5 Creative Christmas Displays to Check Out

Mirelle InglefieldDecember 21, 2020
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Desert-inspired, famous or flamboyant, these creative Christmas displays give Valley dwellers something to check out this week. Bonus: a Christmassy bar crawl!

Prickly Pear Christmas Tree
Prickly Pear Christmas Tree

Prickly Pear Christmas Tree at Jim Sudal Ceramic Design in Scottsdale
Starting with a repurposed Christmas-tree-shaped retail display, artist Jim Sudal and gallery director director Mark Faulker insert wires and adhere approximately 200 foraged prickly pear pads (ouch!) to assemble the festive, cone-shaped spectacle.They then adorn it with burlap, garlands, dried seed pods and twinkly light. The process that takes about 10 hours. Why do they do this? “Because we are nuts,” Faulkner jokes. “No, we do it because people who visit the gallery love it.” The prickly pear tree has become an enchanting selfie spot in Old Town Scottsdale, and will last about three months – plenty of time for those hands to heal from all those prickly pear spines! 7037 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, jimsudalceramicdesign.com

Tumbleweed Tree in Chandler
Tumbleweed Tree in Chandler

Tumbleweed Tree in Chandler
Inspired by a similar tree in Indiana, Chandler resident Earl Barnum and fellow townspeople gathered and compiled mounds ofthe rolling, dry desert plants and constructed the first tumbleweed tree known on record. It continues to be a celebrated community tradition 64 years later. Rapid growth of the city has driven the pursuit to the outskirts, but each year, members of the Chandler Parks Operations Division find approximately 1,000 tumbleweeds to adorn the 25-foot frame. After they add 25 gallons of white paint, 20 gallons of flame retardant and 65 pounds of glitter, the tree is ready for 1,200 sparkling lights. In years past, these have been ceremoniously illuminated by the mayor and members of the city council. This year, to “kick off the holidays” safely, says Chandler special events coordinator Hermelinda Llamas, the tree lighting ceremony took place online. Chandler remains the only city in the Southwest to boast such a tree. This year’s splendor will be on display until January 3. Dr. AJ Chandler Park, 3 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler, chandleraz.gov

Miniature Snow Village and Nativity Scene at Andreoli Italian Grocer
Miniature Snow Village and Nativity Scene at Andreoli Italian Grocer

Miniature Snow Village and Nativity Scene at Andreoli Italian Grocer
Much like the mouth-watering menu crafted by the passionate proprietor and chef, Giovanni Scorzo, this charming, snow-embellished display, which has been the grocer’s tradition since 2007, is sure to catch your eye and give you the warm fuzzies. Stop in to check it out and treat yourself to this week’s specials: baccalà in umido con patate (salt cod stew with potatoes in a tomato sauce) and lasagne all’Emiliana (homemade lasagna with béchamel and veal meat sauce). 8880 E. Vía Linda, Scottsdale, andreoli-grocer.com

Camelback Christmas Tree
Camelback Christmas Tree

Camelback Christmas Tree
Known around the world thanks to social media selfies, the Camelback Christmas Tree first appeared on Camelback Mountain in 1995. According to Camelback Culture director Jes Shapiro, a group of rogue hikers carried a conifer tree to the top under the cover of night. Hikers who saw it embraced it and began to dangle ornaments from its branches. This ultimately led to a clash with the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board, who were concerned about litter and wanted to shut down the tradition. “Camelback Santa” John Cressey, known for handing out candy canes and posing for photos with fellow hikers, fought to continue the custom and came to an agreement with the board that ornaments must be made of birdseed and. To uphold the “leave no trace” hiking rule, the tree would be carried up and down the mountain, each day, by dedicated volunteers until Christmas night. Though Camelback Santa will not be giving out candy canes (or lumps of coal if he sees you breaking hiking etiquette) due to the health risks of the season, the Camelback Christmas Tree is sustained by tax-deductible donations made at smfba.convio.net/camelbacksanta. This year, donations will go to help St. Marys Food Bank. Cholla Trailhead is currently closed – use the Echo Canyon Trailhead instead. 4925 E. McDonald Dr., Phoenix, phoenix.gov 

Coach House
Coach House

Christmas Bar Crawl

These three Valley bars go all out with their holiday décor. 

  • Coach House 
    Old Town Scottsdale institution Coach House has been doin’ it up holiday-style since the early ’80s. Owner James Brower and staff members put up lights and decorations early this year to “spread some cheer,” says operations manager Chelsea Hassler. They add more each year and traditionally keep them up until the Super Bowl (this year: February 7, 2021). The bar is currently operating at 33 percent capacity – less than the 50-percent guideline – because patron safety is paramount, Hassler says. During the holidays in years past, Coach House has hosted a physical toy drive, but due to COVID-19, Brower is instead hosting an online fundraiser called Keep the Lights On, which assists Community Partners. Donate heregf.me/u/zasiyq7011 E. Indian School Rd., Scottsdale, coachhousescottsdale.com 
  • Chopper Johns
    More than a decade ago, Addison McCormick and her father, John McCormick, started the tradition of splaying strands of lights and merry decorations across the walls and ceiling of their bar, Chopper Johns. They keep them up from November 1 to February 1. Live bands are usually their jive, but since COVID-19, live entertainment has been substituted with an occasional solo acoustic act. Multiple sanitation stations have been added and mask compliancy is upheld for the safety of their guests. Chopper Johns will be open on Christmas Day from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a food truck out front, if you happen to need a reprieve on the holiday. 2547 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenixfacebook.com/chopperjohns/ 
  • Swizzle Inn
    Bar owner Beth Johnson and her friend, Brian Gilbert, went all out in 2000, canvasing the ceiling with a spectrum of lightssparkly garlands and ornaments, which stayed up until Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a tradition they’ve maintained: Besides the addition of barriers between tables, air purifiers, sanitizing stations and reduced capacity, this year is no different. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Johnson felt the need to give back. She partnered with the Heart of Isaac Community Center to adopt a family of nine who have been severely affected financially by the pandemic. They are requesting donations of socks, hygiene items and healthy, non-refrigerated food  holiday treats like cookies and cocoa are encouraged, too – to be dropped off at The Swizzle Inn before 6 p.m. on Monday, December 21. 5835 N. 16th St., Phoenixfacebook.com/swizzle-inn-phoenix 
Chopper John's
Chopper John’s
Swizzle Inn
Swizzle Inn

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