Festival of the Trees

It's official: December is here, and the Christmas season has begun at the Mauery house! When I was a kid, one of our traditions that kicked off the holiday season was going to the Festival of the Trees. Recently, I discovered that Portland also has a Festival of the Trees and was very excited to take my kids there, thus starting our own new holiday tradition.

We decided to hit the festival on Friday afternoon, so I piled the kids in the car and we ventured to the Oregon Convention Center on the east side of the Willamette. I always get nervous driving across town by myself -- crossing bridges at 50 mph can be a harrowing experience -- but we arrived just fine and went looking inside for the fabled festival. This took a while, because the convention center is HUGE! Enormous! Gigantic!! We seriously had to walk for 10 minutes to get there, which sounds easy enough, but when you're pulling two kids with you, it seems a LOT longer. But we finally made it -- whew!

And inside, we found.... our trees! But not as many of them as I had expected. If you've ever been to the festival in SLC, you've seen trees extending as far as the eye can see -- rows from A to P with around 25 trees per row. Then there are the wreaths, the small trees, the big row of gingerbread houses, the snack booths (mmmm...scones....), and Santa's workshop for the kids.

Portland's festival is, well, more low-key. There were maybe 30 trees total, arranged in groups of four and scattered through the exhibition hall. They were beautiful, but I was wishing for more. There was also a Santa's workshop, but it consisted of coloring pages, stamping a bag to carry your projects, making a jingle bell necklace, and assembling a Christmas bookmark.

If I sound like I'm complaining, I am a little bit, but my kids sure weren't! In fact, I think a smaller festival was probably more their speed, given their ages. They saw about as many trees as they could handle, loved going crazy with stamps on their bags, Nicole got her face painted (one of my favorite things when I was a kid), and we watched some of the performing groups.

The highlight of the festival BY FAR, though, was the Teddy Bear Hospital, put on by the doctors and nurses of Providence Medical Centers. The kids each get to choose a bear that they get to keep, then they take them through stations where the very friendly nurses help the kids bandage the bears' owies, give them shots, listen to their heartbeats with stethescopes, give them stitches, and prep for surgery with masks. So cute! Here are the kids with their bear creations:

There was even an ambulance there for the kids to explore -- probably Nathan's favorite part of the whole day!

All in all, we had a good time, if on a bit smaller scale than I anticipated. Time will tell if this becomes a tradition for our family, but it sure helped kick off our holiday season!