On the one hand, giving money to the Catholic church probably isn't the best idea.

On the other hand…pretty lights!

Every year, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother—an outdoor shrine and botanical garden otherwise known as the Grotto—gets lit up like Clark Griswold's house, transforming its quaint, wooded pathways into glowing psychedelic forests. Religiosity aside, it's quite the charming scene—a traditional, wholesome activity that's probably improved by being at least a little high.

In addition to all the lights, there's a Nativity scene set at the base of a 110-foot cliff, a pettable camel, food vendors and, in the chapel, local choirs. During the Festival of Lights, five groups primarily of the high school variety perform each day on the hour.

(Aubrey Gigandet)
(Aubrey Gigandet)

It's mostly traditional Christmas tunes, but you always forget how much "Silent Night" can get you misty until you hear it sung by a squad of precocious teens.

And if you're lucky, you might even hear one of them bust out one of the hip tunes the cool youth minister plays on bus rides—like, say, an old Fleet Foxes song.

The Christmas Festival of Lights is at the Grotto, 8501 NE Skidmore St. 5-9:30 pm nightly, through Dec. 30. Closed Christmas Day. $11. All ages.

(Aubrey Gigandet)
(Aubrey Gigandet)