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Christmas trees for sale at the Pan Am Shopping Center in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Christmas Day has come and gone, but the trees festooned with lights and tinsel for the occasion need to stay up for another week if you’re counting on a curbside pickup.

For the roughly 10% of residents served by Fairfax County, the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services will collect live trees for recycling from Jan. 1-13 as part of its regular waste services.

Private trash companies licensed to operate in the county are also required to pick up trees 8 feet or shorter that are set outside in single-family and townhouse communities during the first two weeks in January.

“At the end of the two-week collection period, residents serviced by the County can schedule a brush pick-up for trees,” DPWES said in a news release. “Those who utilize a private company should contact their hauler with questions regarding collection of Christmas trees following the two-week period for special tree collection.”

Community members can also dispose of their trees directly at the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) and I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Road) in Lorton during their operating hours, though both have a $9 recycling fee for Christmas trees.

Trees that get recycled are turned into mulch that the county offers to residents.

Lights, ornaments, stands and other accessories must be removed before disposal.

“DPWES asks residents to dispose of tree lights in their recycling or trash because they get tangled in our machinery and their components are bad for the environment,” the department said, noting that lights can be dropped off at the county’s e-waste disposal sites or potentially local hardware stores.

For artificial trees, the county advises donating them to a charitable organization or church if they’re still in good condition. Local options include the Springfield nonprofit ECHO, which accepts Christmas trees in November and December, and GreenDrop sites, which also accept decorations.

In the Town of Vienna, curbside collection services will be provided for natural Christmas trees throughout January, and Town of Herndon residents can get trees picked up on their regularly scheduled trash day from Jan. 3-5 and Jan. 10-12.

Visitors pose by the Christmas tree in Strawberry Park at the Mosaic District (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Local government offices are closing early today (Friday) to give staff a head start on Christmas weekend.

With Christmas Eve falling on Sunday (Dec. 24) this year, Fairfax County, Fairfax City and the towns of Vienna and Herndon are all instead observing the occasion with a half-day today. All local government offices will shut down at noon, though schedules vary for some other public facilities and services.

Government offices will close all day on Monday (Dec. 25) for Christmas. The county courts, which are closing at noon today, will pause operations through Tuesday, Dec. 26, as will Fairfax County Public Schools, whose students have been on winter break since Dec. 18.

Here are other notable closures and schedule changes coming for the holidays:

Trash and recycling

Fairfax County won’t provide trash and recycling collection services on Christmas Day, bumping all customers back by a day throughout the week. The I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex’s recycling and disposal centers will be closed Sunday and Monday.

The Town of Vienna and Fairfax City will both collect waste and recycling for both Monday and Tuesday customers on Dec. 26. Vienna won’t pick up brush and yard waste that day.

The Town of Herndon will make trash pick-ups as usual, but Monday recycling will be collected on Tuesday instead.


Metro is running modified service on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with trains and buses following Sunday schedules. Rail stations will be open from 7 a.m. to midnight.

Fairfax Connector will operate on a Sunday service schedule on Christmas Day, and its customer service center will be closed. In Fairfax City, the CUE bus system will follow its regular schedules except on Dec. 25, when the service will be closed.

Like it did for Thanksgiving, the Virginia Department of Transportation is suspending most highway work zones and lane closures on major roads, starting at noon today and continuing until noon on Tuesday, Dec. 26. Rush-hour tolls for the I-66 Express Lanes inside the Capital Beltway will be lifted on Christmas Day.

Community centers

The McLean Community Center will be closed on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The Reston Community Center will close its Lake Anne facility on both days, but Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road) will open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 24. The Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center will be open from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday before closing for Christmas Day.

The Herndon Community Center is open today from 7 a.m. to noon and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will close on Dec. 24-25. The Bready Park Tennis Center and Herndon Centennial Golf Course will also be closed on Christmas.

The Vienna Community Center will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It’s also observing holiday hours of 8 a.m. to noon today and 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from Dec. 26-29.

