Shelley Metcalf

The holiday season at the Hotel Del Coronado has always given the resort a chance to shine--literally.

By Amy Bissinger

What kicked off in 1887 with an intimate dinner party, beforethe legendary Hotel Del Coronado even officially opened, hasblossomed into a month-long event that gets brighter everyyear.

A fancy French dinner for friends hallmarked the Hotel Del'sfirst Christmas season. But later holiday festivities grew toinclude Victorian pastimes such as musical concerts, choralperformances, balls, and even an 1892 exhibition of aquaticacrobatics in an indoor pool.

But the holiday trees and the lighting displays at the Del havelong drawn the most attention. 1902 saw one of the Del's firstChristmas trees put up in the ballroom, a feat of engineeringrequiring 15 men and several hundred feet of rope. That tree was 33feet high and spread its candle- and tinsel-adorned boughs 26 feetwide. Two years later on the oceanfront lawn, the resort plugged inthe country's first electrically lit tree, casting a meager, buthistory-making glow with just 250 lights.

Nowadays, 60,000 bulbs illuminate every facet of the Victorianresort, and the outdoor tree lighting has become a town tradition."It's the most memorable event [at the Del], especially with thecommunity," says Lauren Ash Donoho, who takes care of publicrelations for the Del. The Lighting of the Del, slated this yearfor December 3, attracts about 2,500 people from the surroundingarea.

A marked contrast from 1904's somewhat sparse, "CharlieBrown"-style tree, the hotel's decorations now feature two toweringevergreens. A massive 30-foot pine stands on the resort's WindsorLawn, while the main foyer is graced by a 25-foot tree, whosesturdy branches, strung with some 15,000 lights, cradle a profusionof ornaments. Elsewhere, almost every inch of the resort is robedin evergreen garlands, trimmed with crimson ribbon, and interwovenwith strands of lights.

After more than a century's worth of decorating for theholidays, the Del has it down.

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