As snow blankets our woods and fields and the warm glow of Christmas tree lights twinkle from every window, the spirit of Christmas seems to come alive. From Marshfield to Menomonie, Christmas in Wisconsin is hard to beat and there is no shortage of ways to celebrate the holiday and join in this season of giving.

To experience one of the longest running Christmas traditions in the Chippewa Valley, head over to Chippewa Falls Christmas Village in Irvine Park. You’ll see a stunning display of lights, life-size Christmas scenes and historic replicas of Chippewa landmarks. Celebrating its 30th year, this awe-inspiring display takes local volunteers from area businesses, civic groups, and city government more than a month to set up. This annual project is just one example of the community spirit and neighborly cooperation that make our area so special during this time of year. For more information, visit www.chippewachamber.org.

If you’re in the Marshfield area, Rotary Club’s Winter Wonderland at the Wildwood Zoo is a holiday staple that doesn’t just dazzle, it also provides much needed support for area food banks. The display features over a million lights, live music and free nightly horse-drawn carriage rides. Admission is free but visitors are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to support local food banks. For more information, visit http://www.rotarywinterwonderland.com.

The annual blanket of fluffy, white snow transforms our area into a winter wonderland, creating endless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Each new snowfall makes it possible to strap on snowshoes or go cross country skiing in a nearby park or recreational area. A great way to enjoy the winter weather is by visiting the Bruce Mound Winter Sports Area. Opening December 16, the park includes areas for downhill skiing, snow tubing and snowboarding. The park welcomes all skill levels with beginner, intermediate and advanced trails. If you don’t have all the necessary equipment, drop by the rental shop to get outfitted with gear before hitting the slopes. When you are ready to take a break and relax, head over to the restaurant to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa and a snack. Bruce Mound is located about 15 miles southwest of Neillsville off State Highway 95. For more information, visit www.co.clark.wi.us/index.aspx?NID=237.

The familiar sound of Salvation Army bells and the ringing of money in the kettles serve as reminders that giving back to our community and serving those in need is at the heart of the Christmas season. Founded in 1891, the Salvation Army provides a wide range of services right here in Wisconsin. Whether it’s providing emergency housing and back to school supplies for families in Clark County or helping a neighbor in Cornell keep the heat on, your donation of time and money helps the Salvation Army meet some our neighbors’ most pressing needs. You can find out more about the Salvation Army’s work in our area, volunteer to ring bells, or donate online at www.salvationarmywi.org.

If you want to spread Christmas cheer to local kids, there are several organizations collecting unwrapped gifts for children and families in need. Since 1988, the Spirit of Christmas of Chippewa County has partnered with local businesses and churches to give toys to hundreds of area children. The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program also collects and distributes toys to children in need across our area. For more information or to find a drop-off location near you, visit www.thespiritofchristmasofchippewacounty.com or www.toysfortots.org/donate/toys.aspx.

Local food banks work hard to ensure that everyone in our community has a warm Christmas meal, as well as providing food all year round. No donation is too small when it comes to feeding those in need in our community. For a list of local food pantries, visit www.fmpfoodbank.org/get_help.phtml. Whether you donate gifts, money or your time, your generosity will have a positive impact on our community.

Among all the flurry of shopping and decorating during this season, our area offers many great ways to celebrate the Christmas season. From glittering light displays and outdoor activities to charity drives and community events, I hope you find some wonderful ways to spend time with loved ones and embrace the joy and generosity of the season. From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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