Libraries, Parks and Recreation

Fairfax County Public Library will close all branches at noon today, followed by closures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Libraries will open tomorrow (Saturday) according to their regular hours.

All Fairfax County Park Authority facilities are open today except for the carousel at Clemyjontri Park in McLean and Sully Historic Site in Chantilly. For Christmas Eve, park visitor centers and other amenities will be closed, but all rec centers will open from 8 a.m. to noon, except for the George Washington Rec Center in Mount Vernon, which is opening at 9 a.m.

The park authority will close all facilities for Christmas Day.

In Fairfax City, both the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center and Historic Blenheim are closed through Dec. 25.

Herndon decorated a lighted Christmas tree outside town hall after ditching its usual Elden Street holiday wreaths (courtesy Town of Herndon)

Holiday decorations will look a little different this year in the Town of Herndon.

The town will not install its usual holiday wreaths on Elden Street’s poles because the process poses significant safety risks to the town’s workers, Town Manager Bill Ashton II told the Herndon Town Council at a meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 12).

Federal and state occupational safety rules prohibit workers from completed work on a pole within 10 feet of uninsulated power lines without property safety equipment and training, according to Ashton. Managed by Dominion Energy, the poles along Elden Street have uninsulated high voltage power lines — with only weather shielding as protection.

“This is something we were committed to, that we loved to do,” Ashton said. “Imagine our disappointment in mid-November when I learned that this holiday tradition has not or never has been safe for our employees to do.”

According to Ashton, the town discovered this rule in November during a routine safety training. The town’s workers don’t have the required safety equipment and training to install the wreaths, he said.

The issue drew public backlash — particularly on social media — when some residents directed criticism at the town’s risk manager.

Ashton II emphasized that the decision to drop the wreaths was his alone, noting that he found it “morally indefensible” to justify installing decorations at the expense of worker safety.

“I underestimated public passion on this issue,” he said.

This year, the town invested more time and resources to decorate the downtown Herndon area with a lighted Christmas tree, according to staff. While the town did explore hiring contractors to install the wreaths, it was unable to find a timely alternative ahead of the holiday season.


Santa Claus has already taken up temporary residence at Tysons Corner Center, but that won’t stop him from dropping by a couple of other spots around Tysons this week.

Coming up first, a particularly debonair St. Nick will host an evening of cocktails, cinema and charity on Friday (Dec. 8) at CMX Cinebistro in Tysons Galleria (2001 International Drive).

The character of Fashion Santa was created in 2014 by runway model Paul Mason, whose career has included work with designers like Gianni Versace, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani — brands that can all be found at Tysons Galleria, either through their own stores or department stores like Neiman Marcus.

Mason says the character emerged during a somber period in his life when he stopped shaving out of grief over his mother’s death. Realizing that his beard made him resemble Santa, he decided to use the look for a good cause.

“The Fashion Santa character has had a really positive reception,” he told FFXnow by email. “It’s just a lighthearted new approach to jolly old Saint Nick. Fashion Santa brings awareness to different charitable initiatives and causes instead of making toys. It’s a new take on holiday giving.”

Fashion Santa previously visited the mall last year for a holiday reception that included a sneak peek of the restaurant Jiwa Singapura, which opened this past February. Attendees were encouraged to donate to the Capital Area Food Bank.

This year’s event will consist of a meet-and-greet at CMX Cinebistro’s bar from 7-9 p.m. and a “special” 7:45 p.m. screening of the Disney movie “Wish.”

Meet-and-greet attendees will get a complimentary photo with Fashion Santa and sip “festive” cocktails, according to the event page. Admission is free, but reservations are required, and the mall is encouraging $10 donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic chapter, the event’s charity partner.

Access to the “Wish” screening comes with a $25 donation, which also includes a Santa photo and a “goody bag.” Last month, Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, a nonprofit that supports kids with critical illnesses, organized a preview of the animated film for local families at AMC Theatres in Tysons Corner Center.

Tysons Galleria Senior General Manager Rich Dinning says the mall is “always honored” to work with Fashion Santa “in support of important causes.”

