Need an instant, last minute vacation spirit? Head to the West End Nursery in San Rafael to enjoy its annual Christmas Home, a popular holiday tradition in Marin.
You’ll find a bustling, life-size Santa, a miniature train circling a ‘snowy’ village, striped candy cane poles, colorful poinsettias, fragrant fresh greens, Christmas carols in the background, and 60 trees decorated pre-lit. And over 10,000 ornaments that represent various themes such as baby’s first Christmas; children; pets; garden; crystal; initials; birds; collectibles; Santa Claus, with reindeer and elves; sports; to travel; music; religious; gingerbread and peppermint; s’mores; farm and animals; outside; wildlife; and the country’s crafts.
The exhibit fills two floors of the 130-year-old Victorian nursery house that once belonged to Richard Lohrmann, the great-great-uncle of Chris Untermann, the current owner of the nursery.
“He was the founder of the nursery and lived in what is now the Christmas House,” says Untermann. “He was an amazing horticulturalist who had traveled extensively and a world-class dahlia hybridizer. We still have many of his medals from the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in 1915. ”
Before the pandemic, the nursery served hot chocolate and cookies, and visitors could line up for a photo with Santa Claus – a tradition that has been put on hold.
However, the nursery still maintains its partnership with the San Rafael Santa Cop charity (sanrafaelsantacop.org) and continues to serve as a toy and gift collection location for local children who might not have gifts to open on the day. of Christmas.
“We try to keep the entertainment going,” says Untermann.
The Christmas House, which opened in 1985, opens the first weekend of November each year and generally remains open during the first weeks of January.
“My mom created the Christmas House to fill a niche that we felt was needed in the community,” says Untermann. “We continue for the same reason and every year it seems to get a little bigger. It’s a lot of work to get it started every year, but we’re proud of it and love to see the community benefit from it every year. My wife, Barb, and our staff put their heart and soul into it.
It takes them about four months to assemble the Christmas House and about a week or two to take it down. In January, immediately after the exhibition closes, the process of searching for next year’s ornaments in various markets and fairs begins.
The effort is well worth it for them, however.
“We have families who have been coming to the Christmas House since it started when they were kids and now bring their families and friends to enjoy it,” he says. “It has become a tradition for so many families to come here, shop and then go to lunch or buy a tree afterwards.”
• Details: The West End Nursery Christmas House is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through mid-January at 1938 Fifth Ave. in San Rafael. The Nativity scene and the Christmas House will be closed on certain days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Free entry. For more information, call 415-454-4175 or visit westendnursery.com.
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PJ Bremier writes every Saturday on topics related to home, garden, design and entertainment. She can be contacted at PO Box 412, Kentfield 94914, or at [email protected]