Christmas Customs 16

Time-Honored Traditions That Are Uniquely Chandler

We may not experience a White Christmas, but here are four ways that the community is making spirits bright in this great city of ours. 

Tumbleweed Tree Lighting and Parade of Lights

Since 1957, Chandler residents have come together to celebrate with an event surrounding a truly unique, 25-foot tree made of nearly 1,000 homegrown tumbleweeds. The tree is sprayed with 15 gallons of white paint, 20 gallons of flame retardant and dusted with 65 pounds of glitter. Following the traditional Parade of Lights, the Chandler mayor and members of the city council flip the switch, setting aglow nearly 1,200 lights on the spectacular tree.

“The atmosphere is electrifying! Everyone has a great time with their families and the community celebrates the holiday season,” says Hermelinda Llamas, special events coordinator for the city of Chandler.

The Parade of Lights is complete with marching bands and decorated floats. The event hosts numerous food vendors and sales booths. Kids can take their picture with Santa for free, make crafts in Santa’s Workshop, take a pony ride and play laser tag. 

Upland Drive

About 30 years ago, residents on Upland Drive, a street near Warner Road and the Loop 101, started massively  decorating their homes for the holidays. Since then, the tradition has grown into one of Chandler’s most dazzling events. 

On the weekends, there are food trucks and visits from Santa Claus. Guests can take a horse drawn carriage ride, snack on cookies and hot chocolate, listen to a barbershop quartet and enjoy a plethora of other performances. On Dec. 22, Disney Princesses will join the festivities thanks to Royal Dreams Entertainment. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the street will be blocked off to vehicles for pedestrian access only.

The amazing thing about all of this—there’s no committee pulling together this event. The neighbors participate simply because they enjoy doing it.

“Every neighbor has their own style. Lots of decorations are handmade. There is a movie theater, Buffy the giant inflatable and lots of Disney character cutouts,” says Katy Brown, an Upland resident.

Lights usually turn on the weekend after Thanksgiving and stay up through New Year’s Day. They glow from sundown to midnight. Parking is best on the side streets. Learn more about current performance dates and activities throughout the month on

Zoppé Family Circus

For the ninth season, Chandler Center for the Arts presents Zoppé, an Italian Family Circus. Initially booked to generate revenue while the theater was closed for renovations, it’s turned into a signature holiday event.

“What makes this circus unique is the Zoppé family themselves. Even though they feature new guest artists each year, the Zoppé family creates that feeling of tradition and home. You’re invited into their traveling home, an intimate 500-seat tent,” says Michelle Mac Lennan, general manager for Chandler Center for the Arts.

This year marks their 175th anniversary honoring Old World Italian traditions. Sixth generation circus performer Giovanni Zoppé (Nino) is now the patriarch of the family. Giovanni’s son Julien made his first appearance in the circus when he was just six days old. He celebrates his 7th birthday this year and will perform alongside his father.

“Chandler is all about family, neighbors and friends. Chandler shares those values with the Zoppé Family Circus,” says Mac Lennan.

They have a special New Year’s Eve planned under the Big Top, which will include a countdown and party favors. The Zoppés also conduct a circus camp for kids. Learn more at

The Ginger Snaps

Years ago, Ginger Chabot helped pull together a group of fellow city of Chandler employees to sing Christmas carols at a holiday party. They ended up with 20 singers, a couple of guitarists and a flutist. They had such a good time, a few decided to continue the tradition.

“I organized the group for 20 years and am hoping someone will continue the tradition,” says the recently-retired Chabot.

Each year, between eight and 14 people sign up for the choir. Their two main performances consist of office caroling and a visit to the Kingston Senior Holiday Luncheon, sponsored by the city’s housing division. Occasionally, they sing at toy drives or other events by request.

“This has been such a great way to get people from different departments together for something other than business,” Chabot says. “Something that was so touching for me was when the group decided we needed a name. I rarely use it as it seems so self-serving, but I was flattered when they chose the name ‘Ginger Snaps.’ Hopefully it will continue until no one remembers where the name came from.”