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Balboa Park December Nights: - 32 magical years of San Diego's favorite holiday event

Only San Diego County can kick off the holidays with over 300,000 people coming together to enjoy holiday spirit.

Balboa Park’s December Nights have been bringing families and friends together for 32 consecutive years, and this past weekend was no different. In the spirit of the holidays, participating Balboa Park museums opened their doors free of charge both evenings, allowing guests to enjoy holiday performances along with unique exhibits and art.

The largest free community festival in San Diego, December Nights is perfect for county residents to save money on holiday fun, while allowing for a cultural glimpse at traditional holiday art, music, food and costumes from across the globe.

International food and drink, multi-cultural music and dance performances, Christmas carolers, bell-ringers, choirs and bands, along with a variety of holiday-themed areas were an exciting way to spend the weekend, as each country had a representative booth offering fun for the whole family.

Performances at December Nights included international choirs, musical and dance presentations from the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet and others, so there was something for everyone. Entertainment and holiday cheer are all part of this classic celebration.

Smart visitors knew they could do some unique gift shopping at the museum stores and with the artisans of Spanish Village, which featured one of a kind curios, music and other gift ideas that could only be found at December Nights. Local and international artisans set up shop near the Balboa Park fountain and were able to offer some beautiful artwork for Christmas gifts.

Children of all ages enjoyed watching the center of the Plaza de Panama light up with a dazzling and beautiful holiday light canopy, donated by San Diego Gas & Electric. While the lighting of the plaza was breathtaking to watch, museum goers can still enjoy the bright and twinkling nights until the holiday season is over.

Even the Park’s historic Moreton Bay Fig Tree was bright with merry and colorful lights, joining the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and the California Tower as Balboa Park December Nights’ holiday icons.

Instead of seeing Santa, children lined up outside of the Old Globe Theater to take a seat in the Grinch’s lap. The mean trickster scowled and frowned at the kids, who laughed and enjoyed his antics between telling them what he would steal from under their tree.

Adults were more likely to enjoy the International Cottages, which featured authentic music, crafts, dance and other holiday traditions from more than 30 countries. Highlighting the Christmas Festival were food samplings from around the world, including Paella from Spain, sweet and savory crepes from France, hummus and falafel from Palestine, fried plantains from Panama and bratwurst from Austria and Germany. The lines of people told visitors which houses offered the most delectable dishes, but the desserts were the most popular food with everyone.

The Barona Band of Mission Indians also contributed a unique cultural element to the event with My Ancestors’ Village, the re-creation of a traditional Native American village within the heart of Balboa Park. Produced by the Barona Cultural Center & Museum, this tribute introduced the food, culture and lifestyle that are unique to Indians indigenous to the local region. Guests were also able to enjoy traditional Native American storytelling and a performance by Little Hawk Dancers on Saturday.

December Nights was just a start of the holiday season at Balboa Park. While the crowds may have waned, guests can still enjoy the magic and beauty of the historical park and its museums in their holiday glory from now until the end of the year.

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