Unlike last year, when there were still a lot of uncertainties about the pandemic, Christmas is shiny and bright in the CNMI this year, with several Christmas light shows and displays around Saipan.
The pretty and mesmerizing lights are drawing family and friends together for photographs and keepsakes of future fond memories. Every Christmas light display from Susupe to Capital Hill feature different themes, so every stop is different from the last.
This year, government agencies, business establishments and even residents all made an effort to share the joy with colored lights on gigantic cutouts and wire meshes that depict Christmas trees, snowmen, candy sticks, and Santa Clause on a sleigh , as if saying Christmas is here and this wonderful time of the year will happen no matter what.
A great way to have great fun without leaving the island is to have an early dinner and then set off to follow the lights around Saipan from 6:30pm onwards.
Start at the center of Saipan, specifically Susupe, where the annual Christmas Village can be found at the lawn of the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center. The Christmas Village is a project of the First Lady Diann Torres Foundation and has been going on for five years now. In a recent message to the community, Torres said that growing up and seeing Christmas displays would lift up her spirit. “For the past five years, the annual Christmas Village is a way our family can give our people the chance to be merry and bright, uplift their spirits, find peace and comfort, and put a smile on their faces. It is especially important during this holiday season as we continue to battle the pandemic,” she said.
Next, drive north on Beach Road and make a stop at the San Jose and Atkins Kroll intersection where Christmas lights are lit under the flag poles that bear the countries the CNMI has close ties with. Find the arch and have a photo taken there. You will also see a memorial that honors the lives of soldiers and civilians that devoted their lives to serving their country during World War II. Atkin Krolls itself has huge sign that says “Happy Holidays” in red lights to add cheer in that area.
Next up: The Christmas light displays in Garapan, where you can indulge yourself with more displays. The Garapan Fishing Base has an array of Christmas displays on the pathway as high as the acacia and ironwood trees that stand there. Look across and see the Christmas créche that’s lit with gold lights at the entrance of the Gualo Rai Church.
Head on to the grounds of the CNMI Museum of History and Culture and enjoy a variety of colorful Christmas booths prepared by different daycare centers on Saipan and are meant to “wow” both young and old. Dhez Javier, the owner of Loving Hands Kindergarten in San Antonio and Kiara’s Garden in Koberville, made sure she participated in this activity and got one booth for each of her business.
“Daycare centers volunteered to decorate the booths of the museum. This simple effort intends to share this tradition with the community. We hope that this will bring joy to all, most especially the children. …Christmas is a very special time of the year. Although the pandemic has hit us hard, it doesn’t mean we should give up in celebrating this season and safety rules should still be considered for the good of everyone,” she said.
Next stop is the TSL Foundation Christmas display at the TSL Center that never fails to share the Christmas cheer every year with their colorful lights display of reindeers and Christmas trees with matching Christmas carols to boot. The Christmas lights are not only on the grounds but also festoon the building itself.
Head on to Micro Beach Road and turn left to Hyatt Regency Saipan to see their magnificent 20-foot Christmas tree. Hyatt Regency general manager Nick Nishikawa said they will never get tired putting up this giant tree every year. “We always love to see the people with smiling faces, enjoying and gathering around the tree to have their photo taken. …Hyatt is here for the community through all the seasons of every year.”
After Garapan, start the ascent to Capital Hill. Drop by the office of the Department of Cultural and Community Affairs to see the display outside their office that showcases a lighted plumeria tree, candy sticks standing on the ground and Santa Claus waving.
Across the street is the Board of Education office where a cutout of a CNMI Public School System Polar Express bus is on display. Children will have a fun time jumping into the bus and sticking out their heads out the window for a photo opportunity. The delightful IT&E Christmas pergola is also on display beside the bus.
Final stop for the night would be to the enormous lights display at the lawn of the Juan Atalig Sablan Memorial Building where a tall latte stone stands, covered with a thousand lights, symbolizing Chamorro strength and integrity.
Maricel Ajacoscos brought her family to the site to unwind and enjoy the display. “Christmas is a good reminder to be thankful that we are healthy, blessed, and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” she said.
The lights display also features other Christmas decorations where you can have a picture taken with a Santa Claus standee in an arch of white lights, have a seat on Surf Club’s giant Adirondack chair, snowmen made of car tires, be in the scene with Santa Claus with his reindeers and enjoy the Christmas house that honor the men and women of the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
As you drive to these places, be on the lookout for houses where owners made an effort to decorate and spread the Christmas cheer.
You can direct your own course in visiting the Christmas light displays on island and be sure that you also practice the 3 W’s and be grateful that, despite of the pandemic, we are still able to these things. The best part about the Christmas light displays? They are all for free!