LOS ANGELES — On any other day, 3-year-old Rose Facio and her sister, 2-year-old Daisy, would be slipping into their pajamas at 7 p.m. on a weekday.
For one night, the sisters get to stay up past their bedtime because their parents, Kimberly and Jesus, have decided to cheer them up with a surprise magical journey after dark.
"Right now that we're going to through another lockdown, it's going to be pretty hard on the girls," Kimberly said.
Normally, the family does not start celebrating Christmas until December, but this year they are ringing in the holidays extra early.
"Our whole house got COVID in July," Kimberly said. "It started with one, and it went crumbling."
The Facios drove 40 minutes from Covina to The Bloc in downtown Los Angeles to soak a winter wonderland, complete with a 32-foot Christmas tree that changes colors and a gleaming 16-foot sparkling