An enchanting tradition

More than 2,000 are expected to attend Pennsbury Manor’s annual Holly Nights holiday celebration

The magic of Christmas: On Dec. 5 and 6, Pennsbury Manor will host its annual Holly Nights celebration, a tradition that’s been helping locals ring in the Christmas season for over 35 years. Source: Pennsbury Manor

This weekend at Pennsbury Manor, more than 2,000 guests are expected to visit the former Morrisville estate of Pennslvania’s founder William Penn, all seeking their annual dose of holiday cheer.

On Thursday, Dec. 5 and Friday, Dec. 6, Pennsbury will host its Holly Nights celebration, a tradition that’s been helping locals ring in the Christmas season for over 35 years.

For two enchanting evenings, the community can travel back in time to experience a true colonial Christmas, featuring everything from crackling yule log bonfires and free hot mulled cider, to the merry sound of carolers and candlelit tours of the historic Manor House.

Holly Nights is offered as part of Pennsbury’s mission to educate the public about Pennsylvania’s past, all while providing an enjoyable, family-friendly experience.

According to Zachary Long, special events coordinator, attendees will be able to participate in staple Holly Nights activities, such as meeting Father Christmas and William Penn, listening to local school choirs, and watching period demonstrations like blacksmithing, woodworking, cooking and beer brewing.

However, Long has planned some fresh surprises to keep longtime visitors on their toes.

“It’s gone through some changes and variations of itself, and every new special events coordinator has added something to it,” Long said. “The site has changed a little bit this year. There’s some new decorations, some new entertainment.”

For example, The Nutcracker will be performed for the first time in small parts. Additionally, the decorating committee, which began planning in July, has implemented some unique touches.

“We’re doing a nautical theme celebrating Admiral William Penn’s legacy this year, which is completely new for this site. All the decorations were handmade for that. We’re doing a woodland theme as well. All the decorations on the mantel display were hand done this year,” Long said. “So we’re really looking forward to showcasing those.”

While some aspects of Holly Nights are exclusive to one evening, such as a harpsichordist in the Manor House on Friday, Long said the layout of the event is almost identical both nights. There’s music, intricately placed decorations, beautiful lights illuminating the riverfront property and food by Chuck’s BBQ available for purchase.

“It’s fairly close,” he stressed. “We try really hard to balance the nights out so no matter what night you come, you get to see one of everything.”

Holly Nights is rain or shine. At the time of his interview with The Times, Long hinted of possible snow in the forecast for Friday, which he said would make Pennsbury the ultimate winter wonderland.

“We’re kind of excited about that,” he said. “A little flurry never hurt anybody.” ••

If you go…

Holly Nights takes place at Pennsbury Manor, 400 Pennsbury Memorial Road, Morrisville, on Thursday, Dec. 5, and Friday, Dec. 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for senior citizens (65+), $8 for children (3-11) and free for children under 3. Tickets are available at or at the door.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at