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Posted on: December 7, 2023

94-Year Tradition Marks Start of Holiday Season in Golden Gate Park

Tree Lighting

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco and state officials helped kick off the holiday season on Thursday evening by leading a countdown to lighting the historic 135-year-old Monterey cypress tree in Golden Gate Park’s east end with 550 bulbs.

The event, which included Mayor London Breed, Sen. Scott Wiener, and SF Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, among others, was attended by hundreds of community members. It also featured live music, carnival rides, kids’ activities, food trucks, and more.

The holiday tradition dates back to 1929, when 800 bulbs first illuminated the tree for John McLaren’s 84th birthday. McLaren was the park’s first superintendent and made many significant contributions to the City’s park system.

Nearly 100 years later, the tree-lighting tradition lives on. This year’s event included for the first time ever the lighting of a Chanukkah menorah led by Rabbi Sydney Mintz of the Congregation Emanu-El, and a Kwanzaa kinara, led by Glide Memorial Church Minister of Celebration Marvin K. White.

“The annual tree lighting epitomizes everything we love about our parks as places for celebration, connection and community. San Franciscans have gathered around Uncle John’s tree to kick off the holidays for nearly a century and every year just gets better,” Ginsburg said. “This year we’ve updated this beloved tradition to reflect the diversity of San Franciscans while also celebrating our unity.”

The tree lighting coincided with the debut of the light display Entwined: Edler Mother along the JFK Promenade, in front of Peacock Meadow. The forest-like light display, which has been a winter staple in the park since 2020, consists of whimsical metal sculptures with vibrant bulbs that change colors. The display was designed by local visual artist Charles Gadeken and made possible through a partnership with the San Francisco Parks Alliance. The display will run through April 28, 2024.

In addition, tree lighting guests were invited to check out the 30-minute winter light show at the Conservatory of Flowers, Photosynthesis. The free display consists of colorful lights projected onto the historic building and starts 30 minutes after sunset every night. It began last month and will run through March 17, 2024.

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