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Annual Festival of Lights at the Grotto returns


If you didn’t realize it, the award-winning Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto is widely recognized as the largest holiday choral festival in the western United States. In fact, it is the largest one we are aware of anywhere. The Grotto’s celebration offers over 150 indoor music concerts performed by many of the region’s finest choirs, including many from throughout the Mid-county area. You can go to for a complete schedule of performances.

Expecting to welcome over 65,000 visitors this year, The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights opened last month and continues nightly through Saturday, Dec. 30, closed Christmas Day. The gates open nightly for this ecumenical event at 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children ages three to twelve. The Grotto is located at Northeast 85th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard.

The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights blends the sights, sounds and emotions that are so much a part of the holiday season. In addition to the award-winning holiday music concert, the festival features spectacular lighting displays, a dramatic living history theater program and family entertainment for all ages. The festival actually features over a half million lights including animated lighting displays, narrated fiber-optic shows and other dramatic exhibits focusing on the story of the birth of Christ.

The Christmas Festival of Lights offers many other activities for families, including a live animal petting zoo, outdoor caroling and a display of nativity sets from around the world. Seasonal food and beverages are also available.

At the center of the event is a life-size nativity scene that was crafted at Demetz Art Studio in Ortisei, Italy. This family business was founded in 1872, and after four generations now leads the industry in creating outstanding works of ecclesiastical art. The collection on display during the festival was crafted after a hand-carved set that is displayed each year at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Throughout this holiday season, visitors are encouraged to stop by The Grotto’s visitor complex and decorate our Trees of Hope sponsored by New Tradition Homes. These trees represent a collage of the hopes and dreams of the community. This is also where visitors to the Christmas Festival of Lights have an opportunity to enter a drawing for two round-trip tickets anywhere Southwest Airlines flies or, for the children, a fabulous gift basket with a year of movie rentals, videos, candy and much more from Hollywood Video.

A puppet show, entitled “The Christmas Donkey,” will feature a story bound to touch the hearts of children of all ages. Through the theatrical presentations, visitors can also get a glimpse of what might have been taking place at the inn on the evening Mary and Joseph arrived — and don’t be surprised when you run into one of the shepherds and census takers wandering the festival!

Visitors to the festival are invited to bring a gift of baby food or other non-perishable food items with them to share with families in need through the services of SnowCap, Mid-Multnomah County’s emergency food ministry. SnowCap benefits many people throughout our area, and baby food is always in short supply (quite expensive to provide).

The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, or The Grotto as it is commonly called, is a beautiful 62-acre Catholic Shrine and botanical garden. The Grotto is also a nonprofit Oregon corporation, supported solely by the proceeds of its gift shop and by donations. The Friars of the Order of Servants of Mary administer the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother.

The festival is a walk-through event. While all entertainment areas are fully tented and concerts are performed indoors, visitors should dress for the weather including warm, rubber-soled shoes. The festival meets Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and is completely accessible. Ample free parking is available.

Tickets are available at The Grotto Gift Shop, at Ticketmaster outlets and nightly at the gate. Go to The Grotto’s Web site,, for information about special ticket promotions. General information, nightly performance schedules and other festival details may be obtained by calling 503-261-2400.
Editor’s note: Patty Williams is the special events and marketing coordinator at The Grotto.

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