Ever wonder why the holidays fall on the darkest days of the year, yet they make people so darn merry and bright?

Well, the answer to the first part includes some scientific stuff about the rotation of the Earth around the sun and the fact that, here in Maine, the sun sets around 4 p.m. in December. The second answer is more straightforward: lights. Lights are such a huge part of our holiday celebrations, with strings of lights on virtually every home and candles flickering from just about every window. We could say people are just in a bright mood during the holidays, but that’s probably because everywhere they look, they see light.

If you’re looking for more light in your life at this time of year, here are some events that focus on illumination of various kinds, from dazzling electric displays to the simple inspirational power of candlelight.


There are some 650,000 lights at Gardens Aglow, the annual light display extravaganza at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. More than 300 trees are wrapped in lights. So there are whole sections of woodlands where every tree is covered in lights, from the ground to the tip top. There are lights reflected in ponds and waterways and strung over bridges. Some are on thick sturdy trees, others wrap around thinner trunks and branches that wave in the breeze. The lights stretch over 14 acres of the gardens’ property. Some of the lights are synched to music. One can walk for hours out in the garden bathed in light. Other attractions include model train sets (indoors), and donuts, pretzels, cookies and hot chocolate are available for sale.

Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 132 Botanical Gardens Drive, Boothbay. When: 4-9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and daily Dec. 19-31. How much: $9 to $16, $41 for families. Info: mainegardens.org

People can walk the Labyrinth of Light in Kennebunkport on Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Clear your mind and find the true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown, by taking a contemplative stroll through the Labyrinth of Light on the Village Green in Kennebunkport. It’s a brightly lit maze that lights up the night sky and provides a quiet place to just be. Hot mulled cider and cookies are served. And if you need some excitement after your quiet time, you don’t have to go far, as the Labyrinth of Light is part of Kennebunkport’s Christmas Prelude event.

Labyrinth of Light, 54 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport. When: 4-7 p.m. Friday. How much: Free. Info: christmasprelude.com


Take a lantern-guided tour to the top of the historic Portland Observatory on Munjoy Hill, built in 1807. The tours are 25 minutes and include time to stay at the top and enjoy night views of Portland and the ocean. Imagine all the holiday light displays and rooftop Santas you can spy from up there.

Holiday Lantern Tours, Portland Observatory, 138 Congress St., Portland. When: 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. How much: $10. Info: portlandlandmarks.org

The Parade of Lights will float across Portland Harbor on Saturday.  Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


More than a dozen private boats and commercial vessels will be decked out in lights from bow to stern on Saturday for the 17th annual Parade of Lights in Portland Harbor. The parade usually includes pleasure boats, ferries, barges, tugs, lobster boats and just about anything else that floats. Some have giant inflatable lawn decorations, Santas, lit-up wreaths and strings of lights from their masts. The boats circle the mouth of the harbor, then proceed in a straight line from the east end of the waterfront toward the Fore River, moving past the Old Port and crowds on the Maine State Pier. Often the procession ends in fireworks. Good spots to watch the parade include Bug Light Park in South Portland and, in Portland, the Maine State Pier on Commercial Street and the Eastern Promenade.

Parade of Lights 2019, Maine State Pier at Franklin and Commercial streets, Portland. When: 4 p.m. Saturday. How much: Free.


The Boston-area vocal group Northbound will give a concert of Nordic winter songs Saturday at Mayo Street Arts in Portland. Part of the concert will feature a Scandanavian celebration of St. Lucia, with a traditional candle-lit procession. One young girl will have a crown of candles on her head, while seven or eight other girls in the procession will hold candles. The members of Northbound will have candles as well. About five songs will be performed during the 20-minute procession, and the group will perform their music for another 35 minutes

Northbound will perform a winter solstice and St. Lucia celebration at Mayo Street Arts in Portland on Saturday. Carl Kovamees photo

Northbound: A Winter Solstice and Lucia Celebration, Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland. When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday. How much: $8 to $22. Info: Mayostreetarts.org


Another well-lit event at Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport is the candlelight tour of historic inns. For $10, you tour six historic structures in the port town: Captain Lord Mansion, Captain Jefferds Inn, Maine Stay Inn, 1802 House, Inn at English Meadows and Waldo Emerson Inn. You can start your tour at one inn and then proceed to the next, your way lit by candles.

Candlelight Tours of the Historic Inns of Kennebunkport, Captain Lord Mansion, 6 Pleasant St., Kennebunkport. When: 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12. How much: $10. Info: christmasprelude.com

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will hold its annual Gardens Aglow through Dec. 31. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: