Holiday Guide 2014


Holiday Guide 2014

A look at the news, pictures and events surrounding the holiday season.

  • Holiday Box Office Guide

    Planning to see a movie over the Christmas weekend?

    WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley highlights your choices of new releases at the box office while you’re home for the holidays.


  • What's your favorite Christmas tradition? Are you working, or spending time with family? And do you have a holiday message for others? 

    You can join the conversation on our Facebook page or tweet your thoughts using #WTOP.

    Getty Images 

  • Traffic, parking and transit changes for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

    WASHINGTON -- Christmas Eve may feel like a holiday, but remember — it isn’t. Most traffic and parking rules and transit schedules are still in effect. See how getting around the area will change over the next few days.

    HOV Lanes: Normal HOV restrictions are in effect on all Maryland and Virginia interstates. HOV violations are a $90 fine in Maryland, with one point, and $125 in Virginia. Remember — the 95 Express Lanes in Virginia are under HOV rules through Sunday evening, then convert to toll rules on Monday morning. The 95 Express Lanes in Maryland, from Baltimore to White Marsh, will remain tolled on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. HOV rules are lifted on Christmas Day and Friday, Dec. 26, except for the John Hanson Highway.

    Parking meters: All parking meters are turned on and ticket writers are out enforcing the rules. On Christmas Day, there’s no need to feed the meters. But D.C. will issue $100 tickets for blocking streetcar path on Christmas Day, while DDOT continues final testing and approval from the State Safety Oversight Office through D.C. Fire and EMS.

    Speed and red light cameras: All cameras are turned on. This includes highway work zone cameras from the Maryland State Highway administration, including on Route 29 in Columbia. Cameras can also issue tickets on Christmas Day in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.


  • Volunteering at Md. Food Bank expected to slump after Christmas
    Courtesy Capital News Service 

    Madeleine List
    Capital News Service

    COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- After the holidays, the number of volunteers and donations at the Maryland Food Bank is expected to decline. The needs of Maryland's hungry won't.

    "Hunger's a year-round issue," said Joanna Warner, communications director for the Maryland Food Bank, a non-profit hunger relief organization with centers in Salisbury, Hagerstown and Baltimore.

    The need for food aid is clearly rising in Maryland, and not just at the holidays, said Tom Blackburn, 61, pantry director at Community Assistance Network Inc., a Baltimore County-based nonprofit that provides support to poor neighborhoods.

    The average number of families seeking food aid at the Community Assistance Network pantry in the city of Baltimore has doubled in the last two years, he said.

    Read more and see pictures at

  • 5 Free Things: NYC lit up and lovely at Christmas

    AP Travel Editor

    NEW YORK (AP) -- The Christmas season is one of New York City's busiest times of year. Tickets for Broadway shows and hotel rooms go for premium prices and lines for top attractions are long. But some of the best and most beautiful things to see and do around the city during the holidays are free. 

    Visit to read about five of them.

  • White House Christmas decorations go digital


    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Christmas is going digital at the White House this year.

    The holiday decorations unveiled Wednesday by first lady Michelle Obama include 3-D printed ornaments designed by students, tinkerers, engineers and artists from around the country.

    "We've got some new twists," Mrs. Obama told military families who were invited to preview the decorations. "We got a lot of fun, new technologies."


  • Courtesy Downtown Holiday Market Facebook 
    Shop Unique at Local Holiday Markets

    The crowds, the commercials, the packed parking lots -- are you already dreading holiday shopping? 

    Avoid the typical rush at the big box stores. This year, get in the spirit and get through your list at local holiday markets. Read to see them.

  • Getty Images 
    Holiday season is time to be extra vigilant

    WASHINGTON -- The holiday season is a joyful time, but Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger warns that "the most wonderful time of year is often times the most vulnerable time of year."

    Manger and Montgomery County Fire Chief Steven Lohr are offering holiday safety tips that could be valuable to everyone, everywhere.

    The police chief says that crowded shopping center parking lots are rife with risk this time of year.

