By Bridgette M. Redman
Last week, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) kicked off the annual winter holiday events with the lighting of the holiday tree – an event launching weeks of celebrations that include the lighting of a Menorah, a conscious market, visits with Santa, and photo opportunities throughout a well-decorated downtown.
The goal of DTSM is to transform the downtown district into an immersive, festive experience throughout the season in the annual, traditional Winterlit celebration.
Why Winterlit? The traditional festival festoons the Third Street Promenade, 2nd and Fourth Street with tens of thousands of colorful lights, décor and garland.
“Winterlit is one of our signature programs,” said Mackenzie Carter, director of marketing and communication for DTSM. “We really light up the main drags in downtown Santa Monica. Second and 4th Street are decorated with stars and trees, and the Promenade is really a colorful rainbow of holiday décor.”
This year’s 24-foot holiday tree is decorated with ornaments in pinks, teals, purples and blues.
“We have a very non-traditional color theme because we’re a beach city,” Carter said. “We try to make it beachy.”
Santa Claus arrived on Nov. 19 during the community celebration that featured the Santa Monica High Madrigals, Lincoln Middle Madrigals and the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra Mariachi and Chamber Ensemble. He will remain downtown for socially distanced photo opportunities until Dec. 24.
There will also be Pet Nights with Santa on Dec. 15 and 16. Santa is vaccinated and all staff taking photos and supporting visits with him are also vaccinated. Guests are asked to text 360-488-0880 when they arrive to start their Santa experience. Reservations are encouraged.
Starting on Nov. 28, DTSM will celebrate the Festival of Lights during Hanukkah with nightly menorah lightings that will begin at sundown and continue through Dec. 6. The menorah, which is 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide, is on the 1400 block of Third Street Promenade, located between Santa Monica Blvd. and Broadway.
Different synagogues and groups are invited each night to light the menorah and host their own ceremony or celebration.
“They’ll come out and perform music and people will dance,” Carter said. “It is a lovely celebration.”
This year, the organizations hosting the menorah lighting are Chabad of Santa Monica (Nov. 28), Nashuva (Nov. 29), Gan Israel Pre-School (Nov. 30), Mishkon Tephilo (Dec. 1), Beth Shir Shalom (Dec. 2), Office of State Assembly member Richard Bloom (Dec. 3), Kehillat Israel (Dec. 4) and IKAR (Dec. 5).
DTSM has set up special shopping opportunities for those who want to escape the ubiquitous shortages and delays national chains are experiencing and shop local.
On Dec. 4 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Fit Girl Club LA will host the Conscious Night Market. It is a pop-up artisan market that features unique goods from more than 40 local vendors, including elevated and sustainable brands. There will also be live music and free kombucha.
DTSM has been working with Fit Girl Club LA throughout the pandemic. Fit Girl Club has been offering free, public Saturday morning workout classes for the past year. It has been part of an effort to activate the street after the quarantine and offer people new experiences. Now they are extending the partnership with the shopping opportunity.
“Fit Girl Club has been hosting this market at other venues around Los Angeles,” Carter said. “We thought this already has a following. It already has a bunch of different makers from around the LA area. It’s a great thing to bring to the Westside as we don’t have any other makers markets downtown.”
The second shopping event will take place on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 2 to 9 p.m. — an event hosted by SoCal Etsy Guild. It features local Southern California-based artists, crafters and designers. Shoppers can support local businesses while doing their holiday gift-buying.
“That will give people who visit throughout the holiday season some different opportunities for shopping that we don’t currently have and offer some unique gifts,” Carter said.
Throughout the season, there will also be performances by the Santa Monica Beach Belles dance group and photo opportunities with their 14-foot snow globe. DTSM hopes that people will find much to celebrate as they spread the joy this season.
“Winterlit is there to help people celebrate the season,” Carter said. “Whether they are shopping, taking a walk downtown, grabbing a bite to eat in the many outdoor locations where you can be under colorful lights — it is a moment to celebrate. We try to make it as fun as possible in downtown Santa Monica so our community can celebrate.”