Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Solstice installation at Mount Auburn Cemetery in West Cambridge. (Photo: Tom Meek)

The season is upon us: the rush to buy gifts in time, parties galore, saccharine punch bowls, online order shipping woes and more. Here are a couple of ways to sit back, relax and smell the preverbal roses, which I guess in this case would be frankincense and cinnamon-scented pine cones.

Going on at Mount Auburn Cemetery, resting place of the Cabots, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Wilkes Booth’s brother, Edwin, among other historical names, is the annual Winter Solstice: Reflections of Winter Light (dates vary through Dec. 21; as of Thursday, all dates are sold out, but there are tales of people squeezing into previous sold-out Solstices), where you can walk through a series of engaging light displays set up amid the cemetery’s meticulously manicured horticulture and a riveting light show is projected upon the facade of the Bigelow Chapel, beautifully restored and updated before Covid.

The transformative illumination tour makes for near-psychedelic wonderment, and at some turns have a bit of a Disney Haunted House vibe to them. Lanterns are passed out to strollers to better see, and there are are plenty of staff with green and red lights to help show the way. Along the glowing paths and warmed by heat lamps are picnic tables adorned with spruce sprigs, Adirondack chairs with wool blankets and a cozy cafe stand to get cider, doughnuts and more, as well as a gift shop – pop-up pods that look like rustic tiny house setups.

Winter Solstice may technically be the time the earth is farthest from the sun, but more traditionally it’s a demarcation of change and reflection. Inside the chapel there’s a ceremony of lights in which people can take a candle into the main chamber, light it and take a moment of remembrance for those in their lives lost while listening to string players (violin, viola and bass) perform solo pieces and in concert.

The Winter Solstice program has been going on at Mount Auburn Cemetery for more than 30 years. Ticket are $30, which come with an admittance times from 5 through 8:30 p.m. Some dates have quiet times or are pay-what-you-can – but that’s largely a note to sock away for a year from now, when Solstice is likely to return.

The Maccabee Bar pop-up at Noir in Cambridge’s Harvard Square includes drinks such as the Jewish Christmas. (Photo: Tom Meek)

If you’re still in the festive mood and want to warm up with some Hanukkah eats, head to the Charles Hotel, where longtime cozy spot Noir hosts the Maccabee Bar pop-up. The concept was cooked up in 2018 by bartender Naomi Levy to do something a little off-center of Christmas, raising a glass to seasonal Jewish tradition without being too traditional. On the drink menu are cheeky spins such as the Jewish Christmas – a Chinese-accented spin on an Old Fashioned with sesame-infused rye and Szechuan peppercorns that comes with a movie cel clipped to the rim (because Chinese and a movie equals Jewish Christmas); the Hebrew Hammer, vodka with lemon and raspberry liqueur; the tequila-fueled Oy Wat a Night; Manischewitz Jell-O shots; and drinks with and without alcohol that include potato as a nod to the potato pancakes known as latkes.

Speaking of which: The food specials aren’t vast, but the centerpiece is most pointedly the “untraditional” latkes with traditional condiments (sour cream and dark, thick applesauce). Other intriguing prospects are the grilled scallion hummus, duck confit flatbread and a salmon burger. The pop-up runs every night through the end of the month.

Noir (1 Bennett St., Harvard Square)