Home FRONT PAGE Fa La La La La : The Holiday Season in Provincetown

Fa La La La La : The Holiday Season in Provincetown

Photo: Chuck Anzalone

by Steve Desroches

The holidays in Provincetown are just the right mix of cozy and campy, crazy and calm. In short, whatever holiday experiences you are looking for, Provincetown has them. The natural beauty alone makes Provincetown a perfect place to gather for the holidays to seek a little solace or celebrate with family or your chosen family. So whether you’re looking for shopping or shows, great food, festive cocktails (or mocktails), music, and dancing, all sprinkled with Provincetown magic, the holidays here are a special time of year like no other. Here is just a snippet of all that is going on this holiday season in Provincetown.

Madame

THANKSGIVING SEASON

The traditional start of the holiday season in Provincetown is the annual lighting of the Pilgrim Monument, which for several years now has been held on November 11. While it is Veteran’s Day (See our Veteran’s Day story in this issue for related events), the date was chosen as its also the date when the Mayflower landed in Provincetown. And for the first time since the pandemic, the grounds of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum will be open to the community to celebrate the lighting. And of course, people celebrate all over town as the custom of “making some noise” that began during the Covid lockdown years has become a new tradition, where people honk car horns or bang pots and pans.

Soon after, the town steams and sizzles with the New England Leather Weekend, November 17 – 19. Hosted by the Crown & Anchor and the Provincetown Brewing Company, the weekend offers several parties and the Mr. New England Leather Contest.

During the month the Pilgrims spent in what is now Provincetown, they drafted the Mayflower Compact, which many historian say set in motion American democracy. In celebration of our democratic freedoms and responsibilities, check out the Provincetown Theater’s production of the Obie Award-winning play What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck, running Thursday through Sunday from November 16 through December 3 (no shows Friday, November 17 or Thanksgiving Day.)

As Thanksgiving approaches (this year on November 23), there is a bit of calm before the fun. Many choose to celebrate Thanksgiving here to take advantage of the restaurants that offer holiday specials and pre fixe meals or to have home gatherings catered. But once dinner is digested and the L-tryptophan from the turkey wears off, it’s time to party. The Post Office Cabaret presents glamour and glitz with the Anita Cocktail Variety Hour Thanksgiving weekend with both hometown queens and visiting drag royalty from all over New England. Over at the Pilgrim House the beloved puppet Madame, of Wayland Flowers and Madame fame, presents her holiday offering along with puppeteer Joe Kovacs in Madames Face for Radio! Holiday Hootenanny, which opens Thanksgiving weekend and continues on through Holly Folly, the first weekend in December. In addition, if a holiday sing-a-long is what you’re looking for, Tin Pan Alley offers live music throughout the entire holiday season starting with Thanksgiving, and over at the Crown & Anchor, the Gifford House, and the Atlantic House, you can dance the night away.

Don’t forget that the day after Thanksgiving here is Pink Friday, where there are no big-box stores or stampeding hoardes of shoppers, but rather unique shops offering one-of-kind items as well as an abundance of gifts aimed at the LGBTQ community.

There are two other beloved holiday traditions that are synonymous with Thanksgiving weekend. The first is the annual lighting of the Lobster Pot Tree, a creation of the late artist Julian Popko, on Saturday night, November 25, and the Holiday Market at Canteen presented by Rob Anderson, Loic Rossignon, and staff, modeled after the European Christmas market tradition throughout the continent and in Rossignon’s native France. With locally made crafts and goods, great food, entertainment, hot chocolate around a fire pit, and a few surprises, it’s become a Provincetown favorite and runs every weekend from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

HOLLY FOLLY

Now over 25 years old, Holly Folly has become a must-do on the Provincetown celebration calendar. Held annually the first weekend in December, this year, the first through the third, the Provincetown Business Guild created Holly Folly as an LGBTQ holiday celebration with a decidedly queer bend to the season. And one of the biggest draws has always been the shopping, where many Provincetown retailers offer big discounts as well as the usual selection of unique items, local handicrafts and goods, and of course, a wide array of art in the town’s many galleries.

