St. Charles Christmas Traditions
For nearly half a century, the Saint Charles Christmas Traditions festival has helped create cherished memories for the young and young at heart. With a unique blend of storytelling, history, and some fairy tale whimsy, visitors from around the globe have been transported to a world of yuletide nostalgia and fantasy, where reindeer fly, Victorian carolers share a cheerful tune, and sugarplums dance in your head.
As Saint Charles Christmas Traditions prepares to enter their 46th season, their festive fantasy world could not completely disregard the challenges of the real world. St Charles begs your indulgence during this season of peculiarities as you note that some of your favorite festival attractions and activities may be experiencing modifications (or in some cases may be postponed until next year) in order to keep everyone happy and healthy.
But rest assured, your favorite legendary characters will still be there, and this merry band of yuletide personalities look forward to making your season bright as the quaintly decorated historic district provides the perfect backdrop.
For 46 seasons, Saint Charles Christmas Traditions has striven to help the concerns of the real world melt away and allow revelers to experience the enchantment of the holiday season like a kid again. Never has that task been taken more seriously than this year.
Saint Charles Christmas Traditions proudly welcomes you to (safely) explore the holiday magic of historic Main Street, as they invite you to discover the wonder, discover the tradition, and discover why Saint Charles is the place where Christmas past comes to life.
The Legends of Christmas
The holiday festivities of Saint Charles Christmas Traditions are so legendary, that some of the most iconic figures of history, literature, and folklore have traveled from their fanciful realms in order to celebrate with you and your family.
Whether they’ve hitched a ride from a flying reindeer, sprung forth from the pages of a Charles Dickens classic, or danced all the way from the Land of the Sweets, these quirky personalities are eager not only to share their histories, but to bring you into their story. You never know what you might see while exploring Main Street! Be recruited by the Sugarplum Fairy to join the Nutcracker Prince’s legion of toy soldiers as they seek to defeat the odious Mouse King, help Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim attempt to bring a smile to the face of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, play a festive prank with our resident clown-about-town the Master of Revels, or learn the finer points of window frosting from Jack Frost and Susie Snowflake.
As you walk down historic Main Street, you’ll be travelling to the four corners of the earth (no passport required) as you encounter nearly a dozen international Santas and global gift givers who will share the music and customs of how their native countries celebrate the holidays. Learn how to play dreidel with Titus Flavius Josephus, marvel at the local history as Civil War Santa shares tales of the figures and locations along Main Street that figured prominently in the war between the states, and discover how people around the world welcome the new year with Father Time.
And don’t miss the following friends who have decided to join the festivities this season:
The Mouse King: The famous rodent monarch who is determined to become the “big cheese” of Saint Charles.
Herr Drosselmeyer: This magical inventor has created all sorts of incredible gadgets and gizmos…notably a certain enchanted nutcracker doll.
Captain P.L. Jingleheimer: You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…they all owe a debt of gratitude to this gifted Reindeer Flight Instructor.
The sounds of the season come to life as a charming line-up of musical quartets fill the air with a treasury of Christmas tunes. Journey through a musical timeline as Saint Charles’ own Cobblestone Wassailiers sing the most beloved traditional Victorian carols, while the USO Evergreens and Sleigh Bell Singers cover the favorite holiday standards of the 1940s and the 1950s. Direct from the Land of the Sweets, the Candy Canes offer a variety of musical surprises, while the Nightingales specialize in Civil War-era Christmas songs. For a turn-of-the-century treat, don’t miss The Singin’ Snowmen, a chilling barbershop quartet. Listen and enjoy the beautiful music of these unique groups, and if the Christmas spirit moves you—sing along!
Don’t miss the following new musical acts making their Christmas Traditions debut this season:
The Christmas Truce of 1914: These four soldiers will share their stories (and perhaps even a song or two) of the remarkable Christmas ceasefire and resulting comradery that took place between “enemies” along the Western Front during the First World War
The Mistletoe Misses: Celebrate the retro charm of the big cities at Christmastime during the midcentury era with this quartet that transports you back to the by-gone era of yuletide nostalgia
the santa parade
Time: 12PM Opening Day (Friday, November 27th), Saturdays, and Sundays
Parade Route: 1000 block of South Main to the Visitors Center (230 South Main)
Weekends during the festival offer visitors a special holiday treat as Christmas Traditions’ famous Santa Parade brings pomp and pageantry to the historic district. Marvel at the spectacle as all of your favorite Legends of Christmas march right down the middle of Main Street. While you delight in the antics of your favorite holiday figures, the carolers will provide the soundtrack as they take you on a musical journey of festive tunes that span from classic Victorian carols to holiday standards of the 1940s and 1950s.You won’t want to miss the parade’s grand finale, where an international delegation of global gift givers (each carrying the flag of their native country) heralds the arrival of the guests of honor: Santa and Mrs. Claus (who arrive via a horse-drawn carriage).
Oh Christmas Tree: The Evolution of an Icon
Location: The Historic KATY Depot in Frontier Park
When: All festival hours
Perhaps no image is as associated with the holiday season as the Christmas tree. For centuries these festive evergreens have not only provided a fitting place for Santa to deposit gifts but have stood as a global symbol for the hope and meaning of Christmas.
Journey to the Historic KATY Depot in Frontier Park to experience “Oh, Christmas Tree: The Evolution of an Icon,” an exhibit that will lead visitors on a gentle winding path through history as a forest of tannenbaums illustrate how trends and fashions effected the stylings of trees over generations. From the first illumination introduced to pine trees by Martin Luther, to the mid-century modern flair of aluminum trees in the 1950s and 1960s, discover interesting trivia as you view international variations of this holiday icon, while celebrating famous depictions in popular culture (from Charlie Brown’s sad sapling to Seinfeld’s “Festivus Pole”).
