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Nights of Lights returns

Nights of Lights
Nights of Lights
Jaeme Haviland

The 16th annual Nights of Lights Festival has begun in St. Augustine. Based on the colonial Spanish tradition of decorating with luminaria, the oldest city's Christmas spirit will burn brightly through the entire holiday season, ending on January 31st, 2010. Special events are scheduled all December, including the transformation of the St. Augustine Sightseeing Trains into Santa's Big Red Train during the evenings, replete with carolers.

If you prefer your Christmas a bit more traditional, The Limelight Theater on Old Mission Road will be staging the classic 'It's a Wonderful Life' every Tuesday evening throughout December. Luminary Night at the St. Augustine lighthouse will be held on December 2nd from 6pm to 9pm, followed on December 4th by a free concert featuring the Scotch-Irish folk band 'Father, Son and Friends'. The concert is one of many activities in the historic St George Street area, not the least of which is the Grande Illumination conducted by interpreters in colonial period British military dress. The 35th annual encampment concludes December 5th with a torchlight parade to the Plaza, where visitors can join with the redcoats in singing traditional Christmas carols. Don't miss the 55th annual St. Augustine Christmas parade being held the morning of December 5th when Santa, himself arrives.

Stake out your stretch of Ponce de Leon Avenue on December 12th after sunset for the Regatta of Lights. Watercraft of every description will be decked out in their Christmas best to compete for prizes and bragging rights as Matanzas Bay sparkles under the stars. The Castillo de San Marco will be open free of charge to view the parade of ships, as well as giving torchlight tours of the fort.

The St. Augustine Cathedral will elevate the whimsical to the divine on two nights- December 12th and the 13th, when they perform Handel's "Messiah" in the city's historic Basilica. In all, over 50 special events will help send your Christmas spirit into overdrive. From the simple to the sublime, there's something for everyone.