Each year at Christmas the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania awakens with a bright festive spirit. Throughout the village, wreaths are hung from streetlights and historic doorways, and huge nutcrackers, snowmen, and full-size nativity scenes emerge to contribute to the holiday atmosphere. Glittering lights twinkle over businesses and historic homes in buildings that date back to the Civil War or earlier.
The holiday season in Gettysburg is filled to bursting with exciting events and decorations that spring into view to fill the landscape from horizon to horizon. A Gettysburg Christmas is definitely something special, be it for window shopping, fine dining, or the thrill of experiencing annual concerts and shows. If you’re a history buff who loves Christmas, we can’t think of a better destination for the holidays than Gettysburg.
Christmas Events in Gettysburg This Year
There are plenty of activities to keep you occupied whether you’re visiting for a day trip or a long weekend. Here are some of the fantastic things to do in Gettysburg throughout the holiday season. Read further to learn about the festive events planned for Christmas in one of America’s favorite small towns.
Enjoy Seasonal Splendor at the Christmas Festival
There are lots of fun things to do and plenty of special events throughout the holiday season, but the biggest is the annual Gettysburg Christmas Festival. The first weekend of December (Dec. 2-4), all of downtown becomes one big celebration. The popular Christmas celebration in Gettysburg features holiday activities, promotions, traditional small-town holiday charm, and historic Gettysburg battlefield tours.
There are many activities and loads of holiday-themed family fun all along Baltimore Street and Steinwehr Avenue. That includes several live music venues plus assorted roving street performers and wandering musicians entertaining visitors around the square. Concessions include mulled wine, cider, and various other warm adult beverages at numerous pop-up bars. There are also face-painting booths, carriage rides, and food trucks to raise your spirits and fuel your travels.
“Scary Ghost Stories” illuminate a Different Kind of Christmas Spirit
What would a traditional Christmas be like without a scary ghost story or two to thrill the heart and set the blood racing? If you’re looking for a rather unique way to explore the holidays in historic Gettysburg, you can experience a special selection of “haunted” Christmas stories brought to America from Germany, England, Italy, Austria, and from across Europe centuries ago. This season’s exciting Dark Side of Christmas Tours are a wonderful way to steep yourself in a whole new batch of “holiday spirits.”
Hear the story of the only civilian casualty of the battle of Gettysburg in the place where it happened, and discover its link to Christmas Eve 1863 during the Scary Ghost Stories & Tales of the Glories tour starting at the Jennie Wade House Museum.
Other Christmas events at the Jennie Wade House include a seasonal Specialty Tour featuring Adam Shefts, The Victorian Historian, on December 3rd.
The Jennie Wade House will also be hosting a visit from their very own Civil War Santa on December 3rd from Noon until 3 p.m.
Sing Along at the Annual Tuba Carol Fest
The annual Tuba Carol Fest and sing-along is a popular Christmas event in Gettysburg. For over 25 years, tuba players from around the area and beyond have gathered on the second weekend of December to share hot chocolate and play Christmas carols together on the steps of the Gettysburg Hotel.
The tuba concert combines lively holiday spirit with mad dash fun and the rollicking hilarity of a sea of decorated tubas on full blast. Singing along by the crowd is not only encouraged, it’s mandatory.
The Tuba Carol Fest is a delightful celebration of holiday spirit! It’s fun, free, festive, and appropriate for children of all ages.
The 2022 Annual Tuba Carol Fest will be held at 7 p.m. on December 9th at Lincoln Square in downtown Gettysburg.
Shopping in Holiday Style
Gettysburg offers a wonderful selection of shopping all throughout the year, but our stores and specialty shops truly come alive at Christmas! The entire downtown historical area that comprises Lincoln Square, Steinwehr Avenue, and the surrounding streets take on a lovely new aspect, their buildings beautifully bedecked for the season. Inside you’ll find unique gifts and treasures that capture the historical essence of the fabled town and distill the holiday spirit!
And if you’re in the market for a Christmas tree, the Gettysburg Tour Center will be hosting its annual Christmas Tree Sales, sponsored by the Veterans 40/8 of Gettysburg. Share in the spirit by taking home a lovely tree, for a good cause!
Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride
Few experiences evoke the holiday spirit like a horse-drawn carriage ride. This memorable holiday experience deftly combines the warmth and majesty of the horses, the ringing of their metal-shod hooves against the cobbled pavement, and the brisk winter air as you glide through the surrounding beauty of the holiday bedecked streets and lanes.
Visit the Shriver House Museum
The Shriver House Museum is dedicated to relating the history and experiences of the people who lived in the town at the time of the famous battle. During the holidays, the 1860 four-story house is beautifully adorned for the season with period-appropriate decorations, including a patriotic Christmas tree, fragrant pomanders, and mistletoe.
A tour guide dressed in historical garb tells the tale of George and Hettie Shriver and their two young girls during the candlelight tour. The Shrivers were an ordinary family whose lives were drastically altered by the battle that overwhelmed their town on that summer day in 1863. Understanding the Christmas customs and daily life of a typical family during that turbulent time offers a unique glimpse into the many lives touched by the Civil War.
Experience an Eisenhower Christmas
President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife Mamie only ever owned one house: the large white mansion at the end of the Norway spruce-lined road. The residence was tailored to their requirements and served as a gathering spot for loved ones and friends.
The home still largely retains its original appearance as the Eisenhower National Historic Site. The tour includes the bedrooms, offices, and other private areas once shared by the former First Family and their guests, still furnished with family heirlooms and priceless White House souvenirs.
The holiday decoration matches the seasonal décor seen in the house during its heyday as the “alternate White House.” The halls are bedecked in period-appropriate trimming, poinsettias cover every available space, and a perfect Christmas tree shimmers in the corner. The dining table is set, as if ready to receive the next round of guests. The holiday splendor is truly breathtaking.
An Eisenhower Christmas is presented by the National Parks Service, providing a poignant glimpse into the holiday celebrations of the 34th President of the United States.
Attend a Performance of “A Christmas Carol”
A beloved Gettysburg area Christmas tradition is the annual performance of A Christmas Carol onstage at the local Majestic Theater. A multi-talented company of actors, singers and dancers bring Dickens’ tale to life with warmth, music, and laughter. This stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Wil Love and Carl Schurr, evokes the true magic of the holiday season and is entertainment for the entire family. The show runs from December 9th through December 18th.
Visit The Christmas Haus
Looking for a unique and authentic Christmas experience? Look no further than The Christmas Haus! Located just off the square in downtown Gettysburg, this amazing shop offers a wide selection of German-made merchandise, from traditional handmade items to more modern décor and gifts. Their selection of gifts and collectibles is simply amazing, representing Christmas as well as other holidays, and much of which is crafted by the finest German artisans in a traditional manner. Experience the special flavor of a German Christmas and find the perfect gift or decoration to adorn your home at this festive season of the year at The Christmas Haus!
Enjoy Dinner by Candlelight at Dobbin House
Dobbin House was built in 1776 and is the oldest structure in Gettysburg. Down through the years it has maintained much of its historic authenticity, keeping the same warm, homey, and rustic vibe one would expect from a stone house from the Colonial era. The Dobbin House Tavern serves colonial-inspired cuisine, its dining room lit by candlelight and warmed by an open-hearth fire in a cozy, historical atmosphere that hearkens back to days of yore. Tucked beneath the building in the rustic cellar is the delightful Springhouse Tavern, with a similar laid-back vibe that remains faithful to the history of the buildings and their legacy. Tastefully decorated for the Christmas season, either of these destinations can be the perfect treat to warm a wintery holiday night.
Visiting Gettysburg? Tour the Historic Attractions of Gettysburg by Bus!
The Holidays are here! Our bus tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield and other notable historic local attractions are still running to help visitors celebrate the season in beautiful Gettysburg PA. Reservations can be made by calling our toll-free number at 877-680-8687. You can also purchase bus tour tickets online. Tours depart from the Gettysburg Tour Center located at 778 Baltimore Street across from the National Cemetery.