Holiday celebrations commence despite COVID-19 lockdowns


WIESBADEN, Germany-Operation Santa's Flight begins in the Hainerberg neighborhood with Santa arriving on a HUMVEE.

WIESBADEN, Germany-Operation Santa’s Flight begins in the Hainerberg neighborhood with Santa arriving on a Humvee. Photo by Lisa Bishop.

WIESBADEN, Germany – While COVID-19 event restrictions prevented USAG Wiesbaden’s traditional tree-lighting ceremony, the garrison gave the community a holiday kick-off to remember, complete with Santa sightings in every neighborhood and a live-streamed program Dec. 4.

“This year’s tree-lighting ceremony is not quite the same as the past,” said Garrison Commander Col. Mario Washington at the opening of the live-streamed ceremony. “In 2020 I am proud of how this community has pulled together to make the best of a very challenging situation.”

Operation Santa’s Flight began in the Hainerberg neighborhood with Santa arriving on a Humvee. He proceeded through Crestview and Aukamm community housing before finishing his route on a firetruck on Clay Kaserne. Most families observed Santa from their windows and porches and waved as he went by. For children who could hear him, Santa reminded them, “I’ll see you in a few weeks.”


Washington said, “The spirit of the season is going strong here.” He shared examples of holiday spirit from community events and read passages from two of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s winning writing entries from students.

WIESBADEN, Germany -- In the rain, Jane Porto-Turner, Family and MWR sponsorship and advertising manager, an elf and the Grinch discuss holiday cheer as a part of the pre-ceremony live stream Dec. 4 on Clay Kaserne.

WIESBADEN, Germany — In the rain, Jane Porto-Turner, Family and MWR sponsorship and advertising manager, an elf and the Grinch discuss holiday cheer as a part of the pre-ceremony live stream Dec. 4 on Clay Kaserne. Photo by Lisa Bishop.

Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Truchon said, “Our community is really lighting up the holidays this year.” He announced the winners of the neighborhood decorating contest. Pfc. Madison Conrad in Building 1206 on Clay Kaserne won for the barracks; the Donnelly family won for stand-alone housing in Newman Village; and the winner for stairwell housing in Crestview wished to remain anonymous. Photos for the winning homes can be seen on MWR’s Facebook page.

Santa arrived at the live-streamed tree-lighting ceremony on a firetruck just as the rain subsided. As he proceeded to the platform, he said, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas” and waved. “This has been a great year for the community,” he added once on stage.

Washington invited three children on stage to help Santa turn on the tree lights. “Merry Christmas Wiesbaden,” Santa said once the tree, located beside the Clay Kaserne chapel, was lit.

WIESBADEN, Germany-The Christmas tree and holiday lights, located beside the Clay Kaserne chapel, remain lit after the evening ceremony. Photo courtesy of Robert Bishop.

WIESBADEN, Germany-The Christmas tree and holiday lights, located beside the Clay Kaserne chapel, remain lit after the evening ceremony. Photo courtesy of Robert Bishop.

While holiday music closed out the ceremony, Washington reminded everyone, “Remember to wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.”

More than 3,000 people watched the live-stream event on MWR’s Facebook page. The event and pre-event Santa tracking with the Grinch and Jane Porto-Turner, MWR sponsorship and advertising manager, remain available for viewing.