Santa Monica's life-size Nativity scenes will return "to full strength" Sunday afternoon in a new location on the east side of the city, near Clover Park.
Fourteen dioramas depicting Jesus' birth were forced to relocate to private property this year after the city banned them and all holiday displays from Palisades Park, arguably the most scenic public park in Santa Monica.
The new location is in the 2700 block of Ocean Park Boulevard between Clover Park and 28th Street. An opening ceremony, featuring songs and a recital of the Christmas story, is planned for 3 p.m. at Clover Park.
"We are deeply grateful for the use of this new site to allow all of Santa Monica’s distinctive Christmas Story to continue spreading the message of joy, hope, and peace found in the Christ child’s birth to residents and visitors,” Nativity Scenes Committee Chairman Hunter Jameson said in a press release.
The lighted scenes will be on display until the first week in January.
Organizers cautioned motorists not to impede traffic while driving past the displays. Traffic lanes will not be reserved for viewing, they said.
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Beloved by many residents who have made them part of their holiday traditions, the Nativities were first placed in Palisades Park in 1953. But in the past couple of years, they have divided nostalgic residents and church-goes with Atheists.
Only a few were erected at Palisades Park last year under a new lottery system adopted by the city. The lottery was disbanded and a ban on the displays was enacted instead in June.
The longtime tradition will live on in other ways, too, Jameson said.
The Christian Defense Coalition is sponsoring a do-it-yourself live Nativity from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Palisades park. People are invited to dress as a shepherd or townsperson and take part.
Additionally, a "friend" of the nativity committee has organized nightly Christmas celebrations, featuring choir performances and skits, at the pier end of Palisades Park at 7 p.m. through Dec. 23.