Amid this pandemic, there is a strong need for fun, while of course staying safe. And with the Christmas season, I’m even more thankful for festive holiday lights, including Christmas Tree Lane, an LA area tradition that just turned 100, laying claim to the “oldest large scale outdoor Christmas display in the world.”
Normally, Christmas Tree Lane is also available to walk along, however, with the pandemic, this year it’s a drive-thru experience only, making it far more challenging to photograph, so I used the outing as an excuse for a festive outfit. You also get a look at some of our own outdoor Christmas decor as well as a very small peek at our front yard that we recently redid.
While Christmas Tree Lane may turn 100 this year, its origins are much earlier. In the early 1880s the land at the end of Santa Rosa Avenue (the real name for Christmas Tree Lane) in Altadena was the home of the town’s founder, John P. Woodbury. While visiting Italy, Woodbury first saw and fell in love with deodar cedars and knew he wanted them for his home. In 1883, back home in California, Woodbury ordered seeds from Washington DC. The seeds grew into three foot tall seedlings in Woodbury’s greenhouse, and in 1885 Woodbury’s ranch superintendent, Thomas Hoag, along with Chinese laborers, planted 135 of them along Santa Rosa Avenue.
As the deodar cedars grew, so did Altadena, and soon Fred C. Nash, a department store owner, came up with the idea to have the trees decorated for Christmas. Between the Kiwanis Club, the Edison Electric Company, and donations, they were able to light up the nearly one mile stretch of road in December of 1920 to the sounds of church choirs. From then on, the trees have been lit up every year, with exceptions being 1943, 1944, and possibly 1973 (sources vary) due to energy issues.
In 1990, Santa Rosa Avenue, now nicknamed Christmas Tree Lane, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and designated a California Historical Landmark.
Today, the tradition of lighting up the trees with over 10,000 bulbs, which takes ten weeks to put up, and ten weeks to take down, is kept alive by the Christmas Tree Lane Association of Altadena. Many of the residents along the street decorate their homes as well, but there are a few Grinches on the street. Honestly, I say if you live in a honest-to-goodness holiday landmark, embrace it and go all out!
If you’re in the LA area, you can visit Christmas Tree Lane simply by typing “Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena” into Google. If you do visit this year and plan to have your windows rolled down or driving in a convertible, please wear a mask.