How to Spread Holiday Cheer – Not COVID – This Season

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Oregon Businesses and Organizations Pivot to Help Oregonians Safely Celebrate the Holidays

STATEWIDE – Egg nog has filled the shelves of grocery stores. Lights are twinkling in the downtowns of Oregon cities small and large. “Jingle Bells” is on a constant repeat. The holidays have arrived, but family dinners are being replaced with Zoom calls and holiday concerts will be streamed online. While the season is going to be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that does not mean the holidays are canceled.

McMinnville Downtown Association is once again decking out for the holidays. Photo courtesy of Visit McMinnville

As of early December, 25 counties were in the Extreme Risk category based on COVID-19 spread. However, a number of favorite Oregon traditions have made the necessary adaptations to work within the public health guidelines and stay open safely by getting creative.

Shopping local is more important than ever due to the significant economic hardships that COVID-19 has created for Oregon businesses across the state. Check out how some local businesses have quickly pivoted to spread holiday cheer (and not the virus) this season:

Window Shop 2020

One of the three pop up locations in Portland at 1538 NE Alberta St. Photo courtesy of pdxwindowshop.com

Juval Prevatte, owner of Carpentry PDX, along with other Portland makers, have been particularly hit hard by the cancelation of holiday events where makers normally sell their goods. Three weeks ago, Prevatte came up with the creative way to support local makers impacted by COVID-19 during the holiday season, with a project called the Window Shop 2020.

It’s an online platform for local makers to sell their goods. People can safely “window shop” by scanning a QR code on the window, which will direct them to PDXwindowshop.com, where they can purchase the items available in each window. 

“We find vacant spaces in Portland, which there are a lot now, and use those windows to advertise our makers,” explained Prevatte in an interview with KGW8. “From there [the QR Code], you can link to the Makers Union PDX website; you can link to other Portland Made artists. The idea being just to get more eyes on local products and put more money in local makers’ pockets.”

ZooLights Drive-Through

ZooLights in the snow. Photo courtesy of Oregon Zoo/Michael Durham

A holiday favorite for many is to visit the Oregon Zoo’s popular light display, ZooLights. The zoo has been turned into a drive-through that will allow visitors to see the 1.5 million dazzling light display from the safety of their own vehicles, driving down lit paths past enclosures and artful light displays.

“Everything’s been a little different in 2020, and ZooLights is no exception,” said zoo events manager Nikki Simmons in a news release. “Like most of this community, our biggest concern right now is protecting everyone’s health and safety. We’re just thankful we could come up a good way for the community to enjoy this holiday tradition.”

The event will run daily until Jan. 10, with the exception of Christmas Day. Visitors must buy timed-entry tickets ahead of time, which will be made available seven days in advance at oregonzoo.org. Pricing varies by date, running between $50 and $65 per vehicle.

Face masks will not be required as people drive through ZooLights this year, but they are required when guests interact with zoo staff from their vehicles.

Oaks Amusement Park’s Sing-Along from Your Car

Cinnamon Bear Holiday Show. Photo courtesy of KOIN

The Cinnamon Bear has been a beloved Portland holiday tradition for more than 80 years, performed at the Oaks Amusement Park. The performance normally delights audiences through the historic radio program, live appearances around town, and special cruises aboard the Portland Spirit.

The tradition continues during this unusual holiday season with an all-new, live drive-in concert to be enjoyed from the socially-distanced safety of your own car. This new holiday-themed event is a vehicle-based, live musical and theatrical production. The show features a sing-along show and a whimsical holiday story with special guest appearances. The entire performance can be enjoyed from the safety of your car by tuning into the broadcast on your FM radio. It’s a fun and safe way to celebrate the holidays for kids of all ages.

The show runs Thursday through Sunday, November 27-December 31 with two showings at 4-5:30 PM & 6-7:30 PM. Tickets must be purchased in advance at oakspark.com/cinnamonbear. Pricing is $49 per vehicle.

U-Cut Christmas Trees

Photo courtesy of the Forest Service

While some forests may be closed due to wildfire damage or early snow, a great way to be outside in a COVID-19 safe activity this December is to head to an Oregon National Forest and cut your own Christmas Tree.

In a normal year, Christmas tree permits could be purchased from a Forest Service ranger station; however, this year, all Forest Service ranger stations are closed. Some local business vendors will be selling permits, but the easiest way to secure the permit is to purchase one from Recreation.gov. Including the $2.50 online “transaction fee,” the price of a permit is $7.50 for one tree, or $12.50 for two.

The most popular place to get a Christmas tree around Salem or Eugene is the Willamette National Forest, which includes 1.6 million acres of public lands around Oakridge, McKenzie Bridge, and Detroit; another is the Siuslaw National Forest, west of Salem. Mount Hood National Forest is the most popular option for those in Portland. 

Where to Cut Your Tree

  • Do not cut on private land, wilderness areas, research natural areas, scenic areas, or areas with rare, threatened or endangered plants
  • Do not cut trees within 300 feet of campgrounds, and 50 feet of trails and paved roads 
  • Do not cut in active timber sales or areas that have been planted with new trees. 
  • Do not cut trees within 100 feet of streams or lakes
  • Do not cut in areas posted ‘Christmas Tree Cutting Prohibited’
  • Do not cut in botanical areas and fenced plantations

Selecting Your Tree

  • Tree Height: 15 feet maximum; stump height: 6 inches maximum
  • Take the whole tree. Do not remove the top of the tree; cut down the entire tree
  • Do not cut the following tree species: whitebark pine, pacific yew, western white pine.

If you do not feel like venturing into the mountains, you can also go to one of the U-Cut tree farms or Christmas tree lots found all around Oregon. Christmas tree lots allow you conveniently choose a fresh Christmas tree from a selection of different shapes, sizes and tree types. U-Cut Christmas tree farms provide a rustic experience of cutting your own Christmas tree. Many lots and tree farms have additional products and services such as hot chocolate, wreaths, garlands, and gift shops. To find your perfect Christmas tree, go to nwchristmastrees.org.

Following the Governor’s Orders, farms and lots have been required to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including requiring the patrons wear a masks and maintain at least 6 feet apart, and provide the option for contactless checkout.

Madison Irving, an employee at Lee farms, carries a freshly-cut Christmas tree for a client in Tualatin, OR. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Paula Bronstein

These innovative ways to celebrate the holidays show that though things will need to look a little different this year, it’s still possible to celebrate the holiday season safely.

About Author

Sarah Dean is a Press Assistant with the Governor's Communication team.

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