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A Holiday Tradition: Noel Night Returns on Dec.2

The 45th annual event is an ‘open house’ for areas cultural centers – and a much-loved tradition among local families.

Photo by David Lewinski

Holiday traditions are some of the most treasured parts of the year for many families.

And in Detroit, the event that often tops that list is one that has stood the test of time: Noel Night.

The annual event in Detroit’s Cultural Center has been a staple in the community since 1973 – and, thanks to sponsors like UnitedHealthcare, it’s growing stronger every year.

This year’s event will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, offering free admission to more than 100 cultural institutions and venues throughout the city including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Science Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center and more.

“Noel Night is a long-standing holiday tradition that positively affects the community,” says Annmarie Borucki, special projects manager for Midtown Detroit, Inc., which puts on the annual event. “Noel Night attendees have the opportunity to visit the state’s premier arts and cultural institutions for free, experience a wide variety of artistic performances and celebrate diverse holiday traditions in an inviting and festive atmosphere.”

It’s also a night to remember with its popular horse-drawn carriage rides, family crafts and activities and cool performances happening all around town. Popular attractions include “Live Animals of the Nativity” at The Cathedral Church of St. Paul and the annual community singalong led by the Salvation Army band.

Now in its 45th year, Noel Night is expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors. You’ll also find students from around the city participating in performances.

“The holiday event offers hundreds of students from the area’s schools the opportunity to gain additional experience by performing at important Noel Night venues,” Borucki says. “Event attendees are also offered an evening of extended shopping hours and the opportunity to dine at area restaurants.”

All the extra foot traffic at shops, galleries and dining establishments in the city provides an economic boost for the area, too.

“Noel Night is also Midtown Detroit, Inc.’s opportunity to showcase the latest developments and the growing nightlife in Midtown,” Borucki says. “The event clearly creates a positive image of the district.”

The newest sponsor to help support the much-loved event is UnitedHealthcare, which is sponsoring the annual Ice Scraper Challenge located in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“The Ice Scraper Challenge is an opportunity for students from Wayne State University and the College for Creative Studies to learn how to sculpt ice from a professional ice sculptor,” she says. “The public gets to watch as blocks of ice are transformed into unique sculptural creations throughout the day and evening.”

That kind of support is crucial to making the event happen, Borucki adds.

“Noel Night would not be possible to produce without the generous support of sponsors like UnitedHealthcare,” she says. “UnitedHealthcare is an excellent sponsor for Noel Night because they have a solid record of trying to help build healthier communities and supporting family-friendly programming that is fun, inclusive and free to the public.”

It’s all part of making a memorable event for families and members of the community who look forward to the gathering each year.

“We have families that have been attending since the very first one,” Borucki says.

If you’re wondering how to fit in all the fun in one night, keep in mind that it’s probably not possible to “see” it all. To help you prioritize, Midtown Detroit is featuring “popular itineraries” on its website for consideration.

“We will develop lists of where people can go see Santa or work on make-and-take activities, buy art or participate in educational activities and workshops,” Borucki says.

Free shuttles will be available to take guests to and from locations; check the website for a route map.

“We also should note that for the first time ever, Woodward Avenue will not be closed down and the ‘Woodward Bandstand’ will be relocated to Wayne State’s campus at the southwest corner of Woodward and Warren,” she says.

Admission to all of the cultural institutions is free for everyone, and food will be available for purchase.

“Noel Night has been free since its inception and is a way for the cultural center to give back to the community,” Borucki says. “Noel Night is the perfect way to usher in the holiday season by making free quality arts programming and entertainment available to all types of people.”

For a full schedule of events and more details on Noel Night, call 313-420-6000 or visit or

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