Downtown Should Feel a Whole Lot More Like Christmas This Year

I’ve always felt we should let each holiday have its moment. I never cared much for Halloween, but it deserved its night of sugar and devilment coming up in a few days. We’re still about five weeks out from Thanksgiving, which has always been my favorite holiday. It was never about the myths of pilgrims and Indians, for me, it was a quiet holiday with family and a focus on being thankful for what we have. I like that.

But, alas, no one asked me. Christmas has become too big an enterprise to squeeze into the month between Thanksgiving and the New Year, so it has expanded to overlap with the holidays before it. Maybe it’s fine. We’ll have holiday gumbo year-round, eventually.

Christmas Day, Knoxville, 2020

This year, I don’t mind so much.

You may recall the Christmas season of 2020. Or not. Marked by the peak of the COVID-19 virus, with case numbers and deaths spiraling upward, it may be one we’d just as soon forget. Gathering outside to open presents with family in late December isn’t the greatest, as we learned in our family. And no Christmas parade? No formal lighting of the tree on Gay Street? Those have been traditions in our family for more than a decade. We missed it.

Well, in a pre-Halloween announcement made yesterday by the city, it is confirmed that Christmas is back this year. Rather than being on the uphill, we are riding the downhill side of illness this year and may just get to enjoy a good (mostly) illness-free holiday. It’s what the city’s banking on and here’s hoping.

Knoxville Christmas Parade, Gay Street, December 2019

From the press release:

City crews are already busy hanging nearly 150,000 lights as Knoxville prepares for Christmas in the City. Some elements of the downtown holiday tradition were canceled or amended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are so excited to celebrate the holiday season together and to bring back traditions that so many of us missed last year,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “I am looking forward to seeing families create memories downtown ice skating, taking pictures in Krutch Park and enjoying the Regal Celebration of Lights the day after Thanksgiving!”

“We wanted to reimagine the logo, so anyone who saw it immediately identified it with Knoxville and the special way we celebrate the holidays,” Special Events Director Kyndra Brewer said. “By incorporating the Sunsphere, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2022, people will instantaneously think of our city and its iconic landmark.”

Christmas Day, Knoxville, 2020

Christmas in the City runs Nov. 26 through Jan. 2, 2022, and includes:

  • Regal Celebrations of Lights, Friday, Nov. 26, 5:30-9 p.m., Krutch Park
  • Holidays on Ice, presented by Home Federal Bank, Opening Friday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m., Market Square
  • WIVK Christmas Parade, Friday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m., Gay Street
  • Christmas Drive-In at Chilhowee, presented by Comcast, Friday, Dec. 10, 5:30 – 9 p.m., Chilhowee Park Midway

I love some of the events listed above more than others, but it will be joyful to see them return. We’ve learned a lot about the pandemic since last year and now understand that outdoor activities, which includes all the above, are much safer than we realized. For me, even walking around downtown and seeing the sparkling lights, the rosy cheeks of the children, and people enjoying the season, will be met with a little more appreciation this year.