Christmas tree 6 stories tall

Hot chocolate, cookies, music and a Christmas tree 6 stories tall were the main ingredients in the mix Wednesday to get valley residents into the holiday spirit a little bit early.

With a few scattered torches and a stage spotlight providing the only illumination, more than 800 people waited at The Lodge at Rancho Mirage for the 60-foot-tall white fir tree to be lighted for the holidays. They passed the time by drinking hot chocolate, eating Christmas cookies, and reportedly welcoming Santa Claus and his elves.

About 6:15 p.m., 83,350 golden tree lights illuminated the hotel grounds in Rancho Mirage. [Holiday Lights! : Brilliant displays to inspire your Christmas celebration]

“It was well worth the wait,” said Cathedral City resident Jennifer Altenburg, 34. She was accompanied by her 17-month-old son, Ashtyn, and her 4-year-old daughter, Aria.

“It’s just a whole experience – the view, the tree, the setting and the music. Just seeing Santa Claus made it that much more (special), especially for my daughter. She’s a little older, so she can enjoy him.”

About the same time, a few miles away in Palm Desert, another tree lighting ceremony was taking place at the Marriott Desert Springs Resort. That event also featured a visit from Santa Claus, with arts and crafts activities for children, and a fireworks display also planned.

In Rancho Mirage, the Southwest Community Church and the Rancho Mirage Elementary School choirs entertained audience members with Christmas carols until moments before the tree blazed with light.

And when it did, their applause for the musical entertainment turned into a collective “ooh” and “ah” for the tree.

“Feliz Navidad,” Indio resident Hilda Romero shouted when the tree lit up.

Standing high above Rancho Mirage, the tree can be seen from Interstate 10, said Herbert Spiegel, vice president and general manager of The Lodge. He said the tree lighting ceremony has been a tradition at the hotel for about 15 years.

“We’re thrilled and proud to continue with the Christmas tradition,” Spiegel said. [300 Ways to Make the Best Christmas Ever! : Decorations, Carols, Crafts & Recipes for Every Kind of Christmas Tradition]

The tree was delivered Nov. 9 from Oregon, and it took hotel staffers 13 days to decorate it, Spiegel said.

Lodge employees didn’t just help with the tree, though. Lisa Acosta handed out candy canes while dressed as one of Santa’s elves.

Decked out in red, white and green, Acosta, 42, of Palm Desert was thrust into the holiday spirit.

“It makes me feel like a child again,” she said. “I remember what it was like to have Christmas as a kid.”

There were plenty of children in the audience, too. Cathedral City resident Danielle Dumas, 6, was shy, but she said she loved drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies.

“I never seen (a tree) that big,” she said.

Comments are closed.