“This year, Fashion Santa’s appearance at CMX CineBistro…promises to be a festive evening,” Dinning said in a statement. “Tysons Galleria has had an ongoing partnership with Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and we are thrilled to close out the year with this fundraiser.”

Santa’s Workshop Holiday Extravaganza at The Boro

Santa is also scheduled to appear at The Boro (8350 Broad Street) this Saturday, Dec. 9 for photos, crafts, music and other free festivities.

“At Santa’s Workshop at The Boro, guests of all ages will be invited to enjoy a fun filled morning of holiday kids crafts, a DJ dance party, specialty hot chocolate bar with lots of fun fixings from Bluestone Lane, a holiday themed bounce house, and calligrapher on site to customize ornaments,” the event page says.

Santa will be available in his workshop at Boro Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The overall event will start at 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.

If the event gets rained or snowed out, it will be rescheduled for Dec. 16.

“If there is no need for an alternative date, there will be a Santa Pop-Up on December 16 in Boro Park as another chance for guests to come see Santa,” The Boro said.

Santa is also continuing to take photos at Tysons Corner Center through Christmas Eve on Dec. 24.


Sugar plum fairies are getting ready to descend on Fairfax County, which will host multiple productions of Pytor Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” this holiday season.

The 131-year-old ballet, now a Christmastime tradition, will first waltz into Tysons, with two shows at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Produced by Talmi Entertainment with dancers from around the world, NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet is returning to the concert hall’s main theater as part of its 31st annual North American tour. Doors will open an hour before the 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. showtimes.

“We’re the only nationally touring Nutcracker production, so we strive to top ourselves each year,” Talmi Entertainment Executive Producer Dan Talmi said in a press release. “There is a sense of pride and responsibility when it comes to this show. It has become a holiday tradition in households across the country and our team works year round to give audiences the best of everything.”

Starring Ukrainian ballerinas Karyna Shatkovskaya and Elena Pechenyuk as Clara, the production deviates in its second act by shifting the setting from the usual Land of Sweets to a Land of Peace and Harmony “where there are no wars and no children suffer.” Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are guided through the land by two dancers in the unique acro-ballet adagio “Doves of Peace.”

Other notable elements include marionettes and animal puppets, a hand-crafted Christmas tree that grows up to 100 feet tall, and the introduction of a Herald character that represents “the spirit of the forest.”

For those interested in a more local production, Capital One Hall will also host the Dance Academy of Virginia’s inaugural performance of “The Nutcracker Sweet” in The Vault at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4.

In addition, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (FSO) and Fairfax Ballet Company will team up once again to present “The Nutcracker” at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts (4373 Mason Pond Drive) in Fairfax.

Scheduled for 4 p.m. on Dec. 16 and 17, the production is one of the few in the D.C. area with live music by a full orchestra, according to the FSO. This iteration — the seventh that the orchestra and ballet company have brought to GMU — will feature New York City Ballet members Emily Kikta and Aarón Sanz as guest soloists.

“Our unique production has become a cherished tradition of the season,” FSO Executive Director Jonathan Kerr said in a statement. “Audiences delight in the incredible dancers on stage, while Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable music is performed live by our orchestra musicians. The dance, live music, plus the stunning, digital scenery creates a winter wonderland in a magical production that’s perfect for the entire family.”

Fairfax Connector has unveiled three holiday bus wraps, including one featuring cookies (courtesy Fairfax County Department of Transportation)

Fairfax Connector will pull into the Fairfax County Government Center soon for its first-ever Winterfest.

Space is quickly disappearing for the public bus system’s holiday event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 in parking lot B of the government center (12000 Government Center Parkway).

Featuring three holiday-themed buses, free food and other treats, Winterfest is free to attend, but a general admission ticket is required for entry. As of this afternoon (Wednesday), more than half of the 500 available slots had been taken, according to the sign-up page.

