San Jose’s Christmas in the Park returns


Mathew Bejarano

A crowd gathers Saturday night at the park for the first time in over a year.

Mathew Bejarano and Joseph Narvaez

Park goers gathered around over the weekend to celebrate Christmas in the Park returning after being shut down last year.

Downtown San Jose 2021 Christmas Tree Lighting. (Joseph Narvaez)

A tradition that goes back to the 1950s has come back with some new additions this year including a new 65 foot walk through tree and an inflatable beer and wine garden.

Jason Minsky, the executive director for Christmas in the Park, said one of the hurdles the park had to overcome was understanding the regulations from the county regarding COVID-19 safety.

“One of the changes we had to make is, you know, Santa visits normally occur indoors, so we had to change that whole setup,” Minsky said. “Our visits with Santa are now outdoors because kids are not all vaccinated. They have to remain socially distant from kids, so they’re six feet apart.”

There were signs posted throughout the park giving those who attend some precautions to avoid getting sick. Face coverings are not required for fully vaccinated park goers, but are required in the indoor tavern when you aren’t actively drinking.

Lines begin to form at one of two the Snowman Hot Chocolate booth in down town. (Mathew Bejarano)

Last year, park organizers replaced the in-person park with a drive thru located at History Park. Minsky said that the drive thru was very popular. So much so that they had decided to hold it again as they were able to source data saying that people came from over 44 different states to attend the drive thru last year.

Minsky said that they have moved the park to Lake Cunningham in order to combat the long lines that stretch out on Senter Road last year and have programmed it differently so that cars aren’t stopping as frequently.

The new drive thru event will now be a mile long and has more than 100,000 lights that are synchronized to a holiday playlist.

The park has also reopened the community stage where there will be live performers and planned movie nights.

Jessica Johnson performs on the Community Stage opening night. (Mathew Bejarano)

Jessica Johnson, a singer from San Jose, performed on opening night and remembers performing at the park before there was a proper stage.

“I absolutely love doing Christmas in the Park and it’s an honor,” Johnson said. “It’s an honor to be able to represent the community and come out here and spread some love and joy.”

Emily Mendoza, a San Jose resident who came with her daughter, came to the park for the first time Friday night.

“This one is definitely beautiful, and my little girl loves it already,” Mendoza said.

Christmas in the Park will be open at Plaza de Cesar Chavez until Jan. 2 and it’s drive thru at Lake Cunningham until Jan. 9.