Casa Linda’s annual tree lighting has been a White Rock area staple for decades. Casa Linda’s new owners, Edens Real Estate, nixed the tradition. Reps say they are celebrating the holidays in “other ways.”  

Hexter mom Amy Ford Dyer's son and best friend sit in Santa's lap at a past Casa Linda tree lighting festival. (Photo courtesy Amy Ford Dyer)

Hexter mom Amy Ford Dyer’s son and best friend sit in Santa’s lap at a past Casa Linda tree lighting festival. (Photo courtesy Amy Ford Dyer)

The Lake Highlands Junior Women’s League recently announced plans to launch what promises to be the White Rock area’s newest Christmastime custom — a Tree-trimming celebration complete with a family-friendly festival featuring Lake Highlands choirs, Santa Claus and free In-N-Out burgers.

The news comes on the heels of Casa Linda Plaza’s new owners Edens Real Estate announcing the cancellation of the Casa Linda tree-lighting event, which has been a holiday ritual since the dawn of time (OK, at least since I was a kid, so, close).

Many White Rock area residents are not OK with the situation.

The resounding sentiment from those who look forward to the event each year could be summarized as follows: That’s cool about the Lake Highlands holiday shindig and all, but, we want our thing back!

“Really, Casa Linda? No tree lighting this year? Why? This has been a neighborhood tradition for as long as I have lived here,” writes Amy Ford Dyer on the Casa Linda Plaza Facebook page. “My children sang at it when they were in elementary choir — this is my youngest son’s last year in the choir [at Hexter Elementary]. What’s up?”

Dyer is a mother to seven, ages 10-25, she says, and Casa Linda’s tree lighting has been a family ritual since her oldest were small.

 “It’s always been a family tradition of ours, as I am sure it is for other East Dallas families and schools.”

“My kids — once they were willing to sit on Santa’s lap — have always gone to that Santa,” she says. “And they have sung there during different years with the school choir. It’s always been a family tradition of ours, as I am sure it is for other East Dallas families and schools.”

Other residents are calling on the community to pressure Edens to bring back the ceremony.

“If there were enough voices out there, we may be able to bring this event back, if not for this year, then next year,” Kim Vowell of Forest Hills wrote to friends and members of neighborhood groups on social media.

“This was always so fun — pics with Santa and his sleigh, reindeer, hot cocoa, carolers, and all. The plaza has been taken over by Edens Real Estate, who managed to find a spot for a Christmas Tree tent but can’t participate in the lighting … Lake Highlands is having their first tree lighting, and I’m upset ours is being taken away. Can you email and complain please? Doubt we can save it this year but maybe for next. Very sad news for our community.”

Vowell points to Edens Real Estate’s stated “philosophy of what makes a great shopping center,” on their website. (“We understand our responsibility to help build and support the communities we serve. By creating engaging, spirited retail centers, we’re helping people forge strong community connections in places where life happens,” it begins.)

“I read it,” she tells us, “and now I am surprised even more that they are not supporting this annual event that has been so loved by our East Dallas Community for years.”

Lakewood's tree lighting festivities will take place Dec. 4. (Photo by Can Turkyilmaz for the Advocate)

Lakewood’s tree lighting festivities will take place Dec. 4. (Photo by Can Turkyilmaz for the Advocate)

Edens turned questions about the cancellation to their PR firm, who sent me this:

“While we aren’t having a Christmas tree lighting this year, we have other ways that we are celebrating the holidays. In the coming weeks, we will have a Christmas Tree Farm at the center with more details coming soon. We are also sponsoring Casa Linda Lights, a candle lighting event on December 5, in Casa Linda Estates. It benefits Guns & Hoses, an organization that raises funds for the families of fallen firefighters and police officers families. In addition, many of our retailers will have events and promotions throughout the holidays. Visit our website or Facebook page often for details.”

I responded by asking, again, why the event was canceled. I haven’t heard back yet, but will update this post when I do.

Just last week Edens officially announced its purchase of Casa Linda Plaza.

Meanwhile, Casa Linda residents will have to jaunt to a nearby neighborhood for the tree-trimming experience. Lake Highlands sounds like a solid alternative — the ceremony is at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 29 at Lake Highlands North Park. Lakewood’s tree lighting ceremony is Dec. 4 from 4-8 p.m.