The 10 Best Free Events Happening in December

Where you can have fun on (less than) a dime this month

Enjoy holiday entertainment and festivities at Portsmouth’s Vintage Christmas celebrations throughout the month. Photo by David J. Murray, Clear Eye Photo

1. Vintage Christmas, Portsmouth, December 1-31

With events all over the city all month long, Portsmouth’s annual holiday extravaganza offers something for every budget — including “free.” Check out the competitors in the gingerbread house competition, take in the tree lighting and illuminated holiday parade (12/7), or just do some window shopping at Portsmouth’s varied and exciting downtown boutiques, all without spending a dime.

2. A History of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, Lincoln, December 5

This program presents a brief history of the New Hampshire presidential primary, from its origins during the Progressive era of the early 20th century, through its evolution to the most important step toward being elected president of the United States. Based around segments from the documentary “The Premier Primary, New Hampshire and Presidential Elections,” this program focuses on several memorable moments, such as Senator Muskie crying in front of the Union Leader office and who paid for Ronald Reagan’s microphone. Clips from the documentary are interspersed with discussion and questions about how New Hampshire came to hold this important political event every four years. Led by John Gfroerer, who has produced several documentaries about New Hampshire’s political history, including “The Premier Primary.” (603) 745-8159;

3. Midnight Merriment, Concord, December 6

Get in a practice run for your New Year’s Eve curfew with this eventide event. In addition to paid elements like holiday shopping and dining, this annual fête from Intown Concord features all kinds of no-cost fun. Stroll through the revamped downtown holiday-scape, enjoy roving carolers, and stop by the s’mores-roasting and “elfie” photography stations for all of your foodie and selfie needs. (603) 226-2150;

4. The Franklin Opera House 6th Annual Festival of Trees, Franklin, December 6-15

There are plenty of Christmas tree festivals going on around the state this month, but this one might be our favorite. Held entirely inside Franklin’s historic city hall opera house, the festival features live entertainment all weekend long and displays of wreaths, holiday goods and trees big and small. Admission is free, but the trees and other products will be auctioned off, so we’d advise bringing money for the raffle — proceeds benefit the Opera House’s important mission of revitalizing Franklin’s downtown. (603) 934-1901;

5. New Castle Village Christmas Fair, New Castle, December 7

This year’s crafts include mittens, ornaments, framed sea glass artwork and other nautical themed gifts that represent the island town of New Castle. There will also be a collection of hats, serving trays and wreaths. Don’t forget to try traditional fish chowder and lobster rolls while you check items off of your Christmas shopping list! (603) 431-4456;

6. Mill Falls Marketplace Holiday Open House, Meredith, December 8

The shops and businesses of this lovely lakefront complex open their doors for a day full of shopping, caroling and holiday fun. Pick up gifts from the Country Carriage and Lake Winnipesaukee gear from Great Northern, then hop on the event’s horse-drawn carriage for a leisurely afternoon ride. Keep an eye out for Santa because we hear that he may be stopping by. (603) 279-7006;

7. “The Nutcracker, Act II,” Concord, December 13-15

Look, we love a traditional performance of “The Nutcracker,” but it can definitely be tough for the smaller ones to sit through such a long ballet.  St. Paul’s School Ballet Company offers an abridged version that’s perfect for kids — plus, it’s free. There are three performances: two at 7:30 p.m. on December 13-14 and the final show at 2 p.m. on December 15. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. And though you can attend for free, they are accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys ($25 and under). More information

8. UVMC Messiah Sing With Orchestra, Lebanon, December 18

Audience admission to this performance is free, so for music lovers who prefer listening to participating, this is a great way to catch a holiday favorite without making a dent in your holiday-season wallet. For performers, though, a $15 fee will earn you an even better perk — a spot in the show. This concert is “the more, the merrier” style, so singers and musicians are welcome to join the communal choir and orchestra for a low-cost, no-strings night of bringing Handel’s “Messiah” to life. EventBrite

9. Christmas Eve on the Oval, Milford, December 24

Why not pause for a moment, step aside from the frenzy, and do something traditional this year? Bring the family to the lovely Milford Oval for open air caroling on Christmas Eve. The Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918 in London, England, celebrating the end of the Great War. It has remained virtually unchanged these past 101 years. Complimentary hot drinks and refreshments will be served for both young and old to help fend off the New England weather. 6:30-7:30 p.m.; more information

10. New Year’s Eve Fireworks, Hampton Beach, December 31

End 2019 with a bang — or several. The state’s favorite beach will host its final fireworks show of the year to ring in the New Year, so grab the family, bundle up, and welcome 2020 with a bit of explosive sparkle.

Categories: Winter Events