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Christmas is here. Or, at least, the holiday season has come to the south suburbs, with several events kicking off the most wonderful time of the year at the beginning of December.

Tree lightings

Hales Corners will start of the holiday season with its tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, by the Hales Corners Library, 5885 S. 116th St. Before the lighting itself, the Whitnall Middle School band will perform and Santa is scheduled to arrive by fire truck. Afterward, the library will hold a holiday storytime in the lower level's Hunt Room, complete with refreshments and an appearance by Santa.

Franklin's tree lighting ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. Dec. 3, in the historic village at Lions Legend Park, 8713 W Drexel Ave. The whole historic village will be alight with activity, with nondenominational services at St. Peter's Chapel at 4, 5:30, and 7 p.m, cookies and cider in the old town hall, and tours of other buildings.

Oak Creek is holding its first tree lighting ceremony in Drexel Town Square at 6 p.m. Dec. 3.  Mayor Steve Scaffidi will be on hand, and the Oak Creek High School choir will provide musical entertainment.

Food and shopping

St. Martin of Tours Parish in Franklin will hold its annual breakfast buffet with Santa, craft fair and cookie walk on Sunday, Dec. 4, at the parish, 7933 S. 116th St. The buffet will run from 9 a.m. to noon, during which time Santa will visit. The breakfast is $10 for adults, $5 for children, and free for children younger than age 2. The craft fair and cookie walk, featuring homemade Christmas cookies, will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Boerner Botanical Gardens, 9400 Boerner Drive, will host a Holiday Gift Fair 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 4, featuring unique gift items from area artists and businesses. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will greet visitors and local groups will perform seasonal music throughout the day. Admission to the gift fair is free.

The Polish Center of Wisconsin will host a holiday bazaar and champagne brunch Dec. 4 at the center, 6941 S. 68th St. The shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The champagne brunch is an all-you-can-eat buffet, and costs $19 for Polish Heritage Alliance members, $22 for non-members, $12 for children ages 6-12, and free for younger children. The bazaar is free to visit and will feature Polish ornaments, Bolesławiec pottery, amber jewelry, books, imported Polish food, and more.

Faith Community Church in Franklin will sell over 40 varieties of cookies at its 10th annual Christmas Cookie Walk, open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 10, at the church, 7700 W. Faith Drive. A variety of homemade cookies, candies and caramel corn will be available for purchase. All items are sold by the pound. Proceeds of the cookie walk will benefit the ministries of the church.

Guests can enjoy a traditional Polish Christmas dinner at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at the Polish Center of Wisconsin, 6941 S. 68th St. In addition to traditional polish food provided for by Jack Norman Catering, participants will also sing traditional Polish and English Christmas carols. Cost for the dinner event is $40 for adults, $25 for children ages 6-15, and free for younger children. Reservations are required by Dec. 2.

The Greendale Lions Club will present its annual Dickens of A Christmas Festival in downtown Greendale from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2. Carriage rides will be offered, and firepits at each corner of the village will be lit. The village shops will be decorated, and merchants will be dressed in Dickens-era costumes. Musical acts – including the Heritage Christian School brass ensemble, Salvation Army band, Greendale Chamber orchestra, and others along will various choirs – will perform. Kids can visit Santa and everyone can decorate cookies during the event.  The play "A Christmas Carol" will also be performed.

Christmas crafting

Families will be able to learn how to make holiday gifts from natural, recycled, and repurposed objects at Homemade Holidays, Wehr Nature Center's annual open house event, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the nature center, 9701 W. College Ave in Whitnall Park. Admission, which includes materials to make three different crafts, is $6 per person or $5 for members of Friends of Wehr.

Boerner Botanical Gardens will host a Holiday Décor workshop, led by Vicki Kunz of La Tulipe, from  6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the gardens, 9400 Boerner Drive. Kunz will show participants how to make "kissing balls," scented holiday decorations that can be hung either outdoors or indoors. The program fee is $35 per person or $30 for Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens.

For those wishing to learn a traditional Polish craft or just send unique greetings, the Polish Center of Wisconsin will host a Christmas card workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at the center, 6941 S. 68th St. Participants will create four different cards while learning the Wycinanki paper-cutting technique, and reusable patterns will be provided for participants to bring home and use to create more cards. No previous card experience is required. All materials are included in the class fee, which is $15 for adults, $12 for Polish Heritage Alliance members, and $10 for children ages 6-12. Children must be accompanied by a registered adult.

Other events

The Franklin Public Library will hold a holiday program from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at the library,  9151 W. Loomis Road. The event will start with caroling by the library fire at 4 p.m.. Then, at 4:30 p.m., Santa and Mrs. Claus will hold a meet and greet. The Fadrow room will be filled with hot chocolate, treats, and holiday-themed activities.

The Franklin Public Library will present "The Hidden History of Dickens' A Christmas Carol," with speaker Rochelle Pennington, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, in the Fadrow Room of the library. Pennington will take a close-up look at England's most celebrated Victorian novelist and explore the hidden history behind his classic Christmas story, particularly looking at the influence of the main characters of "A Christmas Carol": Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley and the three ghosts.

Oak Creek's celebrations commission is running a Giving Tree campaign. Participants can take a tag off the decorated trees in the civic center's lobby or at the library, 8040 S 6th St., and purchase gifts for the individuals described on the tags.  The gifts will be distributed by the Family Living Center and Salvation Army. The unwrapped gifts can be brought to the library's circulation desk by Dec. 14. Packages with food and/or personal care items will be presented to area seniors through the Senior Stock Box program as well.

The Oak Creek library is hosting a free holiday planning and stress management event from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. Dec. 7. The event, held in the civic center's multi-purpose room, 8040 S 6th St., will help to identify holiday stress factors, set healthy boundaries, create a fun "things to do" list, and give tips to avoid emotional eating.

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