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Get into the Holiday Spirit in the Greater Portland Area

Much like the rest of the world, the holiday season is my favorite time of the year. Something about it that makes it so special. Maybe it’s the family time, the festive food and drinks, the shopping, or the rainbow twinkle of lights, but my heart fills with warmth as the mugs fill with cocoa. I have already tuned into my favorite Christmas albums including Leslie Odom Junior’s “Simply Christmas” and started watching my annual Christmas movie list. In fact our tree is already up in my apartment, so you could say I jumped into full swing with the cold weather and shortening days. As my mind is on the upcoming holiday season, I wanted to write a piece on some of my traditions when I am home for the holidays in Southern Maine. 


I am from Falmouth, so I live about 10 minutes from downtown Portland, one of the best areas for holiday festivities. I was reminded today of one of my favorite things to do around the holidays, which is enjoy the cheerful lights that are up around Portland. My family would always dedicate a special night in December to walk around and look at all the lights with a warm cup of peppermint mocha in our hands. This also gave us a time where we could walk around the shops and look for gifts for others. I would argue this is my favorite holiday tradition because I have such good memories of wandering around the sidewalks of Portland with cascading lights above, one of my personal favorite displays being at the Maine College of Art (MECA). Those art students really know how to decorate!


Not only does Portland put on an excellent light display, but in recent years, the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport has had the most amazing Northern Lights display that runs from November 23 through the new year. I spend Thanksgiving in Freeport, and we normally stop by to look at it on our way home. Nothing beats meandering through the twinkling Christmas trees with your family, especially after a full Thanksgiving feast. This is a fun place to take your friends to get in the holiday spirit as well! Not only is there a light display but they also have reindeer and Santa makes an appearance at some point as well. The spirit continues through the whole month of December and is concluded with a fireworks display on New Year’s (although due to COVID-19, I have a feeling the fireworks will be canceled). 


The Boothbay Botanical Gardens is a sight to see! Although this does cost money, this is a truly magical experience. The Boothbay Botanical Gardens is blanketed in Christmas lights in the winter months with a winding path through the garden. This is a great place to go with friends or family and take in the beautiful sights, although with the concern of the pandemic, this year they have turned it into a driving experience. I am just as curious about the drive, and I have a feeling it will be just as amazing and most importantly safe! Although this is a really smart and safe alternative, I will be happy when we are finally able to go back to the walking adventure of lights. 


Another thing that makes my holidays happy and can be done wherever you are, is donating! I find the holidays to be a time full of giving and fostering generosity. One thing I love to do when I go to the market with my dad, the head chef at the holidays, is taking my own cart and pick out some things to donate to local food pantries. Oftentimes there is someone actively looking for donations at the supermarket, so you can leave the groceries you have purchased with them. If not, it is pretty easy to find your local pantry and drop them off. I guarantee this will leave you with cheer, knowing you have helped someone less fortunate in a time of need to spread the wealth and holiday cheer. Everyone deserves a happy holiday season! 


As a former hockey player and figure skater, I will always have a special place in my heart for ice skating. Family Ice Center in Falmouth has an outdoor rink called “Lee Twombly Pond” which they decorate with lights in the winter, and it is an amazing place to get outside with friends and family. There is a fireplace in the lodge, which is a cozy place to warm up after a few laps. This is one of my favorite places to go with my friends from home and goof around as the Christmas tunes play over the speakers. There is also a similar pond in Yarmouth Maine that has a similar holiday warmth and cheer to it. For those who don’t have skates, there are rentals available! 

These are just a few of my favorite holiday traditions that I hope you can share with me, all of which are relatively COVID safe. I hope that despite the rising case numbers you are still able to share this holiday season with people you love in a healthy and happy manner. So cheers to a festive and joyous holiday season and a happy healthy new year full of new opportunities! 

I am a senior Ecology and Environmental Science major concentrating in Sustainability, Environmental Policy, and Natural Resource Management with a minor in Political Science. I love spending my time outside, skiing, surfing and hiking as well as writing, singing and playing music! I am very passionate about conserving the environment and creating a more sustainable future.
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