My teenage son loves the holidays. It always surprises me how he is a stickler for every detail, remembers every small tradition that I have (mostly unwittingly) set up over the course of his life. We suggested a family vacation over Christmas break this year and he voted to stay here, at our home in Bend, to keep up those traditions that still make the holidays magical for him.
For our family, these are usually small traditions like putting a special ornament on the tree or having a contest about who can be the first to find baby Jesus from a nativity set that my mom made in the 1960s. But these little things are wrapped up into the larger community where I have lived nearly all my life: Bend. Some of the events that we participate in around town hearken back to my youth, and some are things that have helped define my son’s own childhood. All of these holiday happenings, plus the distinct chance of a real White Christmas, make Bend the perfect place to spend the season. On this, at least, my son and I agree.
Here are just a few of the things we love to do in Central Oregon over the holidays:
Caroling in the Old Mill District
Every year, this shopping center in the heart of Bend hosts singers from around the region, to walk the streets and serenade shoppers with Christmas carols. Included in the caroling lineup are the top choirs from each of the area’s schools — including the High Desert Middle School Jazz Choir which includes the (swiftly changing) angel-like voice of my own precious child.
Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
For years, downtown Bend has lit a large tree at the north end of the main street to mark the beginning of the season. There’s just something about the hush of the crowd and the cheers that go up when the lights illuminate that I love. That, and a handy thermos of hot chocolate. There’s a smaller, more intimate lighting ceremony in the neighborhood of NorthWest Crossing that we always attend as well.
An annual, not-to-be-missed-in-any-weather tradition, the Bend Christmas Parade is the place we run into all our friends each season. Last year, my sister’s kids rode on the Sons of Norway float so it made it even more fun to watch for them to go by. Sons of Norway, although an old tradition for my extended Scandinavian family, is a fairly new one for mine. My sister joined when she moved back here four years ago and we now attend the chapter’s many Christmas events, enjoying lutefisk and krumkaker.
My mom never perpetuated the Santa story to us (gasp!), so the magic of Santa was always something I left up to my husband. After our son got over his sheer terror of the bearded guy (around age three), he and his dad began visiting Santa at SantaLand in the Old Mill District and I tagged along for moral support. The fun part about these visits for me was guessing who was behind that beard: each year, different local “celebrities” from around town dress up as St. Nick for photos with the kids.
I grew up ice skating on the pond in Shevlin Park, which froze solid most years. If it wasn’t frozen, we’d head up to the Inn of the Seventh Mountain’s open air ice rink. Now we have the option to skate right here in town at the new Bend Parks and Recreation Pavilion. A favorite pastime of my niece and nephew, we usually gather up all the kids and make a family affair of it each year.
These aren’t the only things going on around the area, but they are the ones that are near and dear to our hearts. Like my son, I can’t think of a better place to spend the season than my hometown of Bend!