A tree-lighting ceremony, an Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt and a mailbox for letters to Santa are among the holiday plans in Prairie Township.

The special mailbox for Santa is set up in the parking lot at the township community center, 5955 W. Broad St., Galloway. Letters may be left in the box through Dec. 17. Those that include the child's full name, address with ZIP code and postage will receive a reply from Santa.

From Nov. 28 to Dec. 19, children can participate in an Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt for elf dolls that will be placed in local businesses. Children will get a signature for finding each one, and once they complete the hunt, they may turn in their list at the township community center to be entered into a drawing to win a new bicycle.

More information about the hunt, along with a list of participating businesses, is posted on the township website at prairietownship.org/248/Elf-On-The-Shelf.

The township's annual tree-lighting ceremony is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at the community center. There will be visits with Santa, demonstrations of ice sculpting, holiday music and caroling by local school choirs.

Elsewhere in Columbus, one of the biggest events of the season is Village Lights, to be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 3 in German Village.

Thousands of luminarias will line the streets and patrons will be greeted by carolers and live music. Many retailers in the Village will offer discounts on merchandise.

The Meeting Haus, 588 S. Third St., will host striezelmarkt, a Munich-style bazaar where vendors will sell an assortment of gifts and special gluhwein, a warm spiced wine, will be served.

Families can drop off letters to Santa at the Caretakers Cottage in Schiller Park.

On Saturday, Dec. 2, the Short North will hold its Holiday Hop.

The event will feature street performers, decorated retail windows, lights and new art exhibitions. Patrons can vote for their favorite holiday window display and shop the Short North Alliance's Holiday Hop Pop Up Shop, where merchants will sell their wares from noon to 9 p.m. at 873 N. High St.

Throughout the season, patrons who snap photos of themselves celebrating in the Short North Arts District with hashtag #ShortNorthPole will have an opportunity to win gifts from participating stores. Winners will be selected weekly.

Shadowbox Live will perform "Holiday Hoopla" at 7:30 p.m. on select Mondays through Thursdays and at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. on select Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 30 in its Brewery District venue, 530 S. Front St.

The troupe's performance mixes sketch comedy with seasonal music and features a sendup of the "Santa Babies."

Holiday Hoopla has become a holiday tradition, having been performed for 25 years.

The Center of Science and Industry at 333 W. Broad St., has a variety of holiday-related events planned.

The holiday movie "The Polar Express" will be shown at select times Dec. 8-10 and Dec. 15-17 at the National Geographic Giant Screen Theater. Live science shows start 30 minutes before each screening.

Those who attend will be treated to hot chocolate, cookies and other surprises, COSI spokeswoman Jaclyn Reynolds said.

Patrons will help illuminate the science-related light show, which will be held through Jan. 7. Visitors can peddle stationary bicycles that light up 12,000 lights, she said.

And – although it doesn't necessarily fit into the theme of Christmas – the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery is on permanent display at COSI. The exhibit opened Nov. 17 with 130 specimens and hands-on activities.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary