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As much as I wanted to hope that the holiday season in Newburyport would happen this year, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone who lives in this small, coastal city, local circumstances are similar to many communities across the North Shore and beyond, and at first glance it seemed there was much we wouldn’t be able to do. 

I was almost hesitant to reach out to community leaders or shop and restaurant owners for fear of learning that the holidays might be on hold this year. But I should have known better because if there’s one thing 2020 has the power to do, it is take me by surprise. The more I asked, the more information I got, and yes, the holidays are here! The city of Newburyport has worked hard to ensure the show will go on. 

While holiday “invitation nights” will not be occurring this year, the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, led by president Frank Cousins, has done a lot of work to ensure that people will still enjoy a festive time downtown. Guided by the slogan “Let Us Create a Warm, Cozy Experience for You,” the chamber has put together a series of events, some new, some modified to accommodate these unusual times.

Those wishing to visit downtown for shopping and dining are encouraged to visit the chamber’s website, which is full of retail information. Far beyond a typical list, the site includes a host of specifics that are sure to delight visitors.

Whether it’s private shopping appointments for small groups, curbside gift box pickup, complimentary gift wrapping, free local delivery, or even an offer to assist with dinner reservations, Newburyport shop owners have gone above and beyond to make sure people can patronize businesses in a way that feels safe and comfortable.

Downtown is decked out in greens, lantern wraps, and red bows. The tree stands lit in Market Square, ready for socially distanced photo ops. While there will not be a traditional tree lighting ceremony, community sing-along, or a Santa and Mrs. Claus arrival by boat, there is a newly created rolling Santa parade, in partnership with the Newburyport Rotary Club, which took place the Sunday after Thanksgiving and included police cruisers, fire trucks, and of course, the big man himself.

Santa can also be found at his perch in Brown Square, where socially distanced Santa’s workshop weekends will take place each weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Chamber reminds anyone wanting to support local businesses about their gift cards, which can be redeemed at a variety of local shops and restaurants. 

On Inn Street, retailer Wheat is ready for the season. They recommend shopping early, which allows customers to check things off their list, and ensures shopping at a time of your choosing. Keep in mind that social distancing and a limited number of patrons per store is still in full effect.

Owners Meghan Bonanno and Colleen Roy are going out of their way to meet customers wherever they are. Explains Bonanno, “if someone prefers to shop online, we ship to them. If a customer would like us to pull a styled selection of items and send to them, we are happy to do that.”

Santa arrives by boat with the U.S. Coastguard.

One of the fun things happening at Wheat this season is their curated style drops, where customers can opt to receive a variety of items at home and keep only what they want to purchase. The store features a variety of price points for the season, making it easy to quickly shop for gifts. Like many local businesses, Bonanno and Roy are available by email, phone, direct message on Instagram, or whatever it takes to stay in touch with their clientele.

Has there ever been a time when you needed a massage more? Maybe, but this year has to be near the top of your list. Which is welcome news because at INTERLOCKS, massage series are back by popular demand. So much of this year has been about taking care of the people in our lives, and it can be easy to forget that taking time for yourself is so important. INTERLOCKS owner and creative director Ginny Eramo encourages people to “push the pause button this season and take time to reset and for yourself” when possible. 

When you purchase from a small Newburyport business you are in all likelihood supporting a local family who appreciates your choice more than you know. From the restaurants, to the shops and spas, to the fitness centers and more, you are helping to keep this community and so many others going. This year, when you hear “thank you and happy holidays” in Newburyport, know that it has never meant more. 

Newburyport Details

Date of Settlement: 1630
Date of Incorporation: 1764
Date of City: 1851
Area: 8.35 square miles
Population: 18,289
Zip Code: 01950
Median Household Income: $103,220