The Grotto’s Advent Christmas observances will be different this year.

The famous Northeast Portland sanctuary will not host its annual evening lighting event — The Festival of Lights — because of COVID-19 and concern for the health and safety of guests, volunteers, staff and neighbors.

But the sanctuary staff invite all to come to The Grotto during the standard daytime hours for Advent and Christmas. All activities on the lower level are free to everyone.

“We will share and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas,” said a statement released by the sanctuary.

Beginning the day after Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year’s Day, visitors can visit the large Nativity scene, walk the wooded path and listen to the story of the birth of Jesus, write wishes on the Trees of Hope, visit the Chapel of Mary, light a candle, take photos and do some Christmas shopping in the gift shop.

Visitors also can purchase admission to the upper gardens where there will be seasonal decorations.

There will be extra outdoor activities on the weekends, which will be announced soon at

The Grotto will host a daily virtual Advent celebration, which will include activities, reflections, music, memories, recipes and crafts. Those who are interested should send their email address to to get on the list for the daily emails during Advent. Those already receiving daily emails are automatically enrolled.