We will open for 2024 Season on Friday, November 29!


It doesn’t matter if you are human or elf, young or old, reindeer or polar bear, Christmas in the Park brings together a diverse community each holiday season with its magical displays and lively entertainment. For over 40 years, Christmas in the Park has brought over hundreds of thousands of visitors each holiday season to Downtown San José. But how did this tradition start? It simply started with a man who had a passion for the holidays and his community. He didn’t set out to make a tradition for the purpose of having his name echo in the history books, but to bring together a diverse, growing community.

The tradition began back in the 1950s with a single Nativity display built by family man Don Lima. Don Lima owned Lima Family Mortuary in Willow Glen and decided to bring some holiday spirit to the community by borrowing $300 (Due to inflation, $300 in the 1950’s is equivalent to almost $2,800 today!) to build the first ever holiday display in San José.

Lima noticed the enthusiasm surrounding his display that sat on his lawn each year so he began adding more complex displays year after year. “There were very few displays at that time… and the following year… because of the enthusiasm of the neighborhood and families around we decided to make it a little bigger,” said Lima.

As the display grew, so did the crowds. People would park blocks away just to walk to the display and gaze in amazement. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main street because cars drove by, slowly, just to catch a glimpse of the holiday spirit Lima so proudly showcased on his lawn.

Eventually the display got so big that Lima decided to donate it to the City of San José in the 1970s. He wanted to donate it to a place where people felt like it was theirs; as if they were a part of it. The displays were set-up on the lawn of San José’s original City Hall on First and Mission Street. The displays were getting bigger and more complex so in the early 1980s, then San Jose city councilmember Tom McEnery gathered a group of community leaders which included the Lima family and local Chamber of Commerce and requested that the City move the displays to the Plaza de Cesar Chavez. This is also when the nonprofit Christmas in the Park was formed as a volunteer group to work alongside city staff to develop the event.

While at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, Christmas in the Park grew into more than just a city-wide event. Visitors from all around the Bay Area travel to Downtown San José at least once a year to take in the holiday spirit. Now there are over 40 displays, numerous vendors, entertainment nightly and free visits with Santa! Visitors are even able to experience snow as it falls in certain areas of the park.

In 2012, after a 33-year partnership with the City of San Jose, the City could no longer afford to keep the event going, so the non-profit took full control of the event and works with the city as an in-kind sponsor, to manage the event. Four full-time staff and a dedicated board of directors along with seasonal help and volunteers make the magic happen each year.

Christmas in the Park did take place in 2020 as a drive-thru event amidst COVID-19 concerns. In 2021 the downtown tradition returns and our drive through is now at Lake Cunningham Park in San Jose.

The Park and the Community

Christmas in the Park is not only a great, free event for families and friends to enjoy during the holiday season, but also benefits the community and local businesses. Christmas in the Park is an anchor event during the holiday season. It brings families of all different backgrounds to Downtown San Jose, and from there, they decide where they want to go to dinner, or what show they want to see. This event is great for the economy because it brings so much business to local companies, restaurants, and attractions.

Over hundreds of thousands of people visit the park every year, with at least half of those visitors stopping at a local restaurant or attraction to indulge in some holiday spirit.

Volunteers have always played a major role at Christmas in the Park. Be it 400 high school students that show up the Saturday before we open, the local electrician union IBEW Local 332 who help each year or local businesses who donate their time or sponsor our event, volunteers are a cherished aspect of our organization.

Christmas in the Park is more than just a park filled with Christmas decorations – it is a community event that brings everyone together, creates a lifetime of memories, and is a great tradition for all.