    "It's important for everyone to make sure that they're paying attention while in their car, that they're not driving distracted, they're not holding a phone, they're not texting," Manger says.

    Read more -- and how to be prepared for fire emergencies -- on

  • Washington Ballet gives 'Nutcracker' a local twist

    WASHINGTON -- You've heard the myth of George Washington's wooden teeth, just like you've heard the music from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker."

    Now, the Washington Ballet is combining both, putting local twists on the timeless story through Dec. 28 at the Warner Theatre.

    (Courtesy of TWB via Theo Kossenas) 

    Here, the Nutcracker is a wooden doll of George Washington that comes alive to save Clara from the Rat King and his rat army of British Redcoats.

    "I'm a method actor, so I actually took out my teeth and replaced them with wooden stakes for my role," dancer Marshall Whiteley cracked to WTOP.


  • A ghost mall in White Flint (Photos)

    WASHINGTON -- Most malls are crowded with harried holiday shoppers this time of year, but White Flint Mall in Rockville is nearly silent, and a bit creepy.

    Read more and see photos and videos of how the mall looks now:

  • Police want to limit holiday parking lot collisions

    After a spike in collisions involving pedestrians and drivers in parking lots, Montgomery County officials on Monday took to a popular Rockville shopping center to again ask that people pay attention while doing their holiday shopping.

    According to the county, 29 percent of the 423 pedestrian collisions that happened in 2012 happened in parking lots and routinely as drivers backed out of spaces. That was an increase of 31 parking lot collisions compared to 2011.

    In 2013, a little less than 25 percent of the county’s 483 reported pedestrian collisions came in parking lots.

    “Drivers are all about trying to find an open parking space in crowded lots,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said Monday. “Shoppers are loaded down with packages and trying to remember where they parked.


  • The 12 Films of Christmas

    Looking for a good holiday film to put you in the Christmas spirit?

    WTOP's Jason Fraley counts down the 12 films of Christmas on

    Courtesy YouTube 

  • Holiday Gift Guides

    Don't know what to get the mom, dad, traveler or teen on your holiday shopping list? 

    Check out for some of the must-have gifts for everyone on your list!


  • Shipping a holiday gift? Know the deadlines

    WASHINGTON -- Whether you're sending gifts, holiday cards or both this season, if you want them to arrive before Santa shows up, be aware: The U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS all have cutoff dates for getting your packages there on time.

    Read more and get the shipping deadlines on
    (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) 
  • Last-minute online deals for holiday shoppers
    If you're looking for last-minute holiday shopping deals online, a few trusted online retailers and websites can help.

    (Courtesy of Thinkstock) 

  • NORAD tracks when Santa Claus is comin’ to town

    Volunteers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command are getting ready to monitor Santa Claus as he makes his storybook Christmas Eve flight.

    Technology and social media have become an important part of the U.S. and Canadian military tradition, and NORAD Tracks Santa has already attracted a record 1.5 million Facebook “likes.” The volunteers will spend Wednesday answering phone calls and emails from children wondering when Santa Claus is comin’ to town. The helpers also post updates on the fabled journey to Facebook, Twitter and



  • Stores open Christmas Eve for the shopper who procrastinated

    WASHINGTON — Are you the ultimate procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping?

    We say it lot, but now it’s real: Time is running out to get that Christmas shopping done.

    Read about which stores are open on Christmas Eve on

  • VDOT to suspend highway work zones over Christmas

    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Department of Transportation says it will suspend most highway work zones for several days over Christmas.

    VDOT says the goal is to limit congestion and provide as many travel lanes as possible.


  • Western Md. students help recycle Christmas cards

    CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — Allegany County public school students are learning to recycle Christmas cards in a charitable way.

    The school system said Tuesday that seventh-graders at Mount Savage Middle School have delivered to a Frostburg nursing home more than 100 cards refashioned into wreaths and ornaments.


  • ‘Toys for Tots’ means Merry Christmas for local families

    LANDOVER, Md. — More than 15,000 Prince George’s County families will have presents under the Christmas tree this year, thanks to the annual Toys for Tots program.

