By Alyssa Schnugg
With 2020 being a difficult year, everyone seems ready for Christmas. Photos on social media sites of people putting up trees and decorations early are easy to find on most social media news feeds.
Even the city of Oxford has joined the national trend, lighting up the Square over one week earlier than usual this year.
In order to provide some much-needed holiday joy, the city of Oxford already has several events planned to celebrate the season safely.
The Annual Christmas Open House, presented by J.E. Neilson’s and the Oxford Square Alliance, will again be held on Friday, Nov. 27; however, organizers say it will be scaled back this year to conform with COVID-19 guidelines.
Rather than sitting in one area, this year Santa will be on the Square from 2 to 6 p.m. greeting children of all ages, allowing parents to take photos, and of course, encouraging social distancing.
“We will not have carriage rides or an ornament decoration station this year,” said Mark Huelse, Oxford alderman and head of the Oxford Square Alliance.
While carriage rides will not be held at the Annual Christmas Open House on Nov. 27, carriages will still be available to ride on Dec. 12, as part of “Holly Jolly Holidays on the Square”.
Visit Oxford will be installing a new speaker system around the Square and will pipe Christmas music throughout the area for Black Friday shoppers to enjoy.
At 6 p.m., the Oxford Police Department will shut down the street in front of City Hall and the eastern side of the Courthouse circle for the annual tree-lighting ceremony to give the crowd more room to space out.
“Plans are to have the event live-streamed through the city’s social media platforms,” Huelse said.
The Square Alliance Dollars Raffle will be held once again this year, and those with tickets do not need to be present to win. Shoppers will receive raffle tickets while shopping on Friday at stores on the Square. Tickets should be turned in by 6 p.m. and the drawing will be held on Nov. 30. Winners will be notified via phone call.
On Dec. 11-13, locals and visitors will have an opportunity to get in the holiday spirit with ice skating in front of City Hall as part of Visit Oxford’s “Holly Jolly Holidays on the Square,” presented by C Spire.
Other attractions will include a live, holiday-themed cake demonstration, hot chocolate, holiday-themed snacks and carriage rides around the square.
After a year of COVID-related gloom, Visit Oxford hopes to spread some Christmas cheer with a COVID-friendly outdoor activity for locals and visitors alike.
“With all that 2020 has brought, we wanted to help create something fun for locals, as well as another reason for visitors to visit Oxford and dine in our restaurants, shop in our retail and stay in our hotels,” said Visit Oxford Executive Director Kinney Ferris. “We have had many conversations with vendors, the emergency management team, city leadership, and among our staff on how to have a safe, fun activity to keep the spirit alive during this season.”
Several local vendors will also join in on the fun and have holiday-themed goodies for sale. Come enjoy a hot chocolate, or coffee, as well as a sweet or savory treat.
Holly Jolly Holidays on the Square Events
A 40’x50’ ice skating rink will be installed on Friday, Dec. 11, which will allow up to 40 people to skate safely at one time. Participants will be required to wear a mask and reservations for ice skating will be made online in 30-minute increments at a cost of $5 per child, $10 per adult. The rental of ice skates is included in that fee. Hours for ice skating will be Friday: 4-8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday 1-5p.m. Socially distanced spacing will be required while preparing to skate or while viewing the skating.
On Saturday, Dec. 12, carriage rides will be offered around the downtown Square between 3-7 p.m., giving people the chance to ride during the day time, but also at night under the canopy of lights. Similar to ice skating, reservations will be made online and the cost will be $10 per family/group. Participants will be required to wear a mask while in the carriage. Operators will sanitize the carriage between groups and sanitizer will be available to riders, as well. Social distancing will also be required while waiting to ride.
Two-time Cake Wars winners, Sweet T’s Bakery will do a live demonstration of a holiday-themed cake at the City Hall Plaza on Saturday afternoon. They will begin constructing the cake at 1:30 p.m. and viewers will be able to watch as they assemble another award-winning masterpiece.
Other holiday-related events around Oxford:
Elf Scavenger Hunt, Dec. 1-30 around the Square
Help Visit Oxford find their elves! Twelve elves are scattered between different businesses in the historic downtown Square. Pick up a card at Visit Oxford to participate, and return your card once you’ve found them all to be entered in a prize drawing. You do not need to be present to win. The drawing will be at 3:30 p.m on Dec. 30.
Holiday Village at The Ford Center, Dec. 3-17
The Ford Center will feature gingerbread houses, a ceramic winter village with a working train, and a North Pole mailbox direct to Santa. Another special feature will be a LEGO gingerbread house built by the Ford Center staff.
Christmas Movies at the Drive-In
- Dec. 5, 7 p.m. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- Dec. 11, 7 p.m. The Santa Clause
- Dec. 12, 7 p.m. Elf
- Dec. 18, 7 p.m. Die Hard
- Dec. 19, A Christmas Story
Tickets: Click here
Winter Wonderland at the Arena, Dec. 6-13, 5 to 8 p.m. at the Lafayette County Multipurpose Arena.
Socially distant winter wonderland trail with visits from Santa; Oxford Artist Guild Holiday Market; Write your letter to Santa & drop it right in his mailbox.
Entry is free; however, a $5 donation per family is suggested.
Oxford Reverse Christmas Parade, Dec. 7, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at mTrade Park
This year, floats will be on display at mTrade park and attendees will drive by to view them. This event is FREE.
Santa Photo Opportunities at Visit Oxford on the Square
- Dec. 3: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 12: 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
- Dec. 19: 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
For a complete list of holiday-themed events, visit Visit Oxford’s website.