It doesn't matter if you are human or elf, young or old, reindeer or polar bear, Christmas in the Park brings together a diverse community each holiday season with its magical displays and lively entertainment. For over 30 years, Christmas in the Park has brought over 450,000 visitors each holiday season to Downtown San José.But how did this tradition start? It simply started with a man who had a passion for the holidays and his community. He didn't set out to make a tradition for the purpose of having his name echo in the history books, but to bring together a diverse, growing community.
The tradition began back in the 1950s with a single Nativity display built by family man Don Lima. Don Lima owned Lima Family Mortuary in Willow Glen and decided to bring some holiday spirit to the community by borrowing $300 (Due to inflation, $300 in the 1950's is equivalent to almost $2,800 today!) to build the first ever holiday display in San José.
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Lima noticed the enthusiasm surrounding his display that sat on his lawn each year so he began adding more complex displays year after year. "There were very few displays at that time… and the following year… because of the enthusiasm of the neighborhood and families around we decided to make it a little bigger," said Lima.
As the display grew, so did the crowds. People would park blocks away just to walk to the display and gaze in amazement. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main street because cars drove by, slowly, just to catch a glimpse of the holiday spirit Lima so proudly showcased on his lawn.
Eventually the display got so big that Lima decided to donate it to the City of San José in the 1970s. He wanted to donate it to a place where people felt like it was theirs; as if they were a part of it. The displays were set-up on the lawn of San José's original City Hall on First and Mission Street. The displays were getting bigger and more complex that in the early 1980s, Lima gathered a group of community leaders and requested that the City move the displays to the Plaza de Cesar Chavez.
There at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, Christmas in the Park grew into more than just a city-wide event. Visitors from all around the Bay Area travel to Downtown San José at least once a year to take in the holiday spirit. Now there are over 60 displays, food vendors, Downtown Ice and the Winter Wonderland events. Visitors are even able to experience snow as it falls in certain areas of the park.
Christmas in the Park is making changes to the event and organization, but that doesn't mean we're stopping the holiday magic. Christmas in the Park will take place in 2011 and hopefully the years to come, so please, come and experience the joy and magic the park gives you-- and don't forget to leave a donation!
The Park and the Community
Christmas in the Park is not only a great, free event for families and friends to enjoy during the holiday season, but also benefits the community and local businesses. Christmas in the Park is an anchor event during the holiday season. It brings families of all different backgrounds to Downtown San Jose, and from there, they decide where they want to go to dinner, or what show they want to see. This event is great for the economy because it brings so much business to local companies, restaurants, and attractions.
In a survey taken at the end of the Christmas in the Park 2010 season, 31% of the participants stated they patronize a business or restaurant only a few times while visiting the park, while 42% patronize a business or restaurant most of the time during their visit. Over 450,000 people visit the park every year, with at least half of those visitors stopping at a local restaurant or attraction to indulge in some holiday spirit.
There are many other ways that Christmas in the Park branches out to the community. For instance, Christmas in the Park participates in various community events throughout the year that gets visitors and residents more involved. The community can see Christmas in the Park driving a train float down the road during the Rose, White and Blue Parade on the fourth of July! Also, did you know that the San Jose Holiday Parade was originally known as the Christmas in the Park Parade? Christmas in the Park is more than just a park filled with Christmas decorations-it is a community event that brings everyone together, creates a lifetime of memories, and is a great tradition for all.