Though the style has changed over the years, one thing is certain: this exhibit will leave you pining to learn more about the holiday season’s biggest decorative star.
The Historic KATY Depot in Frontier Park has been a Saint Charles landmark since it opened in 1893. But not many people know that during the holiday season, Santa uses it as a special workshop outpost as he counts down to Christmas Eve. Mr. Claus wants to let you in on the secret as he welcomes you to become an “honorary elf,” as you explore the workshop, get a glimpse of his busy mailroom, and witness the majestic Reindeer Hall of Fame, where you can learn some of the stories of Santa’s lesser-known reindeer (you know…the ones that didn’t have a red nose).
Have a socially distanced meet-and-greet with Santa in his parlor where you can share a Christmas wish list, take a photo, and maybe even sneak a peek of the famous naughty and nice lists.
Santa is excited to meet with visitors in his cottage* during the following hours:
Opening Day, Friday, November 27 (12pm-9pm)
Sundays: (12pm to 5pm)
Christmas Eve: (11am to 1:15 pm)
*Santa & Mrs. Claus will meet visitors in the gazebo on the 400 block of South Main Street on Wednesday and Friday evenings (not including Friday, November 27th)
High quality professional photos with Santa are available to help remember your visit. A variety of photo packages are available and can be purchased with either cash or credit card.
Location: The Historic KATY Depot in Frontier Park
When: Wednesday & Friday evenings from 6pm-9pm (excluding Friday, November 27th)
You’d better watch out! Krampus is coming to town! On Wednesday and Friday nights, be prepared to experience some of the wonderfully weird holiday customs from around the globe as Krampus (the furry, punitive partner of Saint Nicholas in Bavarian and Austrian culture) has arrived in Saint Charles with his notorious batch of kooky (but friendly) ne’er-do-wells: from Gryla (the quirky Icelandic ogress) to Mari Lwyd (the whimsical singing skeletal horse from Welsh culture), and those whacky mischievous Greek trolls, the Kallikantzaroi. Continue inside the KATY Depot where you will see that Krampus himself has decided to re-decorate Santa’s home-away-from-home. With eerie lighting and the sound of macabre Christmas carols floating through the air, enter Santa’s parlor that has been re-imagined as Krampus’ lair. Have a laugh at Krampus’ comical antics, and don’t forget to snap a photo with him (guaranteeing you the most unique Christmas cards on the block this year!) Create lasting memories as you discover the peculiar holiday traditions from around the world during this curious experience that is certainly more “merry” than “scary.”
Location: The Daniel Boone Statue (between the 700 and 800 blocks of South Main)
When: All festival hours
Jack Frost nipping at your nose? Travel to the Daniel Boone Statue to enjoy the warm and toasty treat of fresh chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Revel at the entertaining antics and witty banter of our Victorian chestnut vendors as they demonstrate the fine art of roasting their favorite holiday snack. For a small fee (2 chestnuts for $1), you can enjoy one yourself—either as a tasty treat or as an old-fashioned hand warmer.
The Piccadilly Peddlers
Location: Berthold Square (200 block of South Main)
When: All festival hours
These purveyors of fine goods hearken back to the by-gone era of street merchants who lined the squares and alleys of Victorian London. These brash, and enterprising peddlers and flower girls hawked their wares as a means of supporting their large impoverished families.
They have set up shop here along historic Main Street to offer visitors a variety of festival souvenirs including: Saint Charles Christmas Traditions t-shirts, Saint Charles Christmas Traditions commemorative ornaments, and fresh flowers.
Stop by their cart in the shadow of the official city Christmas Tree in Berthold Square to peruse their goods.
'Twas the Night Before Christmas Readings
Location: The backyard of the First Missouri State Capitol Historic Site (200 South Main Street)
When: Opening Day, Wednesdays, Fridays 6:30pm-8:30pm. Every 15 minutes.
In 1823, author Clement Clark Moore published A Visit from Saint Nicholas (more commonly known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas). Journey to the First Missouri State Capitol Historic Site (200 South Main) on Wednesday and Friday nights to hear a special candlelight reading of this classic poem from the author himself. Readings will take place every 15 minutes.
Location: Main Street Church (116 North Main Street)
When: Fridays from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, Saturdays from Noon to 9:00 PM, and Sundays from Noon to 5:00 PM
Discover "Together for Christmas" at the Main Street Church Gingerbread Village display. You're invited to visit and view the village, then VOTE for your favorite in the "People's Choice" category.
Holiday Train Display
Location: Frenchtown Heritage Museum & Research Center (1121 North 2nd Street)
When: November 27 to December 20 (Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Saturdays from Noon to 7:00 PM, and Sundays from Noon to 3:00 PM)
All aboard! Hop onto the Saint Charles Trolley for a quick trip to historic Frenchtown. Explore the quaint shops along North Second Street and pay a visit to the Frenchtown Heritage Museum, where you can feel like a kid again by taking in the wonderous sights and sounds of Santa's Train Land.
November 27 to December 24 (Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays)
Opening Day: November 27 Noon to 9pm
Wednesdays 6pm to 9pm
Fridays 6pm to 9pm
Saturdays Noon to 9pm
Sundays Noon to 5pm
Christmas Eve: December 24 11am to 2pm
**Santa Parades** NOON on Opening Day, Saturdays, & Sundays