Jungle Bells: San Diego Zoo's Holiday Treat

Like your fa, la, la with a side of furry? Make for the famous animal park.

DECORATING AN ELABORATE TREE... without including a few ornaments that depict the wild world rarely happens, if ever. Look at any box of one hundred random, collected-over-the-decades decorations and you're bound to see a few cute ceramic dogs, a cat made of glass, and maybe a crocheted otter, from that one time you visited the Central Coast for the weekend. We easily and gratefully fold our furry friends into the holiday season, and the baubles on our trees or front doors or dining room tables reflect our love of staying near the natural world. You can also commune with the natural world, holiday-style, by paying a visit to a major zoo or animal park around the holidays, of course. Very often twinkly lights and festive treats for the resident beasties are part of the scene, and walking through that wonderland combo -- the end-of-the-year celebration and the beautiful animals -- can produce a real reverence in a visitor.

VISITORS TO THE SAN DIEGO ZOO... may come across just this sense of furry 'n festive bliss during Jungle Bells. The 23-day-long decor-and-more merriment opens on Saturday, Dec. 12 and stretches to the Sunday after New Year's Day. The lions and giraffes will not be rocking Santa hats -- even getting a Santa hat on a giraffe would be a major, ladder-requiring project -- but there will be plenty of seasonal sights to lend cheer to the barkiest, yowliest, roariest spot in all of Balboa Park. Those seasonal sights (and sounds) include "(j)azzy carols" on Front Street a few times each afternoon and evening, a "Carol of the Jungle Bells" Light Experience, animal encounters, the Twinkle Light Trolley, and other delights that combine the zoo's alfresco, tree-filled setting and the stories and vibe of the yuletide. Will it make you want to return home and hang a few more monkeys and koalas on the tree, ornament-wise? Or sing a carol or two with a few animal-themed verses? It's tradition, after all, to incorporate all earthlings into our celebratory period, be they tortoises or pandas or the pets we keep. Now if you could only get your pup to wear his elf costume for a quick picture...

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