Portland, Oregon - Joys From the Freezing Tree Lighting Ceremony
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What can be said bout the Portland Tree Lighting? A few years back I had stumbled up the Portland Tree Lighting quite by accident. A friend of mine was visiting
A little insight, the Portland Tree Lighting is nothing like the Rockefeller Tree Lighting.
The first time I saw it the crowd wasn’t that big. In fact we had a decent view of the tree and only figured out what was going on when we all turned our heads to see what the crowd was looking at and the lights flipped on. The tree was small with tons of white lights. Why they picked such a small tree that year I don’t understand considering that
This year I would be in town at Thanksgiving and suggested to Angie that maybe we could see the Portland Tree Lighting this year.
Finally she responded and asked me why I wanted to do this and reminded me of the first time we went. I explained that we hadn’t experienced it fully last time because we hadn’t savored the experience; rather we had stumbled upon it. Angie is a trooper and she agreed to go for it. It would be good for a few laughs so she figured why not. Good attitude, she would need to keep that attitude to get through the experience as it turns out.
Angie had to work that day and due to a conflict I was without a car so at around 4:30 Angie came to pick me up.
I began to realize how stupid this could be especially after I felt the cold wind whip my hair across my face getting into her car. It was too late, Angie was on a mission and there was no turning back. But first we went to the local Fred Meyer’s to get hats and gloves it was that cold. I don’t know why, but for some reason Angie had decided to wear a raincoat that day to work. It was 20 degrees with wind chill and she was wearing a raincoat.
Because it was the weekend of Thanksgiving the traffic was light so we figured finding parking would be a breeze. It would have been if we wanted to walk fifteen blocks; we didn’t. We drove around for 15 minutes looking for parking. The streets were filled with people. Parking was insane! This was not the Portland Tree Lighting of years past, oh no! It was pure madness!
Finally Angie couldn’t take it anymore and said we were going to pay for parking. I told her she was nuts, it would cost way too much! It turned out it was only $3.95. In NYC it would have been $40, easily.
As we were leaving the parking garage we were greeted by a huge gust of wind that almost knocked me on my butt and stole my breath away. I don’t like thieves and I don’t like cold wind. This was looking a little bleak. What was even worse was that there were people absolutely everywhere! This was nothing like the old school Tree Lighting of a few years earlier. Maybe it was an off year the first time or we were just seeing it through different eyes, but I have a picture from the first year and there were no obstructions!
There were hordes of people and things blocking our view such including, pillars, banners and people.
We tried to see if we could squeeze into a space on the sidewalk, but it wasn’t going to happen, hordes of people were everywhere and they were multiplying right before our eyes. A couple trying to find a spot made a brilliant comment to another couple passing by them. People who were walking should go to the other side of the street because the side near the tree was too crowded for them. Interestingly enough the couple making this comment was walking and looking for a good spot to see the tree just like everybody else. I wanted to say that if the rules apply to everyone they apply to you as well Einstein, but contained myself.
We realized that we were not going to find any good openings along the sidewalk, so we decided to cross the street. The tree would be hard to see, but we might be trampled to death if we stayed on the tree side of the street and I wasn’t in the mood for that.
Even after we crossed the street the madness ensued so we ended up on a corner with an older couple and hung out with the bike rack. Nobody was over there, yet the view wasn’t bad at all.
So we waited for the magic to happen! Five minutes and the lights would be lit. There was more singing from the stage. I don’t even know what the song was at this point, my ears were starting to freeze even with a hat on and my hearing was iffy from the wind violating them. All I could think of was “light the damn tree” and “how does one get picked to sing at this thing?” Two conflicting ideas but that is how my brain works, especially in the cold.
So again we waited and waited and waited. I looked over at the tree, it was still dark and so were our souls! It was so windy that my face was frozen and pink.
So again, we waited. I was about ready to give up; my fingers were hurting even with the gloves I was wearing. Angie was hunched over, her raincoat useless in this sub zero winds. I began doing a semi happy dance believing that I was in the
At this point a group of protestors showed up with signs screaming at us to enjoy our shopping and that 911 was a lie. Okay, I am all for people’s individual beliefs, but a little FYI. Nobody was shopping, apparently he didn’t get the memo that there was a Tree Lighting and that thousands of people don’t line the streets and stare at a dark tree when they are shopping unless you are at a Christmas Tree stand. He also had several spelling mistakes on his sign. Interesting, but at least it broke the monotony and made people laugh if only for a moment before they realized they were damn fools for standing out in the tundra for this long to see a tree light up.
All of a sudden we heard a 10 second countdown begin! It was finally happening and it was happening now! We began cheering as if our favorite team had just won the Super Bowl. The crowd hit one and the tree was lit! We snapped a few photos trying desperately to get both of our heads in the frame with the tree. Finally we got one even though we both looked horrible, I mean absolutely terrible, but the tree was there!
When we turned around to survey the area again, almost everyone had left. It made me ponder the appeal of tree lightings and the dropping of the New Year Ball. Why? You sit around in cold weather for hours, freeze your butt off and then leave five seconds after it is done. It doesn’t make sense! So after this little adventure I realized that from now on I would be going to my own tree lighting…at home. A small tear drip from my eye as I headed to the car, not from the event but from the deep cold that had frozen my eye ball, thanks