Separate tickets for a planned Santa Bus, where visitors can meet jolly St. Nick, sold out within hours of going online, a Fairfax County Department of Transportation spokesperson says. In response to the demand, a second bus where attendees can get a free cookie from Mrs. Claus has been added.

Access to the “Cookies with Mrs. Claus” bus is included with general admission.

Winterfest will also feature free hot chocolate and kettle corn, games, music, a “Letters to Santa” station, and Duck donuts and Grill Cheese food trucks. Fairfax Connector will hand out coupons for free rides and other “goodies” throughout the event, according to a news release.

Following in the tracks of Metro, which has decorated a train and buses to resemble gingerbread houses, Fairfax Connector’s holiday buses hit the road earlier this week. They’re wrapped in plaid Christmas tree, Santa gnome and cookie designs.

“These buses are sure to bring a smile to your face,” the news release said. “If you spot one, safely take a picture and share with us on Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #HolidayBus or #FairfaxConnector.”

People who share a photo of the buses on social media will be entered into a drawing for a $50 SmarTrip card, which can be used for Connector buses as well as Metro, Fairfax CUE buses and other local transit systems. The winner will be announced the week of Jan. 1, 2024.

During Winterfest, the tree-decorated bus will serve as the Santa bus, while Mrs. Claus will be in the cookie bus. The gnome bus will host a Stuff-a-Bus donation drive.

“To support our community, Fairfax County Department of Transportation, Fairfax Connector & Transdev are collecting new, unwrapped toys and coats for children ages 5 to 10 years old,” FCDOT said in its news release. “…The toys and coats collected will be delivered to children at three Fairfax County public schools the week of December 11, 2023.”

In a separate charitable effort, today (Thursday) marks the last day of Fairfax County’s virtual Stuff the Bus campaign, which encourages community members to make monetary donations to local nonprofits that provide food assistance.

Santa’s Chalet photo station at Tysons Corner Center in 2022 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, but Christmas is already in the air at Tysons Corner Center.

After adding holiday decor to its Plaza earlier this month, including a 40-foot-tall walk-in tree, 10-foot-tall snowflakes and a sleigh, the mall rolled out the red carpet today (Thursday) for Santa Claus, who arrived at 7:30 a.m. for a VIP event in Fashion Court on the first floor outside Nordstrom.

The festivities included holiday cookie decorating, letter-writing and gift bags.

Participants were required to donate $10 Best Buddies, which offers mentorship and support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The nonprofit relocated its Virginia and D.C. office to Tysons Corner Center last year.

Santa will be in town for photos through Dec. 24. Sessions are available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays, though hours may vary on holidays.

Walk-in visitors will be accepted, but Tysons Corner Center advises pre-booking a time slot to reduce wait times.

Now in his 33rd year appearing at the mall, Santa’s stay will include Pet Nights on Nov. 20 and 27 and Dec. 4, along with a breakfast from 8-9:30 a.m. in the third-level food court on Dec. 2. The breakfast is free for all and will include entertainment, face-painting and other family-friendly activities.

Tysons Corner Center will officially kick off the winter holidays with its annual tree lighting ceremony in the Plaza at 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 17. The “enchanted evening” will include recognition of “a local hero for their commitment to service and passion for education,” according to a press release.

Like in previous years, the ceremony will be accompanied by music and dance performances, a complimentary s’mores and hot chocolate bar, a pop-up retail market, custom drinks from Barrel + Bushel, giveaways and more.

Tysons Corner Center says shoppers can expect additional holiday surprises throughout the next two months.

“Throughout the season, Tysons Corner Center will be delighting its customers with surprise entertainment, festivities, and random acts of kindness, all to enhance their holiday shopping experience,” the mall said in the press release. “For a truly festive holiday, Tysons will feature carolers, gift wrapping, and more surprises to come.”

The mall will be closed on Thanksgiving (Nov. 23), but it will reopen from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. the next day for Black Friday.

Black Santa will return to Tysons Galleria this weekend (courtesy Santas Just Like Me)

Tysons Galleria is getting a triple dose of Santa Claus this December.

