For this final curated list of 2021, we decided to highlight places and events that will be sure to put you into the holiday spirit. Across Oakland, there are several opportunities to get outside and view epic arrays of lights, Christmas-themed displays, lavishly decorated trees, and more. But keep in mind the forecast is for rain all through this week and next. So make sure to dress warmly.

As we grapple with how the new omicron variant will affect local businesses and events with an eye to the new year ahead of us, we hope you and your loved ones remain vigilant and safe. Don’t forget that we’re continuing to update our COVID testing guide and our vaccine guide.

Lastly, I’d like to know what you think about this weekly roundup. I’m going to continue to keep the pandemic in mind, and the health guidance from the county and state officials, when deciding what events to highlight. Email me your questions and comments to: azucena@oaklandside.org

If there’s an upcoming event you think we should feature, fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

Festival of Lights and outdoor nativity scene

Last year, in response to the pandemic and not being able to gather in person, St. John’s Episcopal Church created the Festival of Lights for people to enjoy some holiday cheer from the comfort and safety of their cars. Over 625 vehicles drove through the church’s Montclair parking lot to enjoy the displays, including life-size scenes from the nativity story. Accompanying the scenes is an audio story about the biblical story of Christmas, which plays on a loop via the radio station 107.9 FM. Christmas carols also play over the same station, so tune in! Keep an eye for the guides present to help people stay on the vehicle path. At the end of the drive, visitors get a little gift bag.

From now until Dec. 26 (closed on Christmas Eve due to church services), 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., free to attend, 1707 Gouldin Rd.

Picardy Drive Christmas Lane

Christmas decorations by residents of Picardy Dr., the famed street in Oakland, California with the spectacle tradition every year. Credit: Amir Aziz

Every holiday season dating back to the Great Depression, residents of this East Oakland neighborhood decorate the outside of their homes with lights and displays. All the holiday decor isn’t just for those who live on this picturesque street lined with storybook-style houses, it’s for the entire city to enjoy. Whether it is families that have lived on the street for decades, renters, or new homeowners, those who live on this street all come together to continue this well-known and loved holiday tradition. Be sure to look for the “holiday friendship chain” that connects each home’s rooftop. Visitors can either walk along the street or drive-by starting on either 55th Avenue or Seminary. 

Walk or drive-by every night until Dec. 31, 55th Avenue and Picardy Drive

Christmas Lights and Gardens at Oakland’s Temple Hill

The Oakland Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Temple Hill decorates its gardens, trees, and pathways every holiday season. All of the greenery and fountains come to life. While some events are exclusively limited to church members, the beautiful gardens with stunning views are known to attract visitors from all over. For those planning to roam the temple’s holiday light show on foot, remember to dress warmly as there’s more wind in the hills. The lights will be on during the day and night from now until New Year’s Eve.

From now until Jan. 3, 2022, 9:00 a.m. to 9 p.m., free to visit the gardens, 4770 Lincoln Ave.

Christmas Tree at Jack London Square

No holiday season is complete without a visit to Jack London Square to check out the over 50-foot tree that lights up Oakland’s historic waterfront with holiday cheer every year. This year, someone set fire to the tree a few days before its yearly tree lighting celebration which took place on Dec. 11. Thankfully, the tree was able to be restored just in time for the holiday celebrations.  So whether you are taking a break by walking around, doing some last-minute shopping, or supporting one of the many restaurants in the neighborhood, don’t miss out on checking out the tree at night when all of its lights are in full display.

From now until Dec. 31, Broadway and Embarcadero, Oakland, CA 94607

Azucena Rasilla is a bilingual journalist from East Oakland reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.