Paige Turner

As Holly Folly has grown over the years, so too did the calendar of events, creating new holiday traditions in Provincetown like the annual Jingle Bell Run, where participants sprint, or stroll, down Commercial Street in their holiday skivvies or Speedos; Holly Folly Bingo, this year hosted by Mackenzie and Austin at the Crown & Anchor; the delightfully drunk and hilarious Sandy Claus (see the feature on her in this issue) also at the Crown; and this year marks the return of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Part of the inaugural Holly Folly, and almost every one since, they are presenting their holiday show Green & Gleeful at Provincetown Town Hall Saturday night. For those looking for a fun and playful, yet literary event, head over to East End Books Ptown on December 1 for an author talk with David Valdes and a reading of an excerpt from his Finding My Elf, a young adult novel that’s a same-sex holiday rom com about two boys who face off for the title of Top Elf in a suburban mall Santaland, a job one of them despises, but not as much as he hates the thought of losing the cash prize if he wins.

Over the years venues have booked more acts as the crowds have grown, so entertainment options abound. The Crown & Anchor moves the Provincetown Follies over to Town Hall on Friday night for a big gay holiday extravaganza featuring drag, music, burlesque, and more! And at the Post Office Cabaret, Anita Cocktail adds some jingle bells to her drag revue, and the “over-sized Barbie” Paige Turner presents Slay Ride, in which she goes through her Christmas list and will not take no for an answer. And the musical powerhouse duo Mike Flanagan and Sheree Marcelle welcome Lauren Scales as they present A Soulful Christmas. The A-House, the Crown, and the Gifford House all host holiday dance parties all weekend, with Tin Pan Alley offering live music and a cozy atmosphere perfect for the holidays.

If you’re in the mood for more holiday fun, head down Route 6 to Wellfleet Preservation Hall on Tuesday, December 5 to hear the acoustic roots music supergroup Mr. Sun as they perform Duke Ellington’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Also at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera are offered November 18 (X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X) and December 9 (Florencia en el Amazonas) at 12:55 p.m.

FIRST LIGHT

Well-Strung

It always comes as a surprise for first-time visitors during First Light, Provincetown’s celebration of the New Year, how crowded Provincetown gets. The crowd is festively sized, not the overwhelming crowds that can assemble elsewhere, so it is enjoyable, comfortable, and fun. And with the town so compact and with accessible taxi service, there’s no need to drive, so for those who do imbibe there’s no need to worry about getting home safely. And when it comes to a home away from home, the guesthouses and hotels of Provincetown offer everything from happening and hopping to quiet and cozy options to ring in 2024, as well as raucous parties at the Atlantic House, the Crown & Anchor, Red Room, and the Gifford House. And remember, New Year’s Eve is the one night a year where last call is pushed later and clubs and bars here can stay open until 2 a.m.

This year, the festivities start on Friday, December 29 and run through New Year’s Day. Kicking off the weekend is the bust-a-gut funny Dina Martina, who brings her holiday show to the Crown & Anchor Friday and Saturday. And on December the Provincetown musical phenomenon Well-Strung reunites Saturday, Dceember 30,  for one-night-only with their show Home for the Holidays at Town Hall. The celebration cranks into high gear with the annual fireworks display over Provincetown Harbor early on New Year’s Eve, kicking off the evening’s celebration.

And for those brave and hearty souls, there’s the Polar Bear Plunge where folks dive into the frigid waters on New Year’s Day to celebrate, as well as raise funds for the Center for Coastal Studies. And as we welcome in 2024 this marks the last edition of Provincetown Magazine for the year. We’ve had a ball covering all that 2023 offered and we can’t wait to see what the New Year brings to the Cape tip. See you in April !

ATLANTIC HOUSE
(ahouse.com)

6 Masonic Place

THE CANTEEN
(thecanteenptown.com/canteenholidaymarket.com)

225 Commercial St.

CROWN & ANCHOR (onlyatthecrown.com)

247 Commercial St.

EAST END BOOKS PTOWN (eastendbooksptown.com)

389 Commercial St.

GIFFORD HOUSE (giffordsprovincetown.com)

9 Carver St.

PILGRIM HOUSE (pilgrimhouseptown.com)

336 Commercial St.

PROVINCETOWN BUSINESS GUILD (ptown.org)

115 Bradford St.

THE POST OFFICE CABARET (postofficecabaret.com)

303 Commercial St.

THE PROVINCETOWN THEATER
(provincetowntheater.org)

238 Bradford St.

RED ROOM (redroom.club)

258 Commercial St.

TIN PAN ALLEY
(tinpanalleyptown.com)

269 Commercial St.

WELLFLEET HARBOR
ACTORS THEATER
(what.org)

2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet

WELLFLEET
PRESERVATION HALL
(wellfleetpreservationhall.org)

335 Main St., Wellfleet

Dina Martina
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