Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Your Favorite Southern California Holiday Traditions, Part III: Hastings Ranch and Christmas Tree Lane

Our contest to find some great Southern California holiday traditions -- and reward the best ones with a $25 eBay gift card -- continues.

Today, reader Nancy takes us to Pasadena and Altadena, where the Christmas lights shine bright:

Even when I was very young, my parents would drive me and my brother into Pasadena's Hastings Ranch neighborhood to see the decorations. We used to go in our pajamas and coats as small children, then as giddy middle-schoolers. I even took friends when I got my license so they could see the elaborate individual decorations on each home and every block's parkway theme. I loved seeing my favorite Peanuts characters on one particular block. Other parkway themes included gingerbread men, lighted stars and shining bells. It was a completely magical experience.

Next we would head over to Christmas Tree Lane, also known as Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena. We dimmed our headlights and drove slowly down the street, flanked by immense lighted deodar trees. When I was in high school, I volunteered with the St. Elizabeth's Youth Group at the Lane each year, spending endless hours screwing lightbulbs into sockets so that the annual spectacle could go on. Neighbors, Scouts, teens and children worked together - and still do - to bring the lighted Lane to life each year.

We traditionally finished up the drive in Altadena at the famous Balian Mansion. The glow from hundreds and hundreds of Christmas lights gave off heat, enough so we could walk around the mansion's fence and look carefully at each part of the display. In one corner we could see Rudolph with his famous glowing nose. In another, a Nativity scene. And everywhere, up, down, right and left, there were lights and more lights.

I've lived in several states and two foreign countries, and nothing I've seen at Christmas has ever matched the Christmas brilliance of the holiday light traditions in Pasadena and Altadena.

Thanks Nancy! We'll be checking out those very light displays in the coming days.

Meanwhile, we have room for one more winner, who we'll choose tomorrow. Last chance to enter your tradition now -- email franklin_avenue(at)yahoo(dot)com.

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