David Gusman reps for Santa at his home on Federal Avenue, which is fully decked out for the season
Photos by Mia Duncans

Each December, David and Carol Gusman bring Santa to hundreds of local kids

By Jessica Koslow

Sitting comfortably one Saturday afternoon in mid-December in his Mar Vista home, David Gusman doesn’t look like Santa Claus. But in a few hours, that’s exactly who he’ll be representin’ — as he told one nine-year-old boy who questioned his authenticity.

That was obviously the right thing to say, because the tough kid revealed to “Santa” what he wanted for Christmas, and his mom, who was standing to his side, gave Gusman a big thumbs up.

Each December for the past four years, hundreds of kids have marched through Gusman’s front gate on Federal Avenue to sit on his lap, tell Santa what they want for Christmas (some even hand him a letter) and receive a gift: a candy cane, pencil and eraser.

Gusman’s front lawn is filled with blow-up characters — Mickey and Minnie, Snoopy, Nutcracker soldiers. His house is strewn with colored bouncing lights. A Christmas tree of lights shoots up to the sky. Holiday music plays softly in the background. It’s like a scene from Disneyland popped up in the 90066.

Gusman’s wife, Carol, dresses as Mrs. Claus, and three of his friends from high school — Oscar, Tim and Tony —dress as elves and direct traffic.

For the eight years that the Gusmans have lived at the northwest corner of Palms Boulevard and Federal Avenue (a block west of the Mar Vista Recreation Center), they have always decorated their house. But it was only four years ago that the family decided to go all-out. Carol makes all of the costumes and David does all of the decorating, a project that begins each year on the first day of October.

Holiday decorating is a tradition passed down from David’s parents: His mom always handled the inside of the house and his dad took care of the outside.

“I love seeing the little kids’ faces when they see Santa,” says Carol. “We’re giving back to what our community gave us when we grew up.”

Both Carol and David grew up in Mar Vista. They have five adult kids together and two grandchildren, and all but one of their kids (who lives out of state) come back to enjoy the evening festivities.

“The first day that he lights up the house, I sit in driveway and have tears in my eye,” says Carol. “My husband’s amazing. He doesn’t let anyone help him. Everything is perfect.”

“Christmastime has always been my favorite,” says David. “I love decorating. The kids are so happy. Everybody is so happy. It makes me feel good.”

Santa makes a second visit from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 3425 Federal Ave. in Mar Vista. Even if you miss Santa, the lights stay on until 11 p.m.