Litchfield, CT -- Contact: Janet L. Serra For Immediate Release 860-567-4506 firstname.lastname@example.org They can't wait to start the holiday season in Northwest Connecticut's Litchfield Hills, Housatonic Valley and Waterbury Region. In Waterbury and in Connecticut's own little town of Bethlehem, in the Litchfield Hills, festivals launch the holidays early with a joyful spirit that is guaranteed to last for the rest of December. Connecticut's Christmas Town Bethlehem is known as Connecticut's Christmas Town for good reason. Every year thousands of visitors arrive to mail their Christmas cards with a Bethlehem postmark, to visit a rare museum-quality 18th century Neapolitan Cr?che at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, and to enjoy the annual gala Christmas Town Festival, set this year for Friday night December 3 from 5 pm 10 pm and Saturday, December 4 from 10 am 4pm. The annual festival, a tradition since 1981, begins with the tree lighting ceremony and official arrival of Santa Claus at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by a candlelight procession and reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for shelter. The festival will also feature hayrides, story telling and a book sale at the library, and the chance for photos with Santa. Caroling, madrigal and instrumental music add to the fun both days, while dozens of exhibitors in buildings on the village green offering a host of gift ideas, many of them one-of-a-kind hand-crafted items from children's toys to stained glass to hand-knits. Herb wreaths, gingerbread houses and homemade candies will be sold, along with plenty of food and refreshments. At Bethlehem's historic Bellamy-Ferriday House and Garden, Christmas traditions past and present will be featured along with ornament-making workshops for children. The post office will offer extended hours so that festival - goers can mail their cards with the coveted stamp. The magnificent creche housed on the 400-acre property of the Abbey of Regina Laudis will be open to the public throughout December from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Festival admission is free and free parking with shuttle bus service into town is available at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds on Route 61. For information, phone 860-266-5557. Family Fun You won't have to wait for December for the 14th annual Festival of Traditions, a family-oriented celebration headquartered at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury. The fun begins just after Thanksgiving on Friday, November 26 and continues through December 5, with special entertainment scheduled every day. Festivities begin on Friday, Nov. 26 with Family Crafts Day offering free hands-on craft- making sessions all day. Saturday's festivities include lunch with Santa and puppet performances of Very Earle Carle at Waterbury's newly restored Palace Theater, a show that captures the charm of Carle's stories for children. Sunday, Nov. 28th, brings the Mattatuck Museum Family party from 3 pm to 5 pm, with a Harry Potter Trivia show and PJ the juggler. Santa himself makes an appearance, followed by the tree lighting ceremony on the nearby green at 5:30 pm. Many families will go on to see A Christmas Carol performed at the newly restored Palace Theater. During the next week, each day brings a highlight, beginning on Monday, November 29 with Sesame Street Puppeteer Lisa Buckley at 9:30 a.m. The Tanglewood Marionettes follow on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., followed by the Tony Duncan's Serious Juggling and Comedy on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Thursday's full schedule includes the Bond Street Theater at 10:30 and 3:30 p.m. and The Jazz Trio at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m., and Friday's special performers will be Sounds of Afrika at 9:30 a.m., featuring Afrikan dancing, drumming and an explanation of the history of Kwanzaa. On Saturday, December 4, the Greater Waterbury Youth Symphony will perform at 10 and 11 a.m. and the Naugatuck Valley Community College Gospel Choir at 1 p.m. Festival hours are 12 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Friday, November 26; 10 a.m. to 4:45 on most other days. The exceptions are for Sundays, November 28 and December 5, noon to 5:45 p.m., and Thursday, December 2, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children under 12. Palace Theater performances and lunch with Santa on November 27 are additional. For full information, contact the Mattatuck Museum, 203-753-0381 or www.mattatuckmuseum.org. For more information on holiday activities and a free guide to the region, including lodging and maps, contact the Northwest Connecticut Convention & Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 968, Litchfield CT 06759-0968, 800-663-1273, or visit their web site at www.northwestct.com. For more information on special packages and a free copy of UNWIND, a 40-page color guide to lodging, dining and all the attractions in the area, write to the Litchfield Hills Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, call (860) 567-4506 or visit their web site at www.litchfieldhills.com.