Here in San Francisco, it can take a little longer to get into the holiday spirit. Only a few trees turn so we don’t have a traditional autumn. The weather stays temperate throughout November and December, and unless you’ve got a trip to Lake Tahoe booked, snow is completely out of the question!
Still, once you know where to look, magical experiences and the city’s unique take on holiday traditions are plentiful. These include a giant two-story gingerbread house and snow falling from the ceiling in the Fairmont Lobby, the raucous SantaCon, and two ice skating rinks in Union Square and at the Embarcadero.
As a volunteer with the SFSPCA, my favorite San Francisco holiday event, of course, has to be Holiday Windows! This 31-year-old holiday tradition, where puppies and kittens from the SPSFCA are available for adoption and displayed in holiday-themed windows, is now entering its 12th year at Macy’s.
I unwittingly signed up for my first shift on Black Friday, which meant I was totally thrown in at the deep end! Luckily, the other volunteers and staff working were brilliant. On Black Friday 9 animals found their forever homes and shoppers were very generous with their donations after Thanksgiving!
Behind the scenes, a member of the SFSPCA staff is on hand at all times to monitor the animals and make sure they aren’t distressed in any way. The window rooms are air-conditioned (or heated, if needed!) and full of toys, beds, blankets and comforting items for the animals. Although from the outside it might seem that making the windows look pretty is the first concern (and they look amazing!), actually the animals welfare is the priority and a lot of work goes into making sure they are safe and happy.
For people back home in the UK reading this, you might have noticed that Holiday Windows is contradictory to the famous Dog’s Trust slogan – “A Dog is for Life, not just for Christmas”. That’s why the SFSPCA have a well-trained team of Matchmakers who ensure that anyone wanting to adopt a puppy or kitten from Macy’s is a suitable owner and has given the commitment appropriate consideration.
Here in San Francisco, the city is quieter during the holiday period and the temperate weather is ideal for dog walking. In the USA, people traditionally get less annual leave than in Europe, so actually, the holiday season when they are off work is a great time to welcome a new pet into the family.
In addition to getting hundreds of animals in need adopted into their forever homes, Holiday Windows in 2016 raised almost $97,000 for the SFSPCA. In 2017, with the addition of a Cuddle Experience on the 6th floor, we hope to exceed that number!