The days are getting shorter which means its time to light up the night with sparkling holiday decorations and festive tree lighting ceremonies. And with the following 10 celebrations. there is no shortage of all things merry. From visits with Santa to trees at the end of an 89-year-old pier, read on to start the season off on the “bright” foot.

Join in the holiday fun at Santee’s 12th Annual Holiday Lighting Celebration, presented by the City of Santee & Waste Management. This family friendly event takes place at Santee Trolley Square (9884 Mission Gorge Rd, Santee, CA 92071) and has something for everyone! Live entertainment provided by the Bayou Brothers - Cajun Zydeco music with a Holiday twist on the Cal Coast Credit Union stage. The highlight of the event is the ceremonial lighting of a 20-foot artificial tree that takes place at 6:15pm. This is a free event, however some activities do require a minimal fee. Free activities include real snow sledding provided by Rise City Church, cookie decorating, marshmallow snowman craft, create your own elf hats, holiday ornament decorating, letters to Santa, holiday tattoos, Chick-fil-A bounce house, HS Salon (crazy hair design), and various games. Other activities include horse drawn carriage rides ($2.00 per ride, kids 3 & under are free, cash only), visit with Santa (photos available for $10), and face painting ($3, cash only). Event sponsors include the City of Santee, Waste Management, California Coast Credit Union, Santee Trolley Square, Vestar, Welk Resorts, Rise City Church, Daphne's California Greek, MTS and Fireworks America.photo: City of Santee

Santee Holiday Lighting Celebration
This tree lighting is the total package since many family favorite activities will be offered free of charge. Little passengers can choose their favorite mode of transportation: horse drawn trolley, wagon or train and hop on again and again. The tree will light at 6:15 p.m. and a short fireworks display will also light up the night. And be sure and bundle up because everyone can frolic in the snow atop Snow Hill.

Nov. 18, 5:30–8:30 p.m.
Santee Trolley Square
9884 Mission Gorge Rd.
Santee, Ca
Event details

 Leesburg Christmas Tree and Menorah Lightingphoto: Jess via flickr

MCAS Miramar Holiday Festival
This festival is a huge draw for military families and the event’s festivities seem to get more grandiose as the years progress. Characters from Frozen are back by popular demand and they will merrily perform “Let It Go” and pose for photos before heading back to Arendelle. The adventurous elves of the family can take a test run on the snowboarding simulator ride, swing across the zip line and bounce on the trampoline. The grand caveat of the festival will of course be the 28-foot tree that will be topped by a three foot star.

Nov. 19, 2–6 p.m.
Palms Park at MCAS Miramar (across from the Bob Hope Theater)
San Diego, Ca
Event details

Country Christmas in Julian
A holiday celebration in Julian might be the next best thing for families with memories of holidays that included snowfall and temperatures that truly merited warm coats and boots. Taking place in Pioneer Park, this event is guaranteed to draw a large crowd. The Julian Merchants Association has planned this event to a tee and they have scheduled many winter-themed activities that will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a Hallmark movie. Resident carolers will spread holiday cheer and Mr. and Mrs. Claus will add your requests to their list after the lighting of the living tree. Event details.

Nov. 26, festivities start at 2 p.m., tree lighting at 6 p.m.
Pioneer Park
2811 Washington St.
Julian, Ca
Event details

libertystationholidaylighting-vialibertystationphoto: Liberty Station

Liberty Station Tree Lighting Ceremony
If this central spot wasn’t already cool enough, the halls of the former Naval Training Center will be fully decked out with festive holiday decor the end of Nov. An almost 100-foot Norfolk Pine will take center stage as it shows off its thousands of lights and vibrant ornaments. This ceremony may be only in its second year, but its sure to make the list for a holiday tradition for years to come.

Nov. 30, 5–7 p.m.(tree lighting at 6 p.m.)
Liberty Station
2640 Historic Decatur Rd.
San Diego, Ca
Event details.

City of Oceanside Tree Lighting Ceremony
The rooftop dining at Davina’s Cabo Grill, the generously sized sandwiches at Breakwater Brewing Co. and the proximity to the Oceanside pier contribute to the unique buzz of Oceanside’s downtown sector. It’s really no surprise then that this particular downtown makes for a dazzling location for a tree lighting. In addition to the tree, the Regal Cinema Plaza will be filled with even more red and green cheer with holiday arts, crafts and treats on the first of December. The offered milk will be iced cold and the cookies will crumble in your favor, so leave room for the celebration’s dessert offerings.

Dec. 1, 6–8:30 p.m.
Regal Plaza
401 Mission Ave.
Oceanside, Ca
Event details

holiday xmas tree light ornamentphoto: Open Arms via flickr

Fallbrook Tree Lighting
Not many tree lighting ceremonies can boast the presence of a tree that’s in its mid-thirties. This 50-foot living tree is the centerpiece of an event that includes free family activities, food, music and a shopping opportunity where its proceeds will benefit the community. Charming Fallbrook as host to a festive community event means good vibes with a few (or a few hundred) of your dearest friends.

Dec. 2, 5–7:30 p.m.
Fallbrook Community Center
341 Heald Lane
Fallbrook, Ca
Event details

crystal-pier-wreath-by-linda-f-via-yelpphoto: Linda F via Yelp

Christmas on Crystal Pier
Join the neighborhood of Pacific Beach for a tree lighting celebration at the end of the 89-year-old Crystal Pier. The sea-breezed tree will be illuminated precisely at sunset and Santa will be available for photo ops. This public event is not juts for oohs and aahs:  it also serves as a fundraiser for local schools since Santa photos will be offered for $5 with the donation of school supplies.

Dec. 3, 2–5 p.m.
End of Crystal Pier
Pacific Beach, Ca
Event details

littleitalytreelighting-vialittleitalyphoto: Little Italy

Little Italy Tree Lighting
This classic San Diego celebration has added some extra holiday cheer thi syear. Two holiday trees made up of over 1,000 poinsettias will occupy major sectors of Little Italy—Piazza Basilone and the new heart of Little Italy, Piazza Della Famiglia. These stacked beauties have warranted the first ever closure of India St. during this 18th annual extravaganza. Keeping with tradition, Santa’s arrival on Little Italy Engine 3 will kick off the gala and St. Nick will stick around for photos.

Dec. 3, 4–8 p.m. (tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.)
Piazza Basilone and Piazza Della Famiglia
India St. between W. Date and W. Fir Streets
Little Italy, San Diego, Ca
Event details

Holiday Tree Lighting and Winter Wonderland Festival
This event is a carefully organized medley of reindeer, hula dancers and Christmas cookie decorating. Participants can expect nothing less than an artful display from its Escondido theatrical host. Provisions will be available and local businesses will be on-site for your every holiday shopping needs.

Dec. 3, 3–8 p.m.
Lyric Court at the California Center for the Arts Escondido
340 N. Escondido Blvd.
Escondido, Ca
Event details
christmas tree holiday tree lighting

photo: Mark via flickr

Old Poway Park Christmas
“The city in the country” will be hosting a lighting celebration that lives up to the character of this North County town. Old Poway Park will be the setting for the extravaganza that promises model train displays, a night-time jaunt in the Poway Midland Railroad’s speeder car and carolers. The park that’s reminiscent of a town in the mountains just might fill your desire to take a holiday in Big Bear or Mammoth, at least for now.

Dec. 10, 3:30–8:30 p.m., tree lighting at 5:15 p.m.
Old Poway Park
14134 Midland Rd.
Poway, Ca
Event details

Is your family favorite tree lighting celebration on the list? Share your favorites in the comments

—Jeannette Swanson