The Story of the San Francisco Christmas Tree

The Story of the San Francisco Christmas Tree

( – The holidays are everyone’s chance to decorate their homes and businesses with beautiful lights and ornaments. The tree decorating tradition is strong throughout the United States. However, San Francisco seems to enjoy it the most. Everyone has an opinion on what they think is the ideal deal for Christmas, and San Fran completely bypasses those to display one of the most unique trees in the country.

Christmas in Cali

San Francisco has several outstanding tree displays for the public to enjoy around the holidays. In Union Square, people can stop and see a massive faux 83-foot-tall behemoth that contains 33,000 energy-efficient LED lights. It’s decorated with more than 1,100 ornaments.

One might expect the city’s official display to stand in the local City Hall’s rotunda, or perhaps atop Christmas Tree Point on Twin Peaks. There’s another 40-foot display inside a local Neiman Marcus, too, but none of these options enjoys that prestigious designation.

In truth, almost none of the most prominent and popular displays in the region still don’t make the cut. Instead, the city’s official tree isn’t very traditional at all.

Surely a Surprise

So, what is the official Christmas tree, and where does it stand? That honor goes to the monstrous Monterey cypress at the entrance to Golden Gate Park.

There’s a good reason for that designation, too. Planted over 140 years ago, the giant cypress stood as an official symbol of Christmas for the first time in 1929. Local resident John McClaren decided to light the tree up that year, along with a mile-long assortment of other displays, in a bid to lift the spirits of San Franciscans suffering during the Great Depression.

McClaren also happens to be the man who helped build Golden Gate Park. That prompted the public to nickname the giant Cypress “Uncle John’s Tree.” It sits part and parcel on the land that served as his front yard.

A Man’s Dying Wish

McClaren’s dying wish was for the cypress to be decorated every year for Christmas. The city of San Francisco continues to see to it that his wish comes true. Officials decorate the tree each year with as many as 550 lights. That might not sound like a lot, but the tree’s uniqueness contributes to its absolute beauty.

The massive Monterey cypress may not fit the traditional view of a Christmas tree, but there’s still plenty of tradition associated with Uncle John’s favorite display.

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