    “It’s a blessing because we don’t know a lot of what’s happening with these families,” says Dawn Stem, who organized the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots event at the Prince George’s County Police headquarters. “These people are amazing people to me and that’s why I do it every year.

    Melissa Askew, a mother of eight, was among the first in line and waited 10 hours to get her bag filled with gifts.

    “The cost of trying to provide for the kids … it’s hard,” Askew says. She’s taking home a bicycle and some dolls, but says it’s not the specific toys that matter: “We’re grateful for anything. Anything can help. Just to see a smile on their faces.

    It takes a massive effort to distribute the toys every year. On Sunday, there were about 100 police officers and 100 volunteers on hand to help collect and bag thousands of items for needy families.

    “We all pull together from Thanksgiving to now, we do nothing but this,” Stem says. “I think we give [the families] just a little bit of spirit and it takes away a little bit of what they’re going through out there.


    WTOP/Jamie Forzato 

  • Travel headaches for some into Christmas Day


    CHICAGO (AP) — Travelers setting out for the holidays could face trouble, with anticipated Christmas Eve snow around the Great Lakes states and heavy rain expected along the East Coast.

    National Weather Service meteorologists predicted rain that would turn into snow for some parts of Missouri to Michigan, with several inches expected Wednesday in portions of Illinois. Officials at both airport hubs in Chicago readied for the potential of holiday delays and cancellations, particularly with more people expected to fly this year.

    “I would definitely make plans about possibly staying put or doing something else,” said Chicago-area meteorologist Charles Mott. “Same for the roads. If you’re not going to fly, the roads are not going to be getting any better.


  • Joseph proposes to Mary at Michigan Nativity scene

    BLUMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Joseph proposed marriage to Mary — in Michigan.

    Joe Maurer and Kate Heinlein became engaged during a break from portraying the parents of Jesus Christ. They were re-enacting the Nativity earlier this month for thousands of people at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Blumfield Township, near Saginaw.


  • New Jersey Christmas tree controlled by tweets

    LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. (AP) — Twitter users anywhere in the world can control the lights on a holiday display in New Jersey.

    Tweets will turn on a 9-foot Christmas tree, menorah and over 1,000 LED lights at Oxford Communications in Lambertville and also turn them off.


  • As the kids are opening presents from Santa, did you ever think about all the jobs St. Nick has to do to pull off his yearly trip? The jolly old elf wears a lot of hats — and he could potentially rake in a lot of dough, according to an index that calculates his possible salaries.

    Read more and see just how much Santa could earn:


  • People share their Christmas traditions, WTOP's Kathy Stewart reports.

  • Marion Barry’s son carries on father’s Christmas tradition

    The late Marion Barry years ago started a holiday tradition to help provide Christmas toys for kids in Ward 8 who might otherwise not get one. This Christmas, his son carried it on.


  • Homeless for the holidays: Pet shelters see spike

    WTOP/Kate Ryan 

    WASHINGTON — It could be changing family situations. Sometimes there were financial troubles, or a just a spur of the moment decision by a pet owner:  In recent years, area animal shelters saw a sudden spike in the number of family pets who wound up homeless for the holidays.

    Something about the pressures of the holidays prompted the seasonal surge in pet give-ups.  “People were going out of town, just deciding they weren’t going to board the animal, and would give it up,” says  Rodney Taylor, associate director of the Prince George’s County Animal Management Division.

    Read more and see photos on

  • WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck 

    Volunteer fire department Santa delivers hundreds of gifts to Maryland children

    BETHESDA, Md. — While the sleigh was in the shop prepping for the annual global trek, Santa got a lift from a fire engine to deliver hundreds of presents to kids at a local shelter.

    After two weeks of collecting gifts from the neighboring communities, the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department made its annual stop at the National Center for Children and Families.

    “It is incredible,” says Meredith Rettner-Dayhoff, the director of the Greentree Shelter. “It’s something they would never have otherwise.


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