A year of planning will come to a head next week when clubs and organizations throughout the area join together to stage the four-day Tamaqua Spirit of Christmas Festival.

The annual event will be launched on Thursday evening, December 3, at 6:30 p.m., when the Tamaqua Historical Society invites the general public to take part in the Tamaqua Historic Candle-Lit Walking Tour which will depart from the Tamaqua Historical Society Museum, 116 W. Broad St.The event is sponsored by the Society and will take visitors on a leisurely tour of the holiday splendor of the Tamaqua National Historic District.

The festival kicks into high gear the following day when the Arrival of Santa Parade and Depot Square Park Illumination take center stage in Downtown Tamaqua on Friday evening, December 4. Mr. and Mrs. Claus are expected to arrive on Broad Street at 6:30 p.m., where they will enter Depot Square Park just beyond the Five Points intersection. The Claus couple will be given the honor of flipping a switch that will trigger the sights and sounds of the holiday at the center of the community. The Clauses will then visit with children at the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce office at 114 West Broad Street, at about 7 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Chamber, will include pictures with the Clauses and is open to the public. More information is available at (570) 668-1880.

Those who hunger for more of St. Nick can partake of Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 5, 9 a.m., at 105 West Broad Street, Tamaqua. The event features a full breakfast, photos with Santa and goodies for the children. The morning session is sponsored by the Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission. Due to the nature of the activity, reservations are required. More information is available at the offices of Downtown Tamaqua, Inc., (570) 668-6899.

While Saturday normally would include the Victorian House Tours, that attraction will not take place this year.

"The house tours will take a hiatus to give all parties a break and to provide an opportunity to make improvements to the event," said Linda Yulanavage, Main Street manager.

However, Saturday still will provide an opportunity to see the interior of a period decorated house.

Tours of the Moser Log Home, Tamaqua's first dwelling, will give visitors a glimpse inside the place where it all started. Situated on a hillside to the rear of 307 East Broad Street, the 1799 Burkhardt Moser Log Home is a post-Revolutionary War, log-and-chinking structure that served as Tamaqua's first house, church, meeting hall and hotel. Tours will be offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday, December 6, noon to 3 p.m., and is free to the public.

Children will be entertained on Saturday from noon until 2 p.m. at the Tamaqua Salvation Army Regional Community Center, where Children's Christmas Movies will provide for youngsters the classic images that represent the magic of the holidays.

On Saturday from noon until 3 p.m., The Tamaqua Spirit of Christmas Holiday Tree Festival will showcase trimmed trees to be displayed in the Chamber office, 114 West Broad Street. Visitors will be given an opportunity to vote for their favorite tree. The trees are decorated by local clubs, churches, organizations and businesses. At the conclusion of the event, the decorated trees will be donated to deserving families in the area.

The Martha Stewarts and Rachael Rays of the region will go head-to-head on Saturday at 2 p.m. when contestants drop off samples of their home-baked cookies at the annual Tamaqua Beautification Association Cookie Contest. Judging will take place the very same day between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. The contest is unique in that everyone comes out a winner as entries will be shared with the community following the Tree Lighting ceremony on December 6. More information is available by calling Kevin at (570) 668-1252.

Adults can revel in the holiday by joining with family and friends at the Spirits of Christmas Pub Crawl, to take place Saturday, December 5, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Trolley transportation will be provided. Prize drawings will be held Monday, December 7. Entertainment and holiday specials will be featured at most pub crawl locations. More information is available at (570) 668-1880.

The festival continues on Sunday, December 6, 6 p.m., at Depot Square Park when the Tamaqua Beautification Association presents the Tamaqua Tree Lighting Ceremony, including music and lights that will celebrate the holiday season in Downtown Tamaqua in memorable style. Free hot chocolate after the event will be provided at the Tamaqua Community Ambulance Association Building.

Everyone is invited to become a "Santa" for a child in need by taking part in the Tamaqua Salvation Army Angel Trees program coordinated at 105 West Broad Street and at the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce, 114 West Broad Street. More information is available at (570) 668-1880.

The Tamaqua Spirit of Christmas Festival is one of the largest events of its kind in Schuylkill County and attracts visitors from a wide region. The event got its start through efforts of a committee associated with the Tamaqua Area 2004 Partnership, now the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership.