The annual Sundar Shadi Holiday Display is set to return to this El Cerrito hillside for a 67th year on Sunday, Dec. 11.
Entirely hand-crafted by the late Sundar Shadi, a longtime El Cerrito resident who passed away in 2002, the intricate display of handmade figures, animals and buildings can be viewed at 7501 Moeser Lane (at Sea View) from Dec. 11 through Dec. 27.
When assembled, the holiday display depicts the historical walk of the wise men toward Bethlehem. It will be lit nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and there will be musical performances at the site on five evenings to entertain visitors.
Shadi first put his creations on display in 1950. After all these years, now the community helps make the display a reality.
“Local Boy Scout Troop #104 has already prepped the hillside by spreading three truckloads of wood chips in the areas where the figures will be placed,” according to a news release. “Other volunteers will place more than 100 buildings at the top of the hill as the ‘Town of Bethlehem’ on Saturday. On Sunday, more volunteers will transport all the villagers, animals and the Wise Men from storage to their hillside home for the holidays.”
Sundar Shadi immigrated to the U.S. from India in the 1920s to attend UC Berkeley. He began his holiday-themed collection with a single Christmas star in 1949 and added an angel the next year, then animals, figurines and buildings in following years.
During his life, the display graced the hillside next to his home on Arlington Boulevard, with neighbors and visitors stopping to appreciate the scene throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Shadi died in 2002 at the age of 101.
“Local volunteers now arrange for the display on open space down the hill not far from the original site,” organizers said. “A committee including El Cerrito Mayor Greg Lyman, and three former mayors, has been meeting for months to make all the necessary arrangements.”