We celebrate the holidays well in Anne Arundel County! You know the Christmas season is here when the Jaycees have hung the greens in Downtown Annapolis, and the city's Christmas tree has been lit at the Grand Illumination.

For the December Anne Arundel Journal, I’d like to share a few of our family’s favorite holiday happenings around Anne Arundel County.

I grew up with the family tradition of loading up the car and seeing neighborhood Christmas lights. For the past 22 years, Anne Arundel Medical Center has offered a twist on this tradition at Lights on the Bay, an annual lighting display Sandy Point State Park. For over two decades, these holiday-inspired light displays have showcased 70 scenes viewed as you drive along the Chesapeake Bay. This year's themes are North Pole Village and Enchanted Fairy Tales. Proceeds benefit Anne Arundel Medical Center and programs.

Another Annapolis Christmas light tradition, which has delighted locals for 34 years, is the Eastport Yacht Club’s Light Parade. Boats decked out with thousands of lights parade along the waterfront areas of Annapolis. We often plan to arrive early for dining and holiday treats. The event is free and a great Naptown tradition, this year slated for Saturday, December 10, from 6-8 p.m.

One of my family's favorite ways to give back at Christmas is to participate in the Walk of Christmas presented by the Walk the Walk Foundation. WTWF prepares wishlists for less fortunate families in Anne Arundel County and parts of Virginia and West Virginia. Each year, our family supports a family through our church or school. Bikes, toys, clothes and gift certificates are wrapped and given to families - who might otherwise not have gifts - to make their Christmas special. Volunteer opportunities are available at their distribution center when gifts are given to families. This year we plan to help give out gifts to families through our son Matthew's high school. It's a great opportunity for families to make a difference in our community.

Midnight Madness at Downtown Annapolis* is a great Christmas shopping tradition and opportunity to support local businesses. We prioritize buying some of our gifts from local business owners throughout the year. This Christmas, Midnight Madness offers fun for family and friends with music, food and a festive atmosphere. The next events are December 8 and 15, 4 p.m. to midnight, on West Street, Main Street and Maryland Avenue.

Sherri and I are looking forward to enjoying Christmas music by Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore on December 18. We look forward to attending a Christmas concert together nearly every year.

A longstanding family tradition, we always attend a Christmas Eve service at Bay Area Community Church. Themed A Family Christmas this year, there will be seven Christmas Eve services beginning December 22, with five on December 24. This is a wonderful family time to reflect on why we celebrate Christmas. The services reach capacity fast, so free seat reservations are recommended and can be made here. We hope you'll consider joining us!

After Christmas, the Military Bowl Parade is a fun event downtown. It's a great opportunity for our family to get out of the house over Christmas break. The parade features the Budweiser Clydesdales, local organizations and bands.

I hope some of our family's holiday traditions inspire you to create some of your own. From everyone in the Arnold household, have a very Merry Christmas!

*This year Downtown Annapolis is showing wonderful hospitality with some creative parking options that include free valet parking during select times, prepaid online reserved parking in the city’s garages, and three hours of free meter parking throughout the Christmas season. Mayor Michael Pantelides has outlined the details on his Facebook page.