Holidays return to the Hill, a little cozier

by Walt Maguire
Posted 11/20/20

The holiday season this year is a little different, and traditions are being reinvented to keep up. Holidays on the Hill might require more social distancing, but that means visitors can shop and stroll with more room to look around.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Holidays return to the Hill, a little cozier


The holiday season this year is a little different, and traditions are being reinvented to keep up. Holidays on the Hill might require more social distancing, but that means visitors can shop and stroll with more room to look around.

Circle of Trees

The season kicks off with the traditional Circle of Trees at Woodmere Art Museum, at six o’clock on November 21, with a streaming appearance by Santa and the Norwood-Fontbonne Academy Note-ables. Then Santa will catch a ride on a firetruck for a series of stops at Norwood Fontbonne Academy  (Lower campus), Springside Chestnut Hill (Lower), and the Wyndmoor Train Station to distribute treats to families parked along the route.

Small Business Saturday

Thanksgiving weekend brings Small Business Saturday, with appearances by Santa and the Mummers, and locally owned shops ready to stuff all stockings. The Morris Arboretum will open the Holiday Garden Railway, and the Woodmere has the Straw Journey, a new twist on their classic maze. The Hill’s bars and restaurants are preparing for cold-weather dining: sitting at a table, walking around with hot cocoa, or takeout to take home.

Stag and Doe Night

Stag and Doe Nights traditionally begin at 6 p.m, every Wednesday in December, but this year will see Stag and Doe Days. Extended evening hours will still happen but the holiday specials will run all day, since shops have to limit how many customers can be inside at one time, and since many people are setting their own hours and might want to start earlier.  Find brass bands, Santa, and a few other planned holiday items in the afternoon, not just when the sunsets. Philip Dawson, Executive Director of the Chestnut Hill Business District, views this as a way to enjoy Stag and Doe at a more leisurely, personal pace. “Businesses will be enforcing current safety protocols for the benefit of our customers, and we invite shoppers to join us throughout the day to take advantage of off-peak shopping times and enjoy festive entertainment," he said.

Dining in December

The restaurants and bars have plans for safe dining in the holiday season. Philadelphia prohibited indoor dining through January 1, but restaurants will be keeping outdoor options open and serving takeout as much as they can. Older Christmas traditions might guide the way, with diners strolling the avenue holding cups of hot chocolate and a wrapped sandwich as they listen to live music, or more takeout to share at home. Either way, all the eateries, bars, bakeries, and chocolate shops will still be open and ready.

Seasonal Shopping

Homemade crafts go well with good food.  Make your own ornament at AR Workshop during a Wednesday Stag and Doe, or find the parts you need at Artists and Craftsman Supply, Knit With yarn shop, or even Kilians Hardware.  Bredenbeck’s is introducing gingerbread house kits. (Some assembly required.) Readymade crafts by local artists are readily available elsewhere on the Hill, and picking the right one is a craft in itself.

While some businesses closed this year, others have moved in, and visitors who haven’t been to the Hill recently might find a few new favorites. Sister Sunflower, 7904 Germantown Avenue, is a new garden center, while Serendipity has brought in a line of “hyper-local wear” that reflects the neighborhood and the nearby Wissahickon. Hideaway Records and Artisans on the Avenue have changed locations.

Concerns over in-person shopping and dining are a factor this year. Since most of the businesses in Chestnut Hill are locally owned, the level of personalized service is high; though some don’t have online ordering, they can take orders over the phone, and most provide curbside pickup or shipping. There are always Chestnut Hill gift certificates, available from the Business District office.

"The Chestnut Hill Business District welcomes locals and visitors to enjoy a safe and magical holiday season in Chestnut Hill.,” said Dawson. “Supporting small businesses is more important than ever this year, and our shops and restaurants have something for every gift and celebration.”

New Holiday events for 2020

Chestnut Hill holiday hunt

Saturday, Dec. 5 – Sunday, Dec. 6

Join Team Whetzel and the shops on the Avenue for an exclusive Scavenger Hunt. Kids must find the small, hidden snowmen in participating stores, who will provide stickers to complete their map. Kids will need to collect a total of 9 stickers and can then head up to Busy Bee Toys to receive their special holiday treat.  More details coming soon!

Live stream holiday shopping previews

December 1, 8, 15, and 22

Tune into the Chestnut Hill Facebook page ( every Tuesday in December leading up to Christmas to see featured items, seasonal specials, and great holiday gift ideas from some of Chestnut Hill’s most popular shops.  More details and schedule of participating shops coming soon!

VIP & private shopping experiences

This year, you can stay safe and enjoy a personalized holiday shopping experience at some of Chestnut Hill’s finest boutiques.  A number of participating businesses are offering appointments for a private shopping time when you can view inventory, make purchases, and enjoy the individualized attention of sales associates without distraction or contact with other shoppers.  There’s simply no better way to shop in Chestnut Hill.  See for details and participating shops.