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Glowing Away for the Holidays : Tradition alights culturally diverse fests in the West

November 17, 1996|ELLEN MELINKOFF

Christmas in Los Angeles may seem exotic to some but not to Angelenos. We know the drill: shirt sleeves in December, twinkle lights in the palm trees, Beverly Hills going all out with its Wilshire Boulevard light fest, fake snow everywhere.

Been there, done that.

But 120 miles away in San Diego we can watch a Swedish Santa Lucia celebration; a 450-mile drive to Nevada City yields a Victorian Christmas complete with roasted chestnuts and hot cider; and in Seattle, just 2 1/2 hours away by plane, we can watch the annual flotilla of lighted boats cruising Puget Sound. All of this illustrating, of course, that in the West, the holiday season is a reflection of our mixed cultures, as well as our collective imaginations. Here are some of the highlights:


Prescott--Prescott takes its annual Christmas parade seriously. And this year the theme will be Charles Dickens. The parade will begin at 1 p.m. Dec. 7 with 80 entries, including bands and floats--many decorated to coincide with the traditional English Christmas theme. Stick around for the courthouse lighting ceremony at 6 p.m., when hundreds of people will gather to sing carols. For more information, contact Prescott Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 1147, Prescott, AZ 86302; telephone (800) 266-7534.

Tucson--At the newly refurbished Mission San Xavier del Bac, 10 miles south of Tucson, the Arizona Repertory Singers will perform sacred Renaissance music at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13. Seating is limited and no reservations are taken, so arriving early is essential. For more information, contact Mission San Xavier del Bac, 1950 San Xavier Road, Tucson, AZ 85746; tel. (520) 294-2624.

On Dec. 14, Fiesta Navidad, a mariachi concert of Mexican Christmas music, will be performed at Celebration Hall in Tucson. Shows are at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Between shows, mariachi groups will gather outside the hall for an informal, free show. Reservations are recommended. For more information, contact Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85719; tel. (520) 621-3341.


Coronado--Santa Claus will arrive by ferry at Ferry Landing Marketplace at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6 to kick off the evening's parade along the island's main thoroughfare, Orange Avenue. There will be holiday music and entertainment at the Marketplace; fireworks will cap off the festivities at 8:30 p.m. For more information, contact Coronado Visitors Bureau, 1047 B Ave., Coronado, CA 92118; tel. (800) 622-8300.

Nevada City--On Dec. 4, 11 and 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Dec. 22 from 1 to 5 p.m. this Sierra foothills town will host a Victorian Christmas, closing its historic downtown area to cars and opening it to holiday celebrants sampling the foods of local restaurants, as well as roasted chestnuts and hot cider. Adding to the Victorian charm will be costumed vendors, strolling carolers, brass bands and hay rides. For more information, contact Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, 132 Main St., Nevada City, CA 95959; tel. (916) 265-2692.

Oakland--On Dec. 7 from 3 to 7 p.m., thousands of spectators crowd Jack London Square to admire the 100 illuminated vessels--from rowboats to yachts--that sail by in Oakland Estuary. There will be food vendors, arts and crafts booths, children's activities and, to end the event, a fireworks show. For more information, contact Oakland Convention & Visitors Bureau, 550 10th St., Suite 214, Oakland, CA 94607; tel. (510) 839-9000.

Oceanside--A Coast Guard cutter festooned with lights will lead the 20th annual Parade of Lights at 8 p.m. Dec. 14. Fifty boats of all sizes will follow it around the harbor. Boat owners compete for prizes for such things as funniest boat and boat with the most lights. Best viewing spots are on the pier and at Oceanside Yacht Club, which will open its doors to the public that night. For more information, contact Oceanside Yacht Club, 1950 Harbor Drive N., Oceanside, CA 92054; tel. (619) 722-5751.

San Diego--During Christmas on the Prado in Balboa Park, 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7, the park will be lined with vendors selling ethnic foods and crafts; choirs, ethnic dancers and carolers will perform, and museums will be open free to the public. At 8 p.m. both nights at the Organ Pavilion, the Living Christmas Story Tree will tell the Christmas tale through choral music. Another highlight of the event will be the Swedish Santa Lucia celebration, at 6 and 8 p.m., featuring a procession of 20 girls dressed in white led by Santa Lucia wearing a crown of candles. The procession will begin in front of the Museum of Man. Swedish foods for sale will include meatballs, open-face sandwiches and the hot spiced wine called glogg. For more information, contact Museum of Man, 1350 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101; tel. (619) 239-2001.

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