Every December, California residents, and tourists visit the historic Christmas Tree Lane located on Van Ness Boulevard to admire the many houses decorated in millions of twinkling lights. Christmas Tree Lane is located in the Fig Garden neighborhood of Fresno and spans over 140 houses and 300 trees. For the past decade, opening night at Christmas Tree Lane has marked the beginning of the holiday season and brings thousands of visitors to the area to admire this spectacular light display.
This tradition has been a part of Fresno’s history for almost 100 years. Read on to learn more about how this tradition started and how it has evolved.
Can you find all Nine Reindeer?
One of my favorite things to do with my kids when we take the drive down Christmas Tree Lane is to see if we can find all nine hidden reindeer. There is a wooden replica cut-out of each of Santa’s reindeer hidden throughout Christmas Tree Lane? See if you can find them all. The nine reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph
The First Tree
In 1920, a local child passed away at a home in what is now the Fig Garden neighborhood. When the holidays came around, the tree at the home was decorated in honor of that child. Currently, there is a sign at the tree that reads, “In 1920, to honor a child that has died in this home, this First Tree was decorated. Each year, more trees were decorated and Christmas Tree Lane was born.”
As the sign says, each year since the First Tree was decorated, families in the neighborhood continued to decorate their trees and front yards more and more until this tradition became a big community event.
Throughout the Decades
Christmas Tree Lane is a tradition that has brought in many spectators almost every year since 1920. Only a few events have caused the light show to completely shut down for a season, much to the disappointment of Fresno residents.
The first time the lane shut down was in 1941 as a result of World War II. Wartime restrictions and the attack on Pearl Harbor earlier in the month caused the celebration to shut down for the year. However, it is said in the years following this, colorized postcards showcasing the brilliant light display became more widely circulated and increased the popularity of the event in the mid-late 1940’s.
The lane went dark for a second time in 1973 due to an energy crisis in California, which was the second and last time the lane ever completely shut down. While the lane didn’t fully shut down due to COVID-19, there were restrictions (no walk-only nights) put into place so people could still enjoy the light show.
There was another surge in popularity in the mid 2000’s when Christmas Tree Lane started getting noticed by the press. Sunset Magazine. TLC, and ABC Network all featured Christmas Tree Lane in various ways over the course of 7 years, which made people across the country eager to visit the Fresno neighborhood. Christmas Tree Lane has gained more and more popularity throughout the years and now currently brings in over 100,000 people every year.
After some disputes in the mid 1950’s, the City of Pasadena withdrew its support for lighting Christmas Tree Lane. As a result, citizens of the unincorporated Altadena region formed the Christmas Tree Lane Association and began working with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 to fund, electrify, and light Christmas Tree Lane themselves.
In 1990, Christmas Tree Lane was added to the National Register of Historic Places and was nominated for Landmark Status by the state of California and became state landmark 990
Christmas Tree Lane Today
For the second year in a row, Christmas Tree Lane will be limited to a drive-thru experience only and will not allow walk-thrus. Christmas Tree Lane openned on December 1st, 2021 this year and runs through Christmas Day. Starting at 6:00 pm every night, the lights are turned on and visitors will start driving through the neighborhood.
The Christmas Tree Lane Association still manages the event and it is free for all attendees, although donations are appreciated. Christmas Tree Lane partners with local organizations such as the Fresno County’s Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, the Fig Garden Homeowners Association, and the Fresno High Marching Band.
Fresno is a tight-knit community with a rich history, and the tradition of Christmas Tree Lane is just one example of that. Over the years, a lot has changed in the city but we always come together to enjoy holiday celebrations at Christmas Tree Lane.
If you are interested in becoming a part of the Fresno community and would like to start looking for homes here, reach out to one of the realtors at FresYes to start the process today!