Celebrate the Holidays Safely
The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) strongly urge residents to choose lower risk Thanksgiving activities this year to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 outbreaks. Look for alternative options to celebrate the holiday while also maintaining a lower level of risk. To learn more, visit Celebrate Thanksgiving Safely .
2020 Virtual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Spark the season’s spirit with Alexandria’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in the safety and comfort of home. To comply with Virginia's Safer at Home Phase Three guidelines, this year's celebration takes place online with virtual presentations, including a proclamation from the Town Crier, holiday greetings from the Alexandria City Council, a message from Santa and Mrs. Claus, a poem read by Alexandria Poet Laureate KaNikki Jakarta, and the tree lighting countdown.
Holiday Events in Alexandria
See more holiday happenings in and around Alexandria at VisitAlexandriaVA.com
- Alexandria is a caring community! You can provide help to children, families and seniors who need it the most this holiday season through the City's Holiday Sharing Program. Sponsor the purchase of gifts for eligible families and individuals or volunteer your time. To learn more, visit the Holiday Sharing page.
- Help preserve Alexandria's past for future generations by supporting Historic Alexandria's museums. Your donations assist with preservation, research, education, and collections care of city museums. You can donate to your favorite museum(s) or projects - or support them all. Visit The Alexandria Shop and view the many different options to choose from.
- The Alexandria Firefighters Children's Holiday Toy Drive provides toys to specifically selected City charities as well as to Inova Alexandria Hospital. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Santa will not visit the hospital this year. However, toy drive donations of new, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at any Alexandria fire station now through Christmas. When dropping off toy donations, please follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask or cloth face covering and maintain physical distance from others. For fire station locations, visit alexandriava.gov/Fire
Holiday Gifts & Decorations
Alexandria Police Youth Camp Hosts Christmas Tree Sale
Help the Alexandria Police Youth Camp (APYC) send kids to camp! Beginning Saturday, November 21, the APYC will host its annual Christmas tree sale. Trees will be available Monday through Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., and weekends from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., at 110 Callahan Drive. Proceeds are used to cover the cost of camp for Alexandria children who need financial assistance so every child has the opportunity to attend our summer program! For more information visit www.alexpyc.org
Historic Alexandria Museum Stores
Looking for the perfect gift? Shop the Historic Alexandria Museum Stores! Stop by Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and Alexandria Archaeology Museum this holiday season for a great selection of books, children's toys, and other unique gift items. Pick up the new 2020 Historic Alexandria Commemorative Ornament, which features the Friendship Firehouse Hose Reel, at these museums. The ornament costs $20. Can't get to the store? Shop online!
- VisitAlexandriaVA.com for information on holiday shopping--and more!
Holiday Reading: Curl Up With a Good (e)Book!
Getting a new tablet or eReader this holiday season? Download popular holiday-themed audiobooks and eBooks for use on computer desktops and mobile devices. Alexandria Library offers OverDrive, an online tool that allows you to access eBooks and eAudiobooks from your computer, eReader, tablet, and smartphone. Visit Alexandria.overdrive.com for more information.
Personal Safety Tips for the Holiday Season
Throughout the holiday season the Alexandria Police Department typically sees an increase in thefts and robberies. Often shoppers and residents become distracted and vulnerable to holiday crimes. Shoppers have a tendency to carry more cash, valuable items they intend as gifts, and store purchases in plain view in their vehicles, which make them attractive targets. Make smart decisions to avoid becoming a victim of theft.
Before you leave home:
- Carry your purse or bag close to their body at all times; if carrying a wallet, keep it in a front pocket.
- Take only one or two credit cards and avoid carrying large amounts of cash to minimize your loss if robbed.
- Use caution when posting status updates on social media websites that you won't be home during the holidays or that you are going to be away from the house shopping.
Staying safe while shopping:
- Park in a well lit area as close to the entrance as possible. Lock your car and take your keys with you.
- Place purchases in the trunk of your car so they are out of sight.
- Always remain aware of your surroundings and visually scan the parking lot for suspicious activities or persons.
- Never leave your purse or purchases unattended.
- Avoid dark and/or isolated areas. If unavoidable, ask security to escort you to your vehicle.
- Have your keys in hand so that you are not searching for them once you reach your car.
- As you approach, check around your car to make sure no one is hiding.
- Enter your car and immediately lock the doors behind you.
- Avoid isolated areas or taking a "shortcut" through poorly lit, alleys, parking lots, and offices after business hours.
- Keep your cell phone in your purse or pocket
- If talking on your cell phone, stay aware of your surroundings.
- Only carry the cash/cards you intend to use.
- Keep your purse on your shoulder, do not rest it in a shopping cart.
- If leaving bags in your car, put them out of sight in the trunk.
- Pay attention at all times. Do not get distracted by your phone.
- Do not carry your phone in your hand while walking.
Using online purchase or selling apps:
Are you interested in using online purchase/sell apps to make extra cash for the holiday or to get a bargain? These interactions can also be targeted by thieves.
- Never go to the transaction location alone. Always bring a second person with you.
- Exchange items in well-lit, populated areas
- Only meet a potential buyer or seller in a public place.
- Do not communicate solely through an app or online. It's best to talk to potential seller or buyer on the phone.
