2018, for the annual Jingle Ball. Featuring an evening of cocktails, dinner, and dancing as well as an auction of luxury items, this annual event will also be celebrating the Art Council's 25th anniversary in 2018.

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