Rather than waste our time lamenting all of our favorite community holiday events that aren’t taking place this year because of COVID-19 precautions and guidelines, let’s celebrate the things we CAN do.

That’s right; let’s do our best to find that holiday spirit.

Bundle up and get out of the house for some fresh air and holiday cheer by participating in any or all of the following offerings. You don’t even have to spend a dime, though I’d encourage you to patronize our local retailers and restaurants (for takeout) as long as you’re out and about.

  • Drive - or better yet, walk - and admire holiday lighting displays in Pequot Lakes and Pine River, where business lighting contests are underway as well as a residential contest in Pine River. Stroll through Trailside Park to see the Pequot Lakes Chamber’s Light the Night display of festive lighted decorations. With just a minor snowfall, this will be even more beautiful to see.

  • Head to Crosslake for a beautiful photo opportunity of the holiday lights adorning the Pine River dam and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area property. Stay warm in your car, or hop out and take a walk to see the lights up close. Just bundle up and you’ll be fine.

  • Light Up Merri-field, sponsored by the Merrifield Lions Club, is an event designed to help the community spread Christmas cheer Dec. 13-20. Homes and businesses can be entered in the Christmas lighting competition to win money.

  • Farther south, Baxter is organizing a residential lighting contest that you can enjoy with a car ride. Or park in downtown Brainerd and take a leisurely stroll to see decorated windows of downtown businesses, where a contest also is taking place. Thirty local businesses are participating in the 2020 Window Walk.

  • If you feel like driving just a bit farther, Little Falls offers a Winter Wonderland Lights Tour where you can drive around and enjoy dazzling lights adorning homes and businesses from the comfort of your car. Find a map at littlefallsmn.com.

  • Take in the Sertoma Winter Wonderland at the Northland Arboretum, which offers its drive-thru holiday lighting display from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, Dec. 9-12 and 16-19, as well as Wednesday, Dec. 23, through New Year’s Eve, Thursday, Dec. 31. Cost is $15 per car.

I also encourage people to shop local this holiday season. Our community businesses need our help now more than ever. Visit local retailers right when they open or closer to closing time if you want to try to avoid crowds. Visit them online.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Our communities are filled with unique shops where you’re sure to find the perfect gift for people on your list - and yes, you can find affordable items.

To make shopping easy, participate in the Cuisine Cash program sponsored by area chambers of commerce. Simply visit lakesproud.com online to find participating restaurants, bars and breweries and buy gift certificates worth $25 for just $20. Free shipping and curbside pickup are offered.

Remember, ‘tis the season to find and celebrate the good things in life. Let’s do just that.

(NOTE: An item on the annual Live-Drive Thru Nativity at the Cass County Fairgrounds in Pillager originally scheduled Wednesday-Thursday, Dec. 9-10, was deleted from this column after learning that event was canceled.)

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.