When it comes to capturing the sweet, nostalgic essence of Christmastime in America, few places do it better than St. Charles' Historic Main Street (100 North Main Street, St. Charles; 800-366-2427 or www.stcharleschristmas.com). Experience the magic for yourself at St. Charles Christmas Traditions, a month-long celebration of holiday cheer. Shop and dine along the red-brick streets, say hello to the strolling characters, and allow the festive carolers to lift your spirits. This is the perfect place to begin your own holiday tradition with your family, complete with a gingerbread village, chestnut-roasting and a host of Santas from around the world. Go on — get merry! St. Charles Christmas Traditions opens with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus on Friday, November 27. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Friday (November 27 to December 23), and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, December 24. Admission is free.— Brooke Foster
3. Check out the city's premiere holiday craft show
Eleven years in, the Rock N Roll Craft Show remains one of the tip-top best places to delight everyone on your holiday list and have a wonderful time yourself. You'll find beautiful items — including glassware, clothing, jewelry, furniture and fine art — from local and national artisans. As you peruse the goods (set up like a luxe department store, not confined to booths!), enjoy live music and cocktails from the cash-or-credit bar. Kiddos get in free, and they'll love saying hello to the person-size sock monkey who roams the show throughout the day. This year's event takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (November 27 to 29) at the Luminary (2701 Cherokee Street; www.rocknrollcraftshow.com). Admission is $10 on Friday and $4 Saturday and Sunday. — Brooke Foster
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4. Get into the Christmas spirit with a moving play
You have many entertainment options for the Christmas season, but limited time. Make time to see Peter Rothstein's All Is Calm. This acappella musical is inspired by the soldiers on both sides of World War I who laid down their guns and embraced their fellow men rather than fight on Christmas Day. It's a moving story beautifully presented by Mustard Seed Theatre, which brings it back for a third year in a row. The play is performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and at 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday (November 27 through December 20) at Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre (6800 Wydown Boulevard; 314-719-8060 or www.mustardseedtheatre.com). Tickets are $25 to $30.
— Paul Friswold
5. Watch some amazing dance in the Loop — for free
Do you yearn to finish your holiday shopping in one fell swoop while also supporting locally owned businesses? You can do both at the Loop in Motion festival this Friday and Saturday (November 27 and 28) in the Delmar Loop (6200 block of Delmar Boulevard, University City; bazaarboy.com/loopinmotion). Whether you're looking for jewelry (the Silver Lady offers 20 percent off a chain with any pendant purchase) or a musical instrument (GoMusicSTL knocks 40 percent off select new acoustic guitars), you can find it on the Loop. There will also be entertainment in the form of live art displays and performances by 25 dance groups and several DJs.
— Paul Friswold
When the holidays come a-callin' so too appears the ardent desire to purchase every present immediately, allowing you to spend the rest of the season sitting back, relaxing and eating all the cookies. But just because you want to shop quickly doesn't mean you should head to the mall. We should be supporting local artists and businesses, ensuring that their holidays are merry, green and bright, too. The Craft Alliance Student/Faculty Sale makes doing the right thing pretty easy. Held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday (November 28 and 29) at the Delmar Loop location (6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-1177 or www.craftalliance.org), this shopportunity features cool handmade crafts from students and teachers alike. Items up for purchase include jewelry, pottery, textiles and more — basically, there's something to make each of our gift recipients feel thought about and loved.— Alison Sieloff