Downtown lights up for the holidays

Every year in December, over 500,000 people flock to the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in search of festivity and fake snow.

Christmas in the Park takes place in downtown San Jose from Nov. 28 to Jan. 1. The celebration, which formally began 30 years ago but has its roots in a tradition from the 1950s, has become a holiday favorite for many San Jose residents, including students at the school. Perhaps the most popular attraction downtown is the fake snow; in a city that virtually never experiences snow, even a replica can inspire a spirit of holiday cheer.

“I go to Christmas in the Park every year with my friends because it is tradition,” Sophomore Kalkidan Worku said.

Christmas in the Park is a non-profit organization. Each year, the two acres of the Plaza de Cesar Chavez are decorated with various displays of lights, musical exhibits and holiday-spirited mechanical works, including a miniature train in which children can ride and an enormous gingerbread house.

“I like Christmas in the Park because I get to feel like a child again,” Sophomore Neja Kamboj said.

Christmas in the Park started when a man named Don Lima set up a homemade Nativity display on his front lawn in San Jose to show holiday spirit. Both the display and viewers grew as the years went on, until Lima could no longer fit all the attractions on his lawn. Lima donated his displays to the City of San Jose in the 1970s in the hopes that they would become more visible to the public. In 2013, Essential Travel Magazine named Christmas in the Park one of the top ten Christmas celebrations in the word. Today, people from throughout the Bay Area travel to view these displays in Christmas in the Park.

RadioDisney and Unleashed are large sponsors of the tradition, but local schools also create displays. Last year the school designed its own tree to display. This year, however, the Associated Student Body (ASB) focused on expanding Holiday in the Quad, hoping to give students a similar experience to the community event right on campus.

“Christmas in the Park grew on me. I feel that the main reason that people go is to spend time with friends and family,” Senior Ashton Wu said.