(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) The celebration of George Washington’s birthday may be a state and federal holiday, but it will not be observed on a county level in Arlington this year.
The holiday colloquially known as Presidents Day — technically a federal holiday called Washington’s Birthday and a Virginia state holiday called George Washington Day — will be a day just like any other for most Arlington County offices and personnel.
Because Election Day was deemed a county holiday and an off day for many rank-and-file county employees this year, this coming Monday, Feb. 15 was removed from Arlington’s closure calendar.
“Presidents Day/George Washington Day is not holiday this year,” county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith confirmed to ARLnow. “Instead, this year, Election Day was a holiday. Presidents Day expected to be back as a holiday in the next fiscal year.”
As it’s not a county holiday, county offices and facilities will remain open, with some exceptions — like the county permitting office, which will be closed. Contrary to what ARLnow was initially told by the county, parking meters will not be enforced.
“To maintain consistency with metered parking enforcement practices on Columbus Day (which is also a federal holiday, but not a county holiday), metered parking will not be enforced on Monday,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Kirby Clark said in an email Wednesday afternoon.
Courts and public schools, meanwhile, will be closed due to the state holiday, and Arlington Transit buses will operate on a reduced schedule.
(Updated at 6 p.m.) This year, Arlingtonians spread Christmas cheer in new ways to bring hope to people virtually or from a distance.
Choir directors at Arlington Public Schools and Bishop O’Connell High School spent hundreds of hours stitching together student videos to create virtual Christmas concerts. A troop of Brownie Scouts virtually judged a gingerbread contest for folks at a local retirement home. And Santa is making special stops in Arlington in his pickup truck, visiting with children from a distance.
Bishop O’Connell choir director Kyra Stahr burned the midnight candle to publish videos to replace the Christmas concert, which is normally the most well-attended performance, she said.
“I feel like I got more creative in how to make that excitement and cheer possible,” she said, adding that she and her students donned Christmas sweaters and watched all the performances on Zoom.
“It worked out better than I could’ve hoped for,” DJO choir student and junior Tommy Green said. “It was a nice way to exit the year.”
Fellow junior Melanie Greig said “it was almost like we were actually singing together in a concert.”
Meanwhile, Glebe Elementary student and Brownie Scout Leah Meder virtually judged a gingerbread decorating contest at the Sunrise Senior Living facility near the school, on N. Glebe Road, along with other members of Troop 60095. From 11 participants, the young judges awarded the most festive, most creative and most delicious-looking houses, and also created a special holiday greeting for the residents.
“I still felt the spark of holiday spirit when we did this online,” said Meder, who is eight years old. “Since [the residents] are living away from people they know, and can only see them a couple times a year, they can probably have more holiday spirit.”
The festivity creativity in Arlington extends to visits by the jolly one himself.
This afternoon (Wednesday), Santa is parading his sleigh — a converted pickup truck — through Arlington neighborhoods from Foxcroft Heights to Columbia Forest, the final route after two mobile Santa visits through Lyon Park and Ashton Heights.
“It’s a tough year for everybody,” said Lyon Park resident Paul Showalter, who is playing the role of Santa. “It’s really fun to see the faces of the little kids as they see Santa drive up in his sleigh.”
This morning (Wednesday), Showalter said he made a special delivery to a boy named Charlie, who had asked Santa for boxes, thread and tape for Christmas. Neighbors and Glebe Appliance donated the boxes, and Charlie will use the supplies to make a British fleet ship.
Also spreading joy is the Yorktown High School choir, which sent the musical videos it produced to faculty, friends and family, reaching an even greater audience this year.
“That’s how it’s keeping my holidays alive,” she said.
As coronavirus cases rise in Arlington County, the number of residents in need of fresh, free food for their families is also increasing.
Executive Director and CEO Charles Meng said the Arlington Food Assistance Center is seeing record-high numbers of visitors each week and month.
“Between October and November, we saw a 9.4% increase, serving 3,440 families at some point during the month,” Meng said in an email. “(We) responded to 11,255 visits for food during the month, with many families having to visit multiple weeks during the month.”
