PASADENA, Calif. - Families loaded into their cars and headed to Pasadena to celebrate Christmas Eve by slowly driving by and admiring hundreds of displays in Upper Hastings Ranch.
It’s a Pasadena tradition that started in 1951 when a handful of families helped guide Santa to their homes by lighting candles inside of paper bags along their driveways. The concept quickly caught on and expanded - with neighbors creating elaborate lawn decorations, light displays, and touches of holiday magic.
One of those touches - bubbles pouring out of bubble machines on Jason Helscher’s property - which he called ‘California snow.’ It’s part of his interactive ‘Grinch’s Sled Park,’ where kids and their parents can grab a saucer and slide down the front lawn. He said that he’s noticed more neighbors getting involved in the holiday tradition this year.
"We saw a lot of participation this year, which is great," he said. "It gets people out of the house, but they’re still in their cars and still distanced, and it just gives them a little hit of just normalcy."
His neighbor Steven Richardson agreed and estimated that about 40 percent more households have put up decorations than in recent years.
"We’ve noticed a lot more people driving by, a lot more people lighting their houses up and it’s just kind of like - let’s get through this pandemic," he said.
People came from all over the area to get into the holiday spirit.
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"In my neighborhood, it’s not really that lit up, people didn’t decorate and people are just staying home now," said Denise Velazquez, who lives in Monterey Park. She used to bring her daughter Sarah to see the lights when she was little, and 2020 seemed like the perfect time to revisit that tradition.
"Everybody’s kind of coming together, decorating their houses for people to see and we have cars stopping by to see this one house, so I think even though this year’s been hard, there’s still that little light of cheer in there," Sarah said.
The experience is free to the public, and displays can be seen from 6-10 pm every night through January 2nd, 2021.