Los Angeles has a lot of faults, but overall its people are more generous than most. We see evidence of that in contemporary politics, but proof of the city's warm spirit also can be found in images of the past.
These photos, all found in the fantastic Los Angeles Public Library photo collection, showcase the Christmas spirit at its best, from the 1920s through the '80s. It's clear that the Great Depression and World War II created a need for group conviviality during the holidays, and restaurants and nonprofit groups seemed happy to create it. Click through this slideshow to see how the holidays were celebrated publicly throughout the 20th century.
All photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Los Angeles is a filming town, so while other cities light up their town squares with outrageous displays of holiday cheer, L.A. tends to be more of a keep-your-light-under-a-bushel kind of place. Why put up lights and risk that the film industry doesn't book your location for an episode or two of Fresh Off the Boat? But we found downtown's best holiday displays, and also a few grinchy ones to stay away from.
Union Station: Far and away the best of the best is Union Station's outdoor light display. This little-discussed exterior tree and light garden on the station’s South Patio will make your family and loved ones think you're really in the know when it comes to where to see something spectacular. Plus, it's just steps away from
Go if you're in the neighborhood:
Grand Park and the Music Center: We had heard of a spectacular lighting display in Grand Park but we just couldn't find it. Pictures say it exists, but all we could see was the weird pink Christmas ball tree. The Music Center had a nice large living tree and a fully lit menorah (though Hanukkah doesn't start until Dec. 24, so technically the menorah should be dark till then), with a few tasteful wreaths and garlands thrown about. Parking is $10 at night, and you could always park there and then take the metro to Union Station and Olvera Street.
Pershing Square ice skating rink and Biltmore Hotel: It's really great fun to skate, but the lack of any real decorations or lighting plan hurt this holiday stop. The $7 parking (at night — during the day it hits $17) doesn't help, either. But if you are there, we definitely recommend going across the street to the Biltmore and taking a gander at those cool, old-world-style decorations.
L.A. Live: No amount of lights can make up for the crowds and truly pocketbook-shattering cost of parking at L.A. Live. Union Station is just as cool, and the parking is super cheap or you can take Metro right to the decorations.
Grand Central Market: A couple of dying trees and a pushed-over squirrel are all that show of Christmas.
Go if it was 2008:
Before it closed, Clifton's Cafeteria had the most magical Christmas display in the city. The decorations (ranging from the 1930s to 1970s) took over the entire place — there really wasn't anywhere to look without smiling. It had Santa riding a sleigh down the main tree, reindeer, snow — you name it. Clifton's does have a Christmas display this year but declined to be photographed, and from what we could see by peering in, it was all new decorations. Those might be pretty, but they don't have the soul of the original.
All photos by Star Foreman.
Los Angeles' very own purveyor of shock and wonder, Lethal Amounts Gallery, recently debuted its first XXX-Mas Party and Nativity performance. The Saturday, Dec. 17, event featured a suspension show and various acts that pushed the pain threshold, as performance artists used their skin as a canvas to promote body positivity and break new ground while breaking a little skin. Christmas traditions will never be the same, as Lethal Amounts provided an edgy night even John Waters would have been proud of. All photos by Levan TK (IG: @levan_tk)
They made a list, they checked it twice — a list for the pub crawl and fun and games, of course. The revelers of L.A. SantaCon, who dressed as Santa, as poinsettia plants, as naughty elves — and then there was that posse of protesting clowns — followed @lasanta on Twitter to Barney's Beanery in Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Pier, a park to play some Santa games, then to the Gold Line to start the pub crawl. Later in the evening, the Santas made a quick stop before hitting up downtown Culver City and requesting some Santasy lap dances at Fantasy Island and Plan B (sorry, no photos allowed) before finishing the *burp* night at Grilliant, Janga and Pieology. Next year Santa will show up in another part of Los Angeles — watch the Twitter handle for information after Thanksgiving 2017.
With nearly two dozen performers, wonderfully designed costumes and sexy, creative numbers, Dirty Little Secrets Burlesque kicked off the holiday season in grand fashion with the show Twisted Christmas at Harvelle's Underground in Long Beach.
Producer Alice Wonder formulated a show that plays to the group's strengths, rotates the burlesque/boylesque performers with ease, and still makes sure everyone has a moment to shine —most notably Koko Knockout, Wendy Joy, Lana Vic Sin and Felicitelor. They even managed to slip in a Top Gun number as well as Lock, Shock and Barrel's Santa Claus kidnap tune from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
For the fourth straight year, the Los Angeles Krampus Run and afterparty — a celebration of St. Nicholas' evil, monstrous counterpart — invaded the streets of downtown L.A. Hundreds descended upon Winston Street on Thursday night while the Krampuses punished naughty adults and whisked away misbehaving little children in the Austrian tradition of Krampuslauf (Krampus run).