Twelve big holiday traditions in Metro Detroit

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to correct ticket prices for the Fort Street Chorale & Chamber Orchestra performance of “The Messiah” at Fort Street Presbyterian Church.

With Thanksgiving next week, the holiday season is officially underway in Metro Detroit.

Oh, who are we kidding? WNIC-FM was playing holiday music when trick-or-treat bags were still filled to the brim.

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 22: The giant 60 foot tall Christmas tree decorated with 19,000 multi colored lights towers above Campus Martius Park after the official 2013 Detroit Tree Lighting Ceremony Friday night November 22, 2013 at in downtown Detroit. (photo by Bryan Mitchell/Special to The Detroit News)

But with Campus Martius’ tree lighting ceremony set for Friday, the holiday hoopla will be ramped up a notch.

This year, organizers have tapped Olympic champion Todd Eldridge and Motown stars the Four Tops to celebrate the lighting of the 60-foot Norway Spruce. It will be illuminated with 19,000 energy-efficient LED lights and ornaments at 5 p.m. Friday.

Other local ice skaters and singers — including Karen Newman — are part of the program. The Salvation Army’s giant kettle’s red lights turn on at 6 p.m. and the tree fires up at 8 p.m. Afterward the skating rink is open until midnight.

The free event is a local tradition 12 years in the running. Here are several other ways Metro Detroit routinely celebrates the holidays:

Wayne County Lightfest in Westland: Kicking off Thursday — with fireworks! — this four-mile long light display can be viewed from the warmth of the family minivan. Santa will be around nightly this Friday through Dec. 31. Starting Thursday, Lightfest runs 7-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and 6-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. through Dec. 31. $5 per vehicle. Enter Hines Drive from Merriman in Westland. waynecounty.com. See also: The Detroit Zoo’s Wild Lights display also kicks off this week, and runs 5:30-9 p.m. Fri.-Sun. through Dec. 20 with additional dates. Dec. 21-23 and 26-31.

Big, Bright Light Show in downtown Rochester: Downtown Rochester will be aglow once again this holiday season during the Big, Bright Light Show, where the businesses along Main Street are lit up with more than 1 million lights. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the lights festival, which drapes downtown in a kaleidoscope of reds, blues, purples and yellows. The show begins during a lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. Monday and stays lit every night from 5 p.m.-midnight through Jan. 3. For information, call (248) 656-0060. See also: At 6:30 p.m. Thursday businesses in downtown Milford will reveal holiday displays with live models, puppies, cookies, Santa and more.

America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The only Detroit holiday event that is syndicated nationally, this year the parade features dozens of “big heads” from favorite cartoon characters, local legends and other notables (Gilda Radner’s papier-mâché likeness will make its debut this year). Comedian, television and film star and Seaholm High School alum Tim Allen is this year’s Grand Marshal. The parade steps off at 8:50 a.m. Nov. 26 at Kirby and Woodward and ends at Congress. WDIV-TV will broadcast it 10 a.m.-noon and WJR-AM 760 will also air it. Grandstand tickets are available for $35 and up. theparade.org.

The Potter’s Market at Southfield Civic Center: Now in its 40th year, this claims to be the largest pottery sale of its kind in the country. The ever-expanding market features unique and functional pieces of handmade art from 145 potters. The bizarre has a variety of gift-worthy items and nothing is priced over $30, making this annual event an attractive one for the 8,000 customers that shop each year. No strollers; free coat check. 6-9 p.m. Dec. 3 preview night ($10), 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 4, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 5 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 6. Free admission. 2600 Evergreen, Southfield. (248) 554-5570 or thepottersmarket.com. See also: The handmade glass holiday show and sale with live demos at the Glass Academy Dec. 6-7 in Dearborn.

Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village: Step into a world of holiday magic before the advent of mass consumerism. At Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village hear Christmas carols, smell roasting chestnuts (and maybe the live reindeer) and view the scene by lantern light. 6:30-10 p.m. Dec. 4-6, 11-13, 17-23 and 26-28. $24, $22 seniors and $18 ages 5-12. 20900 Oakwood, Dearborn. (313) 982-6001. See also: While you’re there, the Henry Ford Museum has decked its halls with more noel nostalgia with a Lionel train display, a huge Christmas tree and visits from Santa Claus.

Noel Night in Midtown: Spanning throughout Detroit’s Cultural Center, Noel Night includes 200 performances at more than 70 spots. Take advantage of the free shuttle that runs between venues, which include the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Science Center, Charles H. Wright Museum, Detroit Public Library and others. Look for horse-drawn carriage rides and the community sing-along with the Salvation Army Band. 5-10 p.m. Dec. 5. Midtown Detroit. (313) 420-6000 or noelnight.org.

Breakfast with Santa at the Detroit Zoo: Fill up on a buffet-style waffle breakfast with the big guy in the zoo’s Wildlife Interpretive Gallery. Each kid gets photo and visit from Santa, plus arts and crafts and other goodies. 8 a.m. Dec. 5, 12 and 19. $30, $25 children (discount available for zoo members). 8450 W. 10 Mile, Royal Oak. (248) 541-5717 ext. 9. See also: If you want to dine with Santa a little later in the day, consider the Rattlesnake Club’s Brunch with Santa event 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 13 ($35 adults, $15 ages 4-12).

The Fort Street Chorale & Chamber Orchestra, “The Messiah” at Fort Street Presbyterian Church: It’s a longtime Detroit tradition to kick off the holiday season by attending the Fort Street Presbyterian Church’s Fort Street Chorale’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” The chorale has been performing the classic work, which features the exuberant “Hallelujah Chorus,” since 1979. The chorale is made up of more than 90 members and is a nonprofessional group. 3 p.m. Dec. 5-6. $20, $15 for students and groups of 10. 631 W. Fort , downtown Detroit. (313) 961-4533. See also: For a jazzier version of “Messiah,” check out Too Hot to Handel with the Rackham Choir at the Detroit Opera House on Dec. 12.

Menorah in the D at Campus Martius and Cadillac Square: One of the newer holiday traditions in Metro Detroit, Menorah in the D includes the illumination of a 26-foot menorah. Dancing dreidels, fire jugglers and acrobats are all part of the celebration, along with roasting marshmallows, a beer garden and even a zip line. 3-8 p.m. Dec. 6. Free. 800 Woodward, Detroit. menorahinthed.com.

Santarchy bar crawl in Detroit: It’s definitely the most naughty item on this list, but a tradition nonetheless. Revelers are required to dress in holiday costumes (Santa, elves, Mrs. Claus, etc.). The party starts at the Gaelic League in Corktown and folks shuttled via bus to at least 10 bars throughout the city. 7 p.m. Dec. 19. $20. Gaelic League Detroit, 2068 Michigan, Detroit. Keep an eye on detroitsantarchy.net for details and tickets. See also: Krampus Night in Detroit is a devilish party for a good cause (Toys for Tots) on Dec. 4 at the Tangent Gallery and Hasting Street Ballroom in Detroit.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra at The Palace of Auburn Hills: Using live performance and visual effects, the TSO is one of the top-grossing touring artists. This year’s theme is the holiday rock opera “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve.” 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 29. $36.50-$75.50. 6 Championship Drive, Auburn Hills. (248) 377-0100. See also: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis is another longstanding, multimedia Christmas bonanza. It’s at Fox Theatre on Dec. 18.



Susan Whitall and Adram Graham contributed.