One of our most delightful Christmas traditions is San Jose’s Christmas in the Park downtown. It’s location, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, always has something going on, whether it’s a Vietnamese lantern festival or a free performance by the San Francisco Symphony. But Christmas in the Park is a real community extravaganza that kicks off with a parade, has regular musical performances underneath a massive LCD-lit Christmas tree, and ties in with a carnival that sprawls around its edges and a special ice skating rink in the Circle of the Palms.
Not surprisingly, it gets bigger every year. I think we subconsciously decided to avoid going on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening because after about 7 pm, the crowds become nearly impassible. Instead, we went on Sunday night, which was still crowded, but manageable.
And a bigger show does have some neat bonuses. As we strolled over to the park along the pedestrian path, Paseo de San Antonio, we noticed the kiddie rides had been moved over next to the Rep, and Paseo de San Antonio now had booths by a variety of neat artisans, who sold everything from pumpkin pies to woven scarves. Especially interesting was the Bay Area Glass Institute‘s booth, which featured both full-on glassblowing to torchworking:
He’s making a tiny glass snowman, like the ones you see in the bottom right corner.
Last night was one of the rare nights a stage performance wasn’t going on, but there were buskers next to the Fairmont and by Downtown Ice. Both of them were so good I wondered if they’d been hired for the job, but, no, they were just ordinary (albeit talented) guys making music for tips. This one, who sang Christmas carols, even dressed up like someone out of a Dickens novel for the occassion:
Our real goal, however, was getting to Santa. The Santa at Christmas in the Park is by far the most popular Santa in San Jose. I see primo Santas at the local malls, but they never seem to have a line; but our Santa always has a long line and at least a 1/2 hour wait, at least in the evening. (The very first time we took Neil, at 4 o’clock, when he was 2 months old, there was no line, but that’s the last time we had it so good.) And I have to admit, when we think of Santa, this is the Santa we go to.
In previous years, Kelly has totally freaked out when it comes to meeting Santa. But we wanted to hear what she’d ask Santa for, as much as Santa himself. As usual, she freaked out again, and once again, Neil had to show her how the Santa thing is done. Finally, with some family persuasion, she agreed to sit on Santa’s lap:
But she still had no idea what to ask for. When we ask her what she wants for Christmas, she’ll be vague or noncommittal and say something like “gingerbread cookies” or “presents.” I should be grateful that I have a daughter who’s already happy with all that she has, and can’t think of anything special to say. In the end, she ended up asking Santa for a dolphin, for little more reason than a little boy in line behind us had been holding a plastic dolphin toy.
Afterwards, we walked around the displays, enjoying the displays, like this one for the “Little Swiss Clockmaker’s Shop” which had its cuckoo come out exactly as we got there, at 8 pm:
The hundreds of Christmas trees decorated by a wide range of various community groups, including Neil’s cub scout troop, and Kelly’s homeschooling group. Some of the tree designs were really zany, like this hula tree:
And, of course, there were a variety of machines within the park and along Paseo de San Antonio, spitting out snow, which melted almost immediately in the air. Two of the machines spit out soap bubbles instead, which last longer, but aren’t as pleasant. Here we are frolicking a San Jose snow “storm:”
And then it was bedtime, so we had to go home, though Peter thinks I should take Kelly ice skating some afternoon before the season is over…