EL CERRITO, Calif. - Nestled in the hills of El Cerrito on Moeser Lane, you’ll find the handiwork of Sundar Shadi. The Christmas display is now in its 70th year, all fashioned by a Sikh man who wanted to depict the Biblical town of Bethlehem.
His wife was Christian and neighbors said he wanted to create the nativity scene for her and the community.
“He was warm, he was humble and it's a very kind thing he did," said Barbara Lanier with Soroptimist International of El Cerrito.
His efforts first started with a blue star he made and displayed on land next to his home on Arlington Boulevard in 1949.
But over the years, the display grew and grew, as did the crowds who came to see it.
"I think it's amazing, just the fact that he made all of these and the fact that he didn't have to, but he just wanted to spread joy,” Katherine Beckman said. ”And that's what this time of year is all about.”
Now the viewers span generations.
Since the early 2000’s, PG&E has provided the small piece of land for the display. Firefighters put it up, and the Soroptimist Club and a community group take care of it. Dec. 22, 2019
Sara Hanes hasn’t seen the display in 20 years, since her daughter was a child, but it pulled her back on Sunday.
"There's so much going on in this world and I just need to get grounded back in the faith so I just came for a sense of the community, the peace," she said.
A woman takes a picture at a nativity scene in El Cerrito. Dec. 22, 2019
Soft music in the background; A chill in the air; The calming presence of the figures. One woman says she comes because it slows her down, at least for a moment.
"All we do is like the quick quick, text text, shoot shoot and whether it's the tempo or the temperature and people just, I think everyone really just wants to bring it down a notch," said Carol Wiegel.
Over the years, many pieces have been restored, but they’re original and took countless hours to create.
Since the early 2000’s, PG&E has provided the small piece of land for the display. Firefighters put it up, and the Soroptimist Club and a community group take care of it.
About five years ago, the creator made his first appearance in the display, depicted as a cutout figure. Sundar Shadi died at age 101 in 2002, but his legacy is alive and well each year.
The display is up until Dec. 26 at 10 p.m.