Critiquing Christmas

Balanchine’s Nutcracker Will Never Be The Nutcracker Of My Childhood

Come For the Amazing Choreography! Leave Because Dancing Candy Should Not Be This Racist!

Critiquing Christmas: PIR’s Winter Wonderland

The Portland International Raceway Has All of the Lights

Critiquing Christmas: Tuba Christmas

An Ode to the Orchestra’s Mightiest Instrument—the Tuba!

If you’re looking to get Christmas AF, the shiniest, brightest, most Catholic-ist joint in Portland is the Grotto’s 30th Annual Christmas Festival of Lights. It’s home to Southeast’s finest light display, hottest shopping center for ceramic angels, and exotic petting zoo.

Here’s what’s to expect:

As you enter, don’t be alarmed by the motion-activated plaques along the path reviewing the life and times of JC. They’re nice reminders you’re entering hallowed church grounds. Pro-tip: Watch your language!

Next up: lights! Oh holy lights! So many twinkling bulbs packed into two short walking loops! Pro-tip 2: Pick up 3D glasses at the visitor center and... BOOM! THE LIGHTS ALL LOOK LIKE FREAKING ANGELS! WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.

Follow the path toward the towering rock face to see a life-size nativity scene, and statues of angels blowing trumpets at each other. (Which I guess is what angels do?)

And of course there’s a puppet show! The church employs a puppeteer who, on the night I attended, improvised a one-woman theatrical masterpiece about a lion puppet giving a pig puppet a bath. Pro-tip 3: Hit your vape pen or flask in the parking lot for maximum entertainment value.

Holiday food options: popcorn (mostly hot butter)! Hot chocolate (mostly hot sugar water)!

Bri Brey

And yes, there’s music! According to the Grotto’s website, the main draw of this festival is more than 160 indoor holiday concerts over its six week run. Local choirs fill the vaulted chapel with Christmas carols and stunning hymns! Pro-tip 4: Since songs are mostly in Latin, singing along is not encouraged.

But the best thing about the Grotto is hands-down the lit petting zoo! Highlights: So many dope goats! [WARNING: THEY WILL TRY TO EAT THE BUTTONS OFF YOUR COAT—BUT OTHER THAN THAT, TOTALLY DOPE!] Chill, dready sheep! And best of all, a real-live baby camel named Alexander (who I’m calling “Alexander Camelton” and you can’t stop me). This lumpy little dude is just under a year old and barely even has a hump! Looking at/petting Alexander alone was well worth the price of admission. A++, 100 percent would pet Alexander again.

Overall Christmas rating: 4 1/2 candy canes.