When the lights go on in The City …

Bloated on turkey and gravy, Bay Area residents can look forward to a procession of holiday tree lightings to shed some light on the season.

In the next week, lights on four trees will switch on around The City beginning with today’s dueling festivities at Union and Ghirardelli squares as residents come out of their food- and television-induced comas.

At Union Square, the 20,000 white lights adorning the Macy’s 85-foot California white fir will turn on at 5:30 p.m. as the store kicks off its holiday drive.

“They usher in the holiday season, and they make people feel really good,” said Rose Dennis, a spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department.

In a similar ceremony, the tree at Ghirardelli Square will be lit at 5:30 p.m. today in the 43rd annual event.

Revelers in the Castro will see the district’s holiday tree flicker on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the corner of 18th and Castro streets.

Then on Nov. 29, at sunset, Rec and Park officials will light up Uncle John’s Tree in front of McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park for the 78th year in a row. At the same time, the 38-foot holiday tree at the Civic Center Plaza will go on.

Nearly 13,000 lights will decorate the Civic Center’s sycamores and holiday tree as well as Uncle John’s Tree, according to the Rec and Park Department.

“It looks pretty, and people from all over the world regardless of their faith and their ethnic background always thank us for lighting the tree,” Dennis said.

Down on the Peninsula, Millbrae and South San Francisco residents will get into the holiday season Dec. 1. Officials switch on Millbrae’s holiday tree at 5 p.m. at City Hall while Santa Claus will visit South San Francisco that same day, taking a break from making toys to show his face at City Hall at 11 a.m.

The lights go on in Foster City on Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Recreation Center, while Burlingame’s tree is lit Dec. 7.

The business end of holiday trees

» $512 million: Gross earnings of holiday tree farmers in 2006

» $249 million: Christmas tree sales in the 17 surveyed states in 2006

» $142.6 million: value of U.S. imports of holiday tree ornaments from China during the first six months of this year

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

dsmith@examiner.com

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