Balboa Park – December Nights

The most wonderful time of the year- Christmas season has finally dawned upon us. And, even where the sun shines all the time and the weather rarely drops below forty degrees- it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Though we are missing the snow and cool weather, and spend our days on the beaches in our shorts- I yearn for the Holiday cheer and wintery adventures that were had growing up. We had already set up our tree, baked Christmas cookies and even have listened to Christmas music- but now I wanted the cool evening looking at the lights.

Balboa Park was hosting their huge annual Christmas inspired event- December Nights. December Nights is a massive celebration that draws thousands of people to the larger than life park set in the center of San Diego. The museums that dot the landscape are free for this weekend, there are food vendors set up all around, music performances, church choirs, cover bands, and of course, lots of Christmas lights and trees. It’s a pretty neat sight and puts the warm city in the Christmas feeling.

We left our house and headed south toward the park- unaware of the chaos that would soon present itself. We knew we wouldn’t be able to park near the gate however, we weren’t expecting it to be nearly impossible to find parking. Dozens of cars drove around the side streets trying to cram their vehicles in parking spaces anywhere. It was turning into a headache and we started to wonder if this would be worth it. Finally, we found a small space 13 blocks from the park entrance and decided this was as close as we could get. Dave and I parked the Jetta and started the trek toward the entrance.

People flooded the streets and took over absolutely everything in sight. They weren’t kidding when they said thousands were expected to attend. Due to current events, I couldn’t help but start to feel a little nervous as we entered the midst of the crowd. My mind was racing with thoughts of “what if’s”, silently creating an escape plan, just incase. As if he was reading my mind, Dave mentioned to me that he too, was feeling a little nervous to be in such a crowded space.

Knowing fully well that despite the cruelties of the world we cannot allow that to stop us from living and loving life- we pressed on while both deep down fighting our own demons of anxiety for the crowd. The more I think it over, the angrier I get. How did we as humans let the world come to this point? How did it get to the point that we have to be afraid to be in a public space because we are unsure who will be the next victim? How did our government fail us so miserably? How did we fail ourselves so badly? I’m angry that this is what the world has come to. I’m not sure what the correct answers are, but I hope we can figure it out- soon.

Inside the park, there were strollers, children, puppies, grandmas, grandpas, people- everywhere. The Spanish inspired architecture of the museums were lit up in green and blue with snowflakes dancing on the sides. People lined the museum doors, waiting for their chance to see the Museum of Man, The History of Torture and the Museum of Art for free! The aroma of hot dogs, kettle corn, Chinese delights and much more filled the air as we walked through the rose gardens. Lights strung through the walkways and tied in the center of the walkway under a giant Merry Christmas sign. I was happy this holiday event was one that wasn’t afraid to show some actual Christmas cheer. No feeling like they would offend someone with a Christmas sign- for this weekend, Balboa Park was lit with every Christmas inspired scene in the book, including life-sized nativity scenes.

We walked past Santa and his reindeer taking off into the night and followed the Nativity scenes for a bit. People were gathered to watch the life size storybook unfold as it told the story of the first Christmas. Then, we saw the largest tree we had ever seen. With ornaments the size of bowling balls this tree was at least thirty feet tall. Decorated from bottom to top, it was a gorgeous sight on this warm San Diego night. Dave and I stood there, hand in hand under the stars, admiring the sweet sight in front of our eyes.

Since the last show was over and they were setting up for the next, we decided to walk to the reflecting pool across the courtyard before coming back. There’s a special spot in my heart for the area by the reflecting pool. Last fall, Dave surprised me with the sweetest picnic on that area of the park. He had taken me for chai and distracted me all morning before we ventured into the park where his friends had helped him set up a blanket, picnic basket filled of my favorite foods, wine and flowers. It was the sweetest surprised and kindest gesture. This time around, rather than a man playing his acoustic guitar for us- the crowd was gathered for a Beatles cover band. Rocking tunes from 1964-1967, this cover band was a hit with the crowd! People were dancing and singing, smiling and waving their hands in the air- everyone seemed to be having a great time. The four men completed their looks with black suits and wigs that mirrored the way the Beatles looked when they first came to America. We joined the crowd that circled the stage and danced for a bit, enjoying the music and ice cream sandwiches.

A little before 9PM we headed back to the big Christmas Tree to watch one last performance before calling it a night. One of the local churches was doing a mini Christmas pageant complete with adult choir, show choir, soloists, the most darling little children in Christmas turtlenecks and a live nativity scene from inside the tree. With all the awful going on in the world, it was refreshing to have some wholesome entertainment for a change. Unfortunately, my mind continued to race as we made our way toward the center of the venue. I was on my edge of my seat the entire time while simultaneously focusing on relaxing and enjoy the old Christmas songs I loved as a child.

Ending with a crowd sing-a-long, we took a quick photo in front of the giant tree before seeing Who-ville and heading out of there. On the other side of the park, The Grinch was seated before another “Who” inspired tree taking photos with families, couples and children. The white tree sparkled with red and pink designs that filled up an entire courtyard on it’s own. The festive areas each had their own special holiday cheer and feel to them making Balboa Park’s December Nights a fun event no matter how you spend your Christmas

Leaving the park, I started to feel more relaxed the further we went from the crowds. It’s unfair we have to live in a world that makes us nervous to go out. I won’t let the evil take away my happy places. I won’t stop living my life, enjoying life and indulging in the goodness around; however, I do believe it’s necessary to stay on our toes, be aware and be cautious right now.

Cheers to a Merry December- may the rest of the month be filled with love rather than hate.

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