This morning (Monday), families lined up at AFAC to receive a Christmas special — a whole frozen chicken — as well as fresh veggies, desserts, milk and eggs. Volunteers split time de-stalking Brussels sprouts and briskly moving families through the line.
AFAC has seen people coming more frequently for food during the pandemic, likely because personal budgets that could pay for part of a family’s food needs are now slimmer or non-existent, according to Meng. He added that there has also been an uptick in people coming to AFAC for the first time.
“Many of our families are service workers at hotels, restaurants and airports — the hardest hit during the pandemic,” Meng said. “We are seeing the families who would normally access our services come more often and the new families are more regularly coming for needed food.”
The number of clients served by AFAC last peaked in August, with the organization serving 3,364 over the course of the month. When the pandemic started, the number of families being referred to AFAC jumped by 45%, Meng told MSNBC earlier this month.
The demand for food at AFAC has attracted both national and international media attention, with a BBC reporter visiting the organization’s distribution center near Shirlington last week.
They’re getting extra chicken for Christmas at this food pantry in Virginia. Without food assistance, millions of American families would have nothing to eat this holiday season. Our report soon on @BBCWorld pic.twitter.com/cVX4H93Ogg— Larry Madowo (@LarryMadowo) December 16, 2020
The rise in demand locally tracks with trends seen nationwide.
An Associated Press analysis of Feeding America data from 181 food banks in its network found the organization has distributed nearly 57 percent more food in the third quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.
Food and financial donations are enough to keep up with demand, but as numbers continue to increase, Meng told ARLnow more help will be needed.
“We have sufficient supplies to address our needs for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Financial donations have also been good, but with increasing numbers we need all (the money) that people can spare.”
The annual Boy Scout food drive, which usually brings in 50,000 pounds, was cancelled, but several scout groups still came through with smaller-scale drives, bringing in 36,000 pounds, he said.
Donations from grocery stores are about level with last year, and individual donations have been “very strong,” he said.
Nationwide, food banks are seeing fewer volunteers during the pandemic, NPR reports. In some cases, the usual group of volunteers includes older people, who are staying home due to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
AFAC also runs on the work of volunteers, who Meng commended for making sure the food bank handles the increase in visits despite the danger posed by the pandemic.
“Distributing food is one of the things we do well,” he told ARLnow. “We have a dedicated cadre of volunteers who have stepped up to help — they are the real heroes of AFAC.”
This column is sponsored by Arlington Arts/Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.
For holiday shoppers in the know, the annual Lee Arts Center Holiday Show and Sale has been a cherished Arlington tradition that allows you to #shoplocal for the holidays — finding unique ceramics, prints and other handmade crafts. This year, Arlington Arts invites you to visit Lee Arts Center Artists on the Web, where in addition to shopping from the socially distanced comfort of your home, you can also explore the artists’ talents more deeply.
Located in a charming former 1920s schoolhouse, the Lee Arts Center is a fully equipped professional studio for artists working in ceramics and printmaking. The Center houses a mini-gallery with rotating exhibitions of visiting and resident artists. Master workshops are offered throughout the year. Of course, that’s what goes on usually… For the safety of the public and the artists alike, the center has been closed during the pandemic. Clearly, crowding into the confines of the space for a sale would not be feasible.
To help the Center’s member artists reach you, we designed a page on the Arlington Arts website where you can find many of your favorite Lee Arts Center artists and discover more of their work on their personal webpages. Please check out their websites — a few have web stores, too. You might even want to commission a work as a gift! You will also find links to other regional events and shows that our members are participating in as well as their social media accounts, so you can give them a follow.
Although none of this can replace Lee Arts Center’s much-loved venue and event, we encourage you to utilize this virtual space to reconnect with your favorite local artist and offer unique holiday gifts to your friends and loved ones. Check them out!
There’s no question the holidays are going to look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good meal.
But maybe you don’t feel like cooking for a smaller gathering. Or maybe you’re just tired because, well, 2020… Don’t worry. RSVP Catering will deliver a full-blown feast straight to your door.
Multi-course meals include the Hanukkah Prix Fixe, which features a traditional brisket, lemon agave salmon, potato and scallion latkes, and a number of other sides. There’s also the Christmas Prix Fixe — you get a prime rib roast and ham with this one — and the Tenderloin Display, which includes crab cakes.