- Trust your instincts. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Never invite a buyer to your home.
Have a safe holiday season. If you do happen to become a victim of theft or see suspicious activity, please call the Alexandria Police Department at 703.746.4444 or if you witness or experience a life threatening situation, call 911.
Each year, fires that occur during the holiday season injure 2,600 individuals and cause over $930 million in damage. Here are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday.
Cooking Safety Tips
According to the National Fire Protection, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve.
Four times as many home cooking fires happen on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. Follow these tips to have a safe holiday.
- Make sure ovens and stoves are clean and free of grease accumulation prior to use.
- Do not leave stoves, ovens, or any other heating and cooking material unintended. Stay in the kitchen so you can keep your eyes on the food.
- Keep children away from the stove. Grease and other cooking items can splash, which can cause serious burns.
- Wear short sleeves or roll up your long sleeves so your clothes won't catch fire.
- Handle all hot cooking pans utensils with proper oven mitts and pot holders to prevent burns.
- Always set timers to keep of cooking times.
- Keep food wrappers, pot holders, cloths, plastic, and other combustible items away from heating sources while cooking.
- Once cooking is done, make sure all cooking appliances are off.
- Call 911 immediately if an oven fire occurs!
Deep frying a turkey? Follow these tips!
- Use an approved turkey fryer with four legs and a built-in thermostat so proper oil temperature can be maintained. Make sure the fryer is in a place where it cannot tip over. This is a major cause of most kitchen fires.
- If using a Low Pressure (LP) gas powered deep fryer, check the gas cylinder and connections for leaks prior to use. Low Pressure (LP) gas should only be used outside.
- Never use a fryer indoors. Always fry outdoors and keep fryer away from children, pets, buildings, and other combustible items.
- Follow fryer instructions, and pay attention to the following when purchasing a fryer
- What size turkey should be used?
- How should the turkey be cooked?
- What type of oil should be used?
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dry. Do not stuff the turkey. Don't forget to remove the bag of gizzards. Always lower the turkey into the hot oil slowly.
- Never leave the fryer unattended. Wear fry gloves.
- Splashing oil can cause a flash fire and serious burns, so be careful.
- Do not handle hot oil. Let oil cool down for an extended period after cooking before removing from fryer and dispose of properly as food waste. Do not pour oil down drains or dispose of outside.
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
- Longing for a live tree? Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
- How to select a live tree: Needles should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
- Caring for your live tree: Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Disposing of your tree: Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
- Choosing an artificial tree: If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
- Inspect lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Don't overload electrical outlets! Do not link more than three light strands. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
- Never leave holiday lights on while unattended!
- All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
- Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
- Avoid using lit candles. If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Never put lit candles on a Christmas tree. Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame -- candles, lighters or matches.
Remember Everyday Fire Safety
As in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.
Top 10 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Dinner Safe
Did you know that unwashed hands cause the most food-borne illnesses? The food safety experts at Alexandria Health Department collected the top 10 key tips to reduce your risk of food-borne illnesses this holiday season and throughout the year! Learn more
Coping with Holiday Stress
Holidays may be stressful due to anxieties about safety and what the future may bring. Some may be facing the holidays without family, friends or co-workers. It may be that we don't have our normal energy level for shopping or entertaining. Although the season can be challenging, there are ways to beat the stress and have meaningful moments with our loved ones. Get valuable tips for reducing stress, understanding kids and holiday stress, and other helpful resources.
Making Your Holidays "Greener"
Eco-City Alexandria challenges you to enjoy the holidays while reducing your impact on the environment. Check out these tips to make your holidays "greener."
- Consider making gifts to charities, or giving food or experience gifts.
- Recycle your cut tree by placing it curbside after the holidays. Trees are collected, ground into mulch and available to residents in the Spring!
- Reuse or recycle gift bags (cloth bags can be used for years) or wrap gifts with comics or paper bags.
- Use LED holiday lights and control them on a power strip and timer, or an app to turn them off easily every night.
- Decorate with greens (holly and pine) and fruit that can be composted after use such as cloves in an orange or gourds.
- Search for gifts with minimal packaging.
- Shop and buy locally-grown foods for your holiday celebrations.
- Donate gently used items to nonprofit reuse stores and shelters.
Household Battery Disposal
Some holiday gifts require batteries, and discharged batteries may require special disposal. Rechargeable and small button style batteries contain hazardous materials, and can be safely disposed of at the City's Household Hazardous Waste site, located at 3224 Colvin St. Safe disposal of these batteries helps protect air and water quality, which protects people and the environment.
Standard alkaline batteries can be discarded as regular trash, but if you are unsure of what kind of batteries you have, bring them to the HHW site. For more information visit alexandriava.gov/ResourceRecovery .
Southern Living Features Holidays in Alexandria
Alexandria’s reputation as a holiday destination is the subject of a six-page print holiday feature in Southern Living.
The article features 28 businesses, including shops, restaurants and hotels, as well as Visit Alexandria’s Flex Getaway hotel package and holiday Instagram guide..
- December issue print article (PDF): All is Bright in Virginia: Old Town Alexandria is charming anytime, but it really sparkles in December
- Online article: Celebrate the Christmas Charm of Alexandria, Virginia