Christmas candy for the eyes

Rudolph has got nothin on this big dawg

MONTCLARION: December 1, 2011

“The big boys are up!”

With those five little words, my neighbor has kicked off the Christmas season. The “big boys” are those eye-popping, old-fashioned lights with the big, bright bulbs — a la Clark Griswold’s work in “Christmas Vacation.”

On the subject of lights, tonight is the first night of Zoo Lights at the Oakland Zoo. The colder the better for this holiday treat, where hundreds of thousands of lights twinkle and blink to the music. Even the snakes get in the groove, with holly and mistletoe adorning their reptile room.

Tonight is also the night of my favorite Christmas concert, the 42nd annual International Christmas at 8 p.m. at the Ascension Cathedral (4700 Lincoln Ave). It’s the Greek Church’s gift to the community and the congregation goes all-out — with an orchestra and choir and a Messiah singalong at the end.

Next door, a scene reminiscent of Disneyland beckons visitors to the Mormon Temple. Its stately five-spire design sits like a castle in the backdrop of a magnificent lighted lawn and nativity scene.

There’s eye candy like this all over Oakland. There’s the Crèche Festival and a series of Christmas concerts at The Cathedral of Christ the Light, mansion tours and carriage rides at the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate, the eight days of Fairy Winterland at Children’s Fairyland and this Sunday’s Temescal Holiday Labyrinth highlighting locally-made foods and crafts.

These are a few of my favorite Christmas things. For more events, see

EMAIL BAG: Speaking of holiday music, Rockridge reader Sara Evinger has put together a concert of carols in Spanish and several other languages. She’ll perform along with friends Cheryl Keller and acclaimed pianist Miles Graber this Sunday at 5 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montclair.

FIRE PHOTOS: Photographer Helena Foster has taken on an ambitious project at the age of 80. She’s putting together a book of her firestorm photos — shots she took as she walked through the scarred streets of her neighborhood in the aftermath of the Oakland hills fire. You can see what she saw in a photo display through December on the walls of Monaghan’s on the Hill in Woodminster.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-723-2525, by email at or on the web at


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