An email arrived in my inbox this week about the 50th Anniversary of the Tree Lighting ceremony at Ghirardelli Square.
I immediately wanted to drop every, and fly to San Francisco to take part. You see, that’s the tree lightening I remember as a child.
In the US, Christmas doesn’t officially start until the day after Thanksgiving (which is the 4th Thursday in November). We’d get up early on Friday and my parents, four siblings and I would make the journey from San Jose to “the city”.
We’d drive to Fremont, catch a BART train and go straight to the Powell Street station to do some shopping in Union Square. Even as an 8 year old, I remember feeling the buzz of the city, the acid smell of public transport and the gorgeous shop windows, all decorated with snowflakes and baubles for Christmas.
I was sure the sparkly sidewalks in Union Square had diamonds in them! We’d go to Macys, Neiman Marcus (which my sister and I nicknamed “Needless Markup”) and FAO Schwartz to dream about toys. We’d eventually end up a few streets away on Grant Street in China Town for lunch.
Then, and as the afternoon faded, we’d head over to Ghirardelli Square for the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. To me this meant chocolate! In the late 1800s the site was a chocolate factory. When the factory moved inland, the site was converted into shop and restaurants, and each year they light a huge Nordic pine for Christmas.
We’d eat at Pedros (which has been replaced by McCormick and Kulletos), where the Shirley Temples came with a large colourful parrot on a stick. Pure magic for an 8-year-old.
After diner, my dad would prop me on his shoulders so I had a great view of the tree in the centre of the square. 3 … 2 … 1 … and everything was bright and sparkly and happy with the prospect of Christmas.
IF YOU GO:
Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point Street, #E100, San Francisco, CA 94109, United States ghirardellisq.com. Originally purchased to headquarter the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, the brick spaces were converted to retail and restaurant complex in 1964. Now part of the National Historic Register, it’s an area not to miss. Each year there’s a Tree Lighting Ceremony, with activities for the entire family.
McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109, United States mccormickandschmicks.com. Excellent seafood coupled with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Looking for a memorable meal? This is it.
Macy’s Untion Square 170 O’Farrell Street San Francisco, CA, United States +1 415-397-3333 l.macys.com Iconic store, with great shopping and fantastically festive windows.
Do you bring your children to tree lightings? What are your memories?