A holiday season ahoy
Seattle officials started a tradition in 1949 that combines the city’s natural aquatic beauty with the sights and sounds of the holiday season. During the inaugural sail of the Christmas Ship — a 106-foot yacht immaculately decorated with lights and a 25-foot- tall tree — it glided past spectators on shore, according to a report in the December 1950 issue of The American City. From Dec. 19 through Christmas Eve, professional musicians, including members of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Opera Company, “dispensed musical cheer” to more than 2,000 people who would flash their automobile lights in appreciation of the floating ornament.
Today, Seattle’s Christmas Ship still sails along Puget Sound each December, visiting more than 45 waterfront communities. In the mid-1990s, the city formed a partnership with locally based Argosy Cruise Line to coordinate the annual event and sell tickets for passengers to ride along. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department, however, still organizes bonfires at parks where the Christmas Ship docks, welcoming visitors with food and other amenities. From Dec. 1 through Dec. 23, the ship is decked out with white lights, garland, a Christmas tree and local choral groups, and is often followed by five to 25 additional boats, creating the world’s largest holiday fleet.