These meals serve between four and six people, and you can add on desserts like gingerbread cookies and peppermint brownie lollipops. You can even order seasonal spirits, which include cocktail pouches (cranberry margarita, anyone?) and gallon cocktails, like mulled spiced wine and winter sangria.
Bonus: If you’re looking for a last-minute gift to send to friends or family in the area, why not send them some food? Check out RSVP Catering’s “gifts for giving.” Some gift ideas include a cookie decorating kit, hot chocolate kit and a honey-glazed holiday ham.
Be sure to flip through all of the seasonal offerings before you make your choices!
RSVP Catering is making deliveries throughout the DMV area this holiday season — just make sure you place your order online by noon two business days in advance.
Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].
On top of issues related to the pandemic, many families are dealing with new health concerns of a loved one.
Regardless of your religious beliefs or family traditions, if you find yourself in this situation, you are probably looking forward to the holidays and wondering, “What am I going to do this year?” Depending on the care and need of your loved one, here are some things to consider in preparation for the holiday season.
If Your Loved One is Living With Alzheimer’s or Other Dementias
Holiday plans should be modified to accommodate their specific needs, moods and behaviors. Consider who is hosting, where the event will be and if additional help is required leading up to or during the family gathering. Individuals with dementia can become nervous in new environments or paranoid around new people or those they may not recognize.
Host the event at a home they are familiar with and limit guests outside of the direct family. This is a smart idea given the current pandemic as well. Holiday decorations can be festive and fun, but for those with cognitive impairment, they could experience them differently so keep decorative items to a minimum.
If Your Loved One is Living With Hearing Impairments
Individuals with hearing impairments can suffer from isolation in a group setting. Cross table chatter, holiday music playing or holiday movies can cause those with hearing impairments to miss out on the conversation.
Try to limit this background noise as much as possible and identify opportunities to focus and consolidate the conversation. Rather than speaking to the group in general, speak directly to each person and make sure they are aware you are speaking to them by making direct eye contact.
For the first time, the park is collecting letters to send to St. Nick, rather than facilitating a weekend of in-person visits with the jolly one himself. In non-pandemic years, Santa visits typically drew up to 300 kids and families, park manager Rachael Tolman said.
So far this year, about a dozen kids come each day to drop off letters, she said.
Collections will end on Dec. 14, a Monday, to allow the snail mail ample time to reach the North Pole before Santa gets too busy, she said. Kids are encouraged to include their return address so he can respond with a postcard, and to bring canned goods that will go to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
“Due to the pandemic, Santa won’t be visiting, so he very kindly let us set up a mailbox,” she said. “We tried to come up with other ways to have Santa in person, but we figured that this would be the best option because everything is so up in the air from week to week.”
A mailbox is not the same as an in-person visit, but it feels vintage — “a little old school,” Tolman said.
The park manager said she “absolutely” remembers writing to Santa as a kid.
“I can’t remember what I asked for, but I remember asking about Mrs. Claus and the reindeer, and I would leave carrots out for reindeer — along with the milk and cookies — because they were doing all the work,” she said.
Tolman said she has received many emails thanking her for the mailbox from people who had always brought their kids to see Santa, and this year, were not sure what to tell them.
“They were so relieved that we put the mailbox out, so that their kids could keep the tradition of coming,” she said.
Visitors can also check out the cabin, decorated for the holidays.
“We’re glad to keep the magic of the season as best we can,” she said.
For several decades, hundreds of members of the Arlington community have gathered at Melwood’s Arlington campus to kick off the holiday season. While the community won’t be able to come together in person for this time-honored tradition because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Melwood is keeping the Miracle festivities alive in a new way.
For local Arlington families who are looking for ways to keep their children entertained while they’re stuck at home, “Miracle on 23rd St in a Box” contains all the supplies needed to make reindeer food, a holiday wreath and decorate festive cookies. To make these activities even more festive, children can follow along with some special holiday guests as they walk thru each activity on Melwood’s Facebook page.
Each box is $10 and Melwood recommends one box per child. The purchase of each box will go toward funding Melwood’s mission to advocate for and empower individuals of differing abilities to transform their own lives through unique opportunities to work and play in the community.
