For the first time in eight decades, Peacock Lane is going dark.
Every December going back to 1932, the four-block strip in Sunnyside glows with festive light displays, earning the neighborhood the nickname of "Portland's Christmas Street" and, in 2016, a spot on the National Park Service's list of historic districts. To say it draws a crowd is an understatement—for the first few nights, especially, there's hardly an empty spot on the sidewalk.
It's a tradition loved by all. Well, most.
But with the coronavirus still raging, residents decided to pull the plug for 2020. Or rather, not plug in at all.
"There is a house on the block whose theme is the Grinch, but we're not trying to be the Grinch," says Nathan Freeburg, a spokesperson for the volunteer group that organizes the yearly event. "If everyone followed the rules exactly we'd probably be safe, but as we know from millions of news stories, that's not happening."
Functionally, the group can't prohibit houses from going chestnuts-out on decorations, and Freeburg says the vote to shut down was not unanimous. But steps are being taken to discourage crowds. The street will not close to traffic, as it often does the first three nights of the season, and other accouterments, such as the hot cocoa stand and streetlight coverings meant to make the decorative lights twinkle even brighter, will remain shelved.
The last time Peacock Lane went fully dark was during World War II, in order to ration electricity. In the 1970s, amid the national energy crisis, residents struck a deal with the city to limit the hours their lights were on but did not turn off completely, Freeburg says.
"We're really disappointed," says Freeburg, who's lived on Peacock Lane since 2013. "But we thought it's the best thing to do for the greater good."
Keep it up, Portland, and you'll lose New Year's, too.