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December 04, 2020 Slideshows » Arts

These vintage photos show San Antonio's Christmas spirit 

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San Antonio loves the holiday season — and from what we can see in these historic photos, it has for a long time. Here's a look at how the Alamo City celebrated Christmas back in the day.

Photos courtesy of UTSA Libraries Digital Collections.
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While this photo is undated, you can see the city's official Christmas tree on display in Alamo Plaza.
Rudolph Gras decorates a 50 year old cedar tree near the zoo for the holiday season. The best part? He planted the tree himself in 1917.
Shirley Ann George showed off her missing two front teeth — just like the song! — for the San Antonio Light in 1948. According to the paper, she was '"practicing the song for Santa Claus' visit."
Joske's didn't play around with its holiday decorations. Just take this giant Santa Claus display as proof.
Ca. 1940 - Christmas at La Villita entrance gate at Villta Street and S. Presa. (UTSA Special Collections)
Maria Moreno was photographed carrying armloads of corn shucks by the San Antonio Light in 1948. No doubt preparing for an epic tamalada!
Dec 23, 1936 - 79 years ago today in the San Antonio Light. Photo shows A. G. Sherrer, 1235 Highland Blvd., with elaborate Christmas scene he constructed in his home for his son Jerry. Three electric trains and a complete station help make up this scene.(UTSA Special Collection)
The Texas Top Hands and Santa Claus provided the entertainment for the annual Newsboys' Christmas Dinner in Crystal Ballroom of the Gunter Hotel in 1948.
Santa made the rounds at the Newsboys' Christmas Dinner, probably finding out just what everyone wanted to find under the tree on Christmas morning!
Turns out Santa Claus can rock out on the drums, too!
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Downtown San Antonio was plenty festive with subtle decorations along the city streets.
Wouldn't it be so charming to see this decor around downtown today? Here's the outside of the Aztec.
In this 1950 photograph, you can see the Christmas lights hung on the Gibbs building. Note the Christmas tree, from the city's Rotary Club, set up behind the Alamo Cenotaph.
In the 500 block of Fredericksburg Road, there was a lot where you could get your own Christmas tree. Here you can see Richard Mendoza picking his tree. Hopefully he got a good deal.
The cast of the UTSA Child Care Resource Center Christmas Play mugs for the camera in 1977.
Sometimes you don't realize just how big Christmas decorations can be! Here, Margarett Salinas poses with one of the decorations destined to be hung downtown for the 1947 holiday season.
The tamaladas back in the '50s must have been poppin'. Here you can see meat counter workers at La Gloria Food Market.
Little ones surely loved looking at all the themed displays.
Anyone who was in San Antonio in the '60s surely remembers Fantasyland at Joske's.
This was truly a winter wonderland.
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This looks so magical.
Joske's really didn't mess around when it came to Christmas. This Encoupe airplane had to be hoisted through a fourth floor window to get it into the store.
According to the UTSA Digital Archives, the airplane was displayed as a Christmas sales item.
There's nothing like a Christmas pageant to get you in the holiday spirit. The 1965 St. David's Episcopal Church ballet and pantomime Christmas pageant featured Nancy Smith (left) as Mary and Kay Coleman as Angel Gabriel.
These angels also starred in the 1965 St. David's Episcopal Church Christmas pageant, which was written and directed by Jeannie Grey.
Santa didn't always have access to his reindeer — he had to take the escalator at the National Bank of Commerce in 1965.
Finck Cigar employees and their families pose for a photo at the company's 1936 Christmas shindig.
This photo from the early 1950's shows the First Baptist Church choir performing in the chapel decorated for the Christmas season.
At the SA Fire Station No. 12 in 1938, this presumed firefighter can be seen constructing a display to draw in visitors.
In this photo from the late 1940s, you can see Rev. Joseph P. Sammon of St. Mary's Catholic Church blessing the candles, with the assistance of two altar bars, in a ceremony known as "Candlemas." The event marked the end of the Christmas religious season for the church.
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Here you can see Madge Brown holding up an oversized Christmas card in 1939. It was sent to the San Antonio Board of Education from students and faculty of Tech High School. Aww!
SA has been about giving back for a long time. In this 1939 photo, you can see little kids helping Santa make toys at the recreation center at Woodlawn Park. How adorable, right?!
While the days of toys filling window displays may be long gone, you can peep this 1939 photo to relive that era. Here you can see two shoe shine boys (hello, child labor) getting excited about these toys.
This "Nacimiento" display at the Institute of Texan Cultures shows the Mexican nativity scene. It was visible to visitors in December 1972.
While this photo is undated, you can see the city's official Christmas tree on display in Alamo Plaza.

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