Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store. —Dr. Seuss
When I was 11, I moved to El Segundo. Moving was frightening because at the time I did not know that I was moving to a magical town, which became most clearly evidenced by how Gundo does the holidays.
Gundo is a great place to live as a child during Christmas. Starting right after Thanksgiving, there are a plethora of El Segundo traditions that create priceless lifelong memories for the children of our town of all ages.
El Segundo Scout House Christmas tree lot
Every year my family kicks off the holidays by buying our Christmas tree at the El Segundo Scout House.
Upon arriving at the lot, I am transported back to being a little girl– excitedly running around finding just the right tree to bring home. The tree lot is a way for the Scouts to give back to the community while also fundraising. And, it is a 69-year-old El Segundo tradition!
Part of the tradition of the Scout House tree lot is that it is fully run by volunteers that are current and/or former El Segundo Boy Scouts and their families. There are about 200 Scout families involved each year. 100% of the proceeds go to the Scouts; the tree lot fully funds the Scout House building and the troops.
The Boy Scout Tree Lot provides a variety of tree types and sizes for both commercial businesses and residential homes. They provide flocking and flame retarding, base standing, and free delivery within a radius of five miles. So, when you get your residential or commercial tree this year, remember that 100% of the proceeds go to funding the programming of the children of this community, teaching them values including honor and gratitude.
I think getting my Christmas tree is my favorite part about this season.
The Scout House Tree Lot is at 325 East Grand, at the corner of Eucalyptus.
The Tree Lighting Ceremony and holiday festivities
Each year, El Segundo hosts a free Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting on Main Street. Although the activities and crafts are geared toward the smallest Gundo citizens, children of all ages and parents also enjoy the celebration. It seems that this event really marks the beginning of the Christmas holiday, and each year I cannot wait to go enjoy the event and see Santa.
A plethora of delights are in store. There is, of course, the weekly Farmer’s Market, and also a Holiday Craft Boutique. And, each year there are holiday musical performances by students from the local school choirs. As well, kids delight in the Candy Cane Kid Zone with free kids activities, face painting, arts & crafts, and games.
The highlight is Santa’s Village where children can visit Santa Claus and parents can get a photo, and Santa hands out presents to all the children courtesy of Mattel. When the sun goes down the tree is lighted and then the holidays in Gundo officially commence.
This year the Tree Lighting festivities take place on Dec. 1 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Main Street with the tree lighting in front of City Hall Plaza.
Downtown Holiday Open House
This year, the Downtown El Segundo Holiday Open House will be held on Dec. 2 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is held on Main Street, and is a great opportunity for the people of Gundo to get a start on holiday shopping while supporting local businesses. In addition to holiday shopping, guests also enjoy refreshments, raffles prizes, music and more.
The Holiday Parade
A highlight of living in El Segundo during the holidays is the annual holiday parade, which is hosted by the El Segundo Chamber of Commerce. Citizens line up along Main Street for a sweet hometown tribute to all things Christmas, including Santa and Mrs. Claus who wave to the children of El Segundo and throw candy.
My favorite part of the parade yearly is seeing my friends who are cheerleaders prance around. The only thing better is watching the faces of the children light up in anticipation and glee.
This year the parade is on Dec. 11 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Santa in his sleigh in the streets
Each year the El Segundo Police Department along with the El Segundo Kiwanis Club host Santa on his sleigh throughout every street in El Segundo! His nightly flight through town runs each evening from 5:15 p.m. until 9 p.m. This year the sleigh is planned to roam the streets from Dec. 5-8 and 12-14, and a little bird tells me that there will be an app that will allow residents to track the exact location of the sleigh.
Santa is accompanied by lights, sirens and holiday tunes. As Santa drives by, he will stop at the end of streets, so you can hop up and run outside to greet him. One of my favorite memories last year is studying for a test and hearing Christmas music, and running outside to see Santa Claus, then forcing my neighbor to come see Santa with me. I might have been the oldest kid to get excited, but it was still extremely fun.
Candy Cane Lane
By far, one of the highlights of living in El Segundo during the holidays is the annual, 65-year-old tradition of Candy Cane Lane, which this year commences from Dec. 10-23, nightly at 7 p.m.
The entire 1200 block of East Acacia Avenue transforms into Candy Cane Lane, and 26 houses on the block are decorated with a huge array of Christmas spirit. The houses are lighted with reindeer, giant characters, trains, and music. Each house creates a different theme, combining to be a feast for the eyes, and a joyous experience. Additionally, Santa comes to Candy Cane Lane from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. (weather permitting).
When strolling Candy Cane Lane, you can feel the holiday spirit in the air.
Each year on opening night, all of the kids in town (babies through high school kids, and “kids” who have graduated many years ago) go in groups to celebrate the Christmas season. Laughter mixes in the air with Christmas music, and all of a sudden you understand what the term “the magic of Christmas” means.
I remember my first Christmas in El Segundo. I was shy and nervous at a new school. And then, December came about and some kids from school asked me to join for opening night of Candy Cane Lane. It was the first time I felt like El Segundo was home, and it has been home ever since.
As we walked up and down Candy Cane Lane, there were so many smiling faces and kids saying hi to me, and I realized that Candy Cane Lane was part of what makes the community of El Segundo such a special small town in the midst of the larger Los Angeles area. When I visited a few nights later with my family, I felt proud to be from Gundo, watching the joy and wonder on their faces. The pride in my hometown of El Segundo is magnified as I see Candy Cane lane welcome visitors from all of over Los Angeles, sharing with mankind the joy of giving at Christmas time.
As we begin the holiday season here in El Segundo, my last one officially as a child since I graduate from El Segundo High School this year, I want to take a moment to thank all of the El Segundo organizations and volunteers for making El Segundo a community and a home. It is at the holidays that you truly feel the community spirit as transformed through the magic of Christmas.
As I traverse my way through my adult life, one day having children of my own, it is these formative traditions and memories that will serve as a foundation for the true meaning of the holidays, as Dr. Seuss says, “Christmas is not found in a store,” but rather, it is found in community.
Thank you, El Segundo, for providing me with the best childhood around the holidays.
Open now: The Scout House is located at 325 East Grand (at the corner of Eucalyptus), daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
December 1: Tree Lighting festivities from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., on Main Street
December 2: The Downtown El Segundo Holiday Open House from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Main Street
December 10: Candy Cane Lane from 7 p.m. nightly, located at 1200 East Acacia, El Segundo
December 11: The Holiday Parade from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
December 5-8 & 12-14: Santa in his sleigh throughout the streets of El Segundo, 5:15 p.m. until 9 p.m. (look for the app for exact locations).