In addition to the previously reported “Pictures with Santa” event, which is now taking place daily near Sweetgreen, the mall will host a Fashion Santa and the return of Black Santa, who proved to be a big draw for Neiman Marcus last year.

Neiman Marcus confirmed to FFXnow that it has partnered again with Santas Just Like Me to bring a Black man dressed as Santa to its Tysons Galleria store (2255 International Drive).

As the first time in its 33-year history that the department store hired a non-white Santa, last year’s appearance morphed from a three-hour storytime to two days of photos to accommodate the demand.

“Neiman Marcus has a storied history of holiday traditions and in-store celebrations that are beloved by our customers, especially as we look to make each moment special this season,” Neiman Marcus General Manager Kathy Leigh said. “We are delighted to have a Santa that represents our community join us again…Customers and their families can share their wish lists, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and explore our remarkable holiday gifting assortment.”

The “Black Santa Experience” will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 10-11). Appointments cost $74.95, including the cost of the photos, and can be booked online through Santas Just Like Me.

Just two days later, on Tuesday, Dec. 13, Fashion Santa will strike poses from 6 to 8 p.m. outside Neiman Marcus.

Described as “the suave brother of our favorite jolly holiday icon,” this Santa will host a sneak peek of Jiwa Singapura, the 10,000-square-foot Singaporean and Malaysian restaurant coming to Tysons Galleria’s redeveloped Macy’s wing.

Previously expected to open in October, the restaurant is now slated to open in early 2023, according to a public relations representative.

Jiwa Singapura is being developed by the team behind Cranes, a D.C.-based Spanish and Japanese fusion restaurant. Chef Pepe Moncayo, who’s also working on a concept at Capital One Center, will be present at next week’s event to offer a preview of the planned menu.

“Designed by //3877, Jiwa Singapura takes inspiration from the modern built forms of Singapore with traditional patterns,” the public relations representative said by email. “The space will capture the best of Singapore’s street-food culture and high-end dining, giving the larger D.C.-metro area a taste of some of the Asian city-state’s boldest, nuanced flavors. Expect to see the classics like Hainanese chicken rice, laksa and chili crab.”

Registration for the Fashion Santa event is free, but the event page says donations to Capital Area Food Bank will be encouraged.

Santa will return to Tysons Corner Center starting Nov. 11 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Santa Claus is coming to Tysons this November, giving kids plenty of time to put in their gift requests for Christmas.

Tysons Corner Center announced Tuesday (Nov. 1) that Santa will arrive on Nov. 11 for photo sessions at the mall’s Fashion Court, located on the first floor of the Nordstrom wing.

Advance scheduling is now open. The mall recommends pre-booking a session “for the best experience” and to get a free, personalized call “from Santa.” Visitors who also purchase a photo package will get a “free, personalized video from the North Pole after the visit.”

Santa will be at the mall on most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 24, though his hours will vary. There are pet nights on Mondays from Nov. 14 to Dec. 5, and the 9-10:30 a.m. slot on Sunday, Dec. 4 will be exclusively for children and families who need a sensory-friendly environment, according to the event webpage.

All sessions are free, but the professional photo packages range in cost from $39.99 to $49.99.

St. Nick — presumably played by a different person — will also take up residence at Tysons Galleria from Nov. 18 to Dec. 24, including for pet nights and a Santa Cares Day on Dec. 4 for kids with disabilities.

In addition, Tysons Galleria’s Neiman Marcus will host a “Breakfast with Santa” event at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. Tickets are currently available through Eventbrite, costing $65 for adults and $55 for kids aged 3-12.

The department store made waves last year by inviting its first-ever Black Santa. The event proved so popular that it morphed from a three-hour storytime to two days of photo sessions with hot chocolate and cookies provided to those waiting in line.

In other events, the Town of Vienna will usher in the winter holiday season with its annual Church Street Holiday Stroll at 6-8:30 p.m. on Nov. 28. The festivities will include a tree lighting, music and deals from local businesses, though it’s unclear whether Kris Kringle will be in attendance.


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