Melwood is also ensuring that the neighborhood’s annual visit from Santa and tree lighting continues. On Friday, December 4, Melwood will be joined by the Arlington County Auxiliary Police, Arlington County Fire Station 5 and a very holly-jolly guest as they drive thru the 23rd St. community to spread some holiday joy. Residents who live near 23rd St. and S. Grant Avenue in Arlington can expect to see Santa in the neighborhood between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Then, Melwood invites everyone to join them virtually as President and CEO Larysa Kautz lights the historic Christmas tree — which is the largest in Arlington. At 6:45pm on Friday, December 4, Melwood will end the Miracle on 23rd St. event with the traditional tree lighting. You can visit this Zoom link to watch.
In compliance with Arlington County COVID-19 guidelines, Melwood is actively discouraging neighbors from gathering near the campus for the tree lighting.
The Arlington County Police Department’s annual holiday toy drive returns tonight, and after a tough year.
The sixth annual Fill The Cruiser toy drive will help make the holiday season merry for vulnerable kids, police say. New health protocols, including contactless drop-offs, are intended to make sure the event can continue safely as coronavirus cases rise.
“This year, with families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for donations may be greater than ever and your generosity helps ensure the holidays are bright for some of our most vulnerable community members — children in need,” notes an ACPD release.
The fundraiser begins tonight (Nov. 20) at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center from 6 to 8 p.m. Three additional events will be held over the next couple of weeks.
According to ACPD:
Officers will collect new, unwrapped toys for children ages newborn to 17 at the following locations:
- Friday, November 20, 2020, from 6 to 8 p.m. — Lee Harrison Shopping Center — 2425 N. Harrison Street
- Monday, November 23, 2020, from 5 to 7 p.m. — Ballston Quarter — 4238 Wilson Boulevard — A cruiser will be located between Ted’s Bulletin and True Food Kitchen
- Tuesday December 1, 2020, from 5 to 7 p.m. — Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church — 830 23rd Street S.
- Wednesday, December 2, 2020, from 5 to 7 p.m. — Arlington Assembly of God — 4501 N. Pershing Drive
Upon arrival, participants should stay in their vehicle until they reach the unloading areas, where officers will be on hand to remove donations from their vehicle. A separate area will be available for those arriving by bike or foot.
Due to COVID-19 considerations, we will only be accepting toys at these predetermined dates and locations.
Toys will be distributed by the Police Department to community organizations throughout the month of December. Due to the ongoing pandemic, ACPD will not host pop-up distribution events in the community.
At this point in 2020, the novelty of catching up with friends, family and co-workers through video chat has definitely worn off. We’re tired of trying to spice up our “Zoomunions” with games, book clubs and karaoke. (We’ve tried it all at this point.)
But here’s a fun idea with the holidays fast-approaching: Craft a cocktail, cook a meal or decorate cookies virtually. Even better? Get the ingredients and tools you need delivered right to your door, and let a well-known chef hop on the video call and walk you all through the process step by step — live!
Nope. This isn’t just another meal kit situation. HUNGRY, an Arlington-based catering company that’s backed by celebrities like Jay-Z and Usher, is offering virtual DIY Xperiences, and they’re a creative way to spend virtual time with your friends, family and co-workers this holiday season. (Or they could make the perfect gift!)
Here’s how it works: Check out all of HUNGRY’s Virtual Xperiences. These include holiday cookie decorating and boozy hot cocoa (which includes making homemade whipped cream), homemade butternut squash ravioli making and cozy cocktail mixing. There are dozens of options.
Next, you’ll schedule your experience. When the day arrives, each participant (no matter where they live in the U.S.) gets all the fresh ingredients and tools they need delivered to their doorsteps.
Then, at your scheduled time, a celebrity chef or mixologist will lead your hour-long live virtual experience, walking you through the step-by-step process of decorating cookies with royal icing, mixing up some boozy hot cocoa or even brining a turkey.
And you’ll probably recognize a few of the chefs who’ve made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Food Network.
Schedule your virtual Xperience today — so you don’t have to sit through another game of Zoom charades.