OXNARD : Christmas Tree Lane Laden With Symbols

A larger-than-life fiberglass Santa stands next to a skiff of fake snow on Richard Urbina's front lawn in the 400 block of Oxnard's South F Street.

Half a dozen oversized fake lollipops march up his front path, while a pinata dangles from a tree and neon reindeer prance nearby. Inflatable candy canes skirt a nativity scene that comes complete with an iridescent Virgin Mary.

The melange of surrealistic seasonal symbolism typifies Oxnard's Christmas Tree Lane, a juxtaposition of the gaudy and graceful, the tacky and tasteful.

Christmas Tree Lane, better known as South F Street between Magnolia Avenue and 5th Street, is in full festive flow. And like the holiday itself, the street offers something for everyone.

The religious kneel and pray before the Virgin Mary's image. The secular sit on the plastic snow to have their pictures snapped next to the super-sized Santa.

"When you get into it, ideas just start coming out," Urbina said with a shrug.

This year's model is larger and more elaborate than the inaugural Christmas Tree Lane in 1994, which was created to replace Ventura's Candy Cane lane. Greater resident participation and thousands of dollars of donated decorations from The Esplanade shopping center have upped the "oooh" and "ahhh" quotient.

The lane is lighted from 6 to 10 p.m. until Tuesday. Until Saturday, the jolly old elf himself will be walking the street from 6 to 8 p.m.

Other traditions are being upheld too, such as the free-wheeling Southern California reputation for self-expression that transforms the street into a sort of performance theater each evening.

Santa shares a teeter-totter with a reindeer in one front yard, and down the street what appears to be a singing pine tree belts out holiday tunes. Children giggle at "Noopy" and "clamels" (that's Snoopy and camels, for those who don't speak toddler).

"Are these the rich people's houses?" one obviously impressed little girl asks her mother as she walks down the street.

Adults get in on the act too.

Last year one man temporarily replaced the doll representing baby Jesus in a nativity scene with his own child so he could take a photograph.

"I worked in a mental hospital for 34 years," resident Steve Fleischer said. "I thought I'd seen everything."

Nevertheless, the season's essence warms the soul.

"The spirit of Christmas crosses all ethnic lines," Fleischer observes. "There's people out here who don't even make eye contact in the summer who say 'Hi' to each other on the street--gangbangers and everything."

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