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Holiday Traditions, With a Twist

For a year unlike any other, traditions have been modified to fit the times. As the holidays rapidly approach, Iowa cities across the state are doing all they can to spread cheer and keep traditions alive in creative and innovative ways.


LeClaire is lighting up this time of year and offering a variety of ways to celebrate the holiday season. The Parks and Recreation Commission started with a list of the best light displays in town, with 15 business locations and over 30 residential displays. As part of the city’s “Hometown Christmas” celebration, there will be a virtual ugly Christmas sweater 5k race and businesses will be participating throughout December with holiday specials, giveaways, free hot chocolate and much more.

LeClaire Hometown Christmas

Christmas window display in Burlington Iowa

Burlington’s downtown businesses are partnering with individuals and groups to spread holiday cheer this season. Instead of a one-day holiday light parade, parade entrants are teaming up with Burlington businesses for a month-long holiday light display in the downtown area. Members of the community and visitors are encouraged to vote for the best display at GreaterBurlington.com.


The Clear Lake community is encouraging Iowans to spread some holiday cheer while they get a workout in. The Clear Lake Lights On 5k Run/Walk is entering its eighth year but will not feature an in-person component this year. Instead, participants can run or walk five kilometers through their neighborhoods, the local park, on the treadmill or anywhere they feel comfortable between December 3-6. Runners are also encouraged to dress in holiday lights and costumes, with various prizes awarded to those judged as winners. Registered participants who submit their time will also receive a t-shirt. Running not your thing? Clear Lake is encouraging community participation through donations that come from purchasing a Secret Santa Workshop Kit or a Blessings Kit — holiday-themed packs that are sure to spread cheer in your household.

Volunteer in elf hat helping wrap gifts and organize a 5K Run/Walk

List of events taking place during Olde Tyme Christmas event in Oelwein Iowa

While the events will look slightly different this year, Oelwein’s 18th annual Old Tyme Christmas will provide a host of offerings for residents of the city. Traditional favorites available include letters to Santa, an Elf on the Shelf hunt, a Christmas Village display, as well as creative opportunities for holiday fun like the Grinch contest. The Oelwein Chamber and Area Development and The Oelwein Daily Register, the hosts of the events, have emphasized social distancing guidelines to ensure a safe experience for any participants.


A trip to visit Santa near the holidays is a timeless tradition. Due to the pandemic, those visits are looking different this year, but Iowans have found creative solutions to ensure that children get their chance to sit down with the big man. Santa will be at the Warrior Hotel every Saturday until Christmas Eve from noon to 4 p.m. Kids can walk up to the window to make their case for the nice list, using a microphone and speaker to visit with old Saint Nick.

After visiting Santa, it’s the perfect time to do some holiday shopping at Iowa pop-up businesses in the area. The pop-ups started on Small Business Saturday on November 28 and will continue each Saturday through December 19.

"Thanks to the awesome support of our downtown property owners, all of our spaces are being utilized for the holidays," said Ragen Cote, executive director of Downtown Partners. “Plus, downtown businesses are offering several shopping options from ordering online, arranging a pickup time or shopping storefronts with ample space to socially distance.”

Volunteer in elf hat helping wrap gifts and organize a 5K Run/Walk

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