Uncle John’s Tree Lights Up for the Holidays


SAN FRANCISCO – Following a countdown led by Mayor London Breed, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department turned on the holiday cheer this evening, along with 550 dancing lights illuminating the city’s official holiday tree.

The 90th annual Holiday Tree Lighting, a celebration with free activities and live entertainment for San Francisco families, took place at McLaren Lodge, located at the east entrance of Golden Gate Park. Children and their families turned out to decorate cookies, visit with Santa, enjoy food trucks from Off-The-Grid, and dance along to live music.

The lit-up tree, surrounded by a decorative children’s train, is a Monterrey Cypress planted over a century ago by the city’s first park superintendent, John McLaren. Around it, families gathered in Santa’s Workshop for arts and crafts, played interactive games in Imagination Playground, and reveled in the holiday spirit with free carnival games, hockey, and a rock-climbing wall.

A variety of local artists and organizations shared the stage with performances by the Young People’s Teen Musical Theater Company, Project Level, and Youngblood Coleman Dancers. San Francisco Mayor London Breed joined the onstage festivities, along with California Assemblymember Phil Ting, Supervisor Vallie Brown, SFUSD Board President Stevon Cook, San Francisco Recreation and Park Commissioners, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, and other city officials.

“For generations, San Francisco families have gathered together under the McLaren Lodge tree in celebration of the winter holidays,” said Mayor Breed. “This 90-year tradition, along with our year-round recreation programming and wonderful parks, is part of what makes raising children in San Francisco so special.”

McLaren, affectionately known as “Uncle John,” was the grandfather of San Francisco’s park system.

“In 1929, John McLaren began the tradition of lighting trees along a mile-long stretch of the Panhandle leading to the tree in front of his home at McLaren Lodge,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Parks General Manager. “Every year we are proud to continue this illuminating family tradition and kick off the holiday season with our fellow San Franciscans.”

Also leading the holiday festivities was Dionne Miller, chief operating officer of Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. Citing shared values and a commitment to healthful living, Kaiser Permanente continues to support the SF Rec and Park through seasonal events and volunteer efforts.

“Kaiser Permanente San Francisco is proud to support San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department and its 90th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting at McLaren Lodge,” said Miller. “We are strong supporters of the environment and public and private efforts to preserve San Francisco’s natural and urban resources. Kaiser Permanente shares the mission of the department and recognizes the value that open spaces have for the local community in providing a place to gather, play, learn, and thrive.”

The 90th annual Holiday Tree Lighting is part of SF Rec and Parks’ efforts to serve the diverse families in San Francisco. By hosting seasonal citywide family events such as Eggstravaganza in spring, Play Day on the Green in summer, Scaregrove in fall, and Holiday Tree Lighting in winter, SF Rec and Parks makes San Francisco a friendlier place for children and families. For more information about SF Rec and Parks, please visit sfrecpark.org .