City Announces Details for Dec 2 Holiday Tree-Lighting, Illuminated Holiday Parade & Vintage Christmas Shuttle

November 20, 2023

The City’s 2023 Holiday Tree-Lighting and Illuminated Holiday Parade will be held on Saturday, December 2, 2023 (this is a rain, snow, or shine event) starting at 5 pm. Portsmouth’s Tree Lighting ceremony takes place on the first Saturday in December each year from 5 to 5:30 pm, followed by the annual Illuminated Holiday Parade. The City’s Department of Public Works will begin installing the tree in Market Square on Monday, November 20 and continue decorating on the following day. This year’s holiday tree was donated by Pease Development Authority (PDA) from a property leased by Pioneer New Hampshire, LLC. The City of Portsmouth Parks and Greenery Division will replant at the location next spring with a 10-foot evergreen and appropriate drainage.

The annual Illuminated Holiday Parade celebrates this year’s Portsmouth NH 400 anniversary by sharing the theme “History Lights Our Way.” The parade route begins at Plaza 800 on Islington Street at 6 pm and proceeds downtown via Congress Street, continuing through Market Square to Pleasant Street, crossing State Street before concluding on Junkins Avenue.

The City is working with Access Navigators to provide a wheelchair-accessible seated viewing area for the parade. This area is on the sidewalk along Islington Street between Maplewood and Bridge Street, and is reserved for people who have difficulty standing, along with their companions. Space and seating are limited and available on a first-come basis. Nearby public parking includes the Bridge Street Lot, Worth Lot, and Foundry Garage. Access Navigators will provide assistance and holiday cheer. For more details go to

Shop & Stroll The City’s holiday festivities on December 2nd have a new element of celebration this year. The first “Shop & Stroll” event will take place immediately after the parade, with Market Square and surrounding side streets kept closed to vehicular traffic to allow for wider pedestrian access to shops and restaurants.

Parking Bans – On-street parking bans and road closures will be in effect on Saturday, December 2nd. No parking is allowed on the parade route, including all of Congress Street, all of Market Square, all of Pleasant Street and Islington Street from Plaza 800 to the intersection with Congress Street. Cars found parked on these streets after 4 pm on December 2nd will be towed at the vehicle owner’s expense to the National Wrecker Service lot at 295 West Road in Portsmouth. Residents, business owners and employees located inside the parade route are advised that vehicles will not be permitted to cross the parade route. Other areas in and around the event will be restricted. Police officers, event volunteers, signs and/or barricades will be in place for these areas.

Road Closures – The following streets will be closed or restricted to local traffic from 4 to 7 pm on December 2nd (streets marked with an *asterisk will be closed until 9 pm). Police officers, signs and/or barricades will be in place for these streets.

  • Islington Street – from Plaza 800 to Maplewood Avenue and all adjacent side streets;
  • The intersection of Middle Street, Congress Street, Maplewood Avenue and Islington Street;
  • Congress Street from Market Square to Maplewood Avenue;*
  • Daniel Street – from Penhallow Street to Market Square;*
  • Market Street – from Bow Street to Market Square;*
  • Pleasant Street – from Junkins Avenue to Market Square (*Pleasant Street from Porter Street to Market Square will be closed until 9 pm);
  • Fleet Street – from Hanover Street to Congress Street and State Street to Congress Street;
  • State Street – from Fleet Street to Pleasant Street;
  • Court Street – from Middle Street to Pleasant Street and Washington Street to Pleasant Street;
  • Porter Street – from Fleet Street to Pleasant Street;
  • Junkins Avenue – from Parrott Avenue to Pleasant Street; and
  • Parrott Avenue – from Rogers Street to Junkins Avenue.

People wishing to travel between Maplewood Avenue and Middle Street are directed to use I-95 or Borthwick Avenue. There will be significant traffic delays in the parade route area and motorists are strongly urged to seek alternate routes away from affected streets. For more details, visit:

Vintage Christmas Trolley On Saturday, December 2nd, the free Vintage Christmas Trolley will be operating from 1:30 to 4 pm and 9 to 10:30 pm. Service will be suspended during the Illuminated Holiday Parade and Shop & Stroll events. For more information about Vintage Christmas, and the free trolley, visit:


COAST Bus – Saturday, December 2nd bus service in and around Market Square will be suspended during the designated road closures. Please visit the COAST website for complete route information and travel assistance at

Illuminated Holiday Parade (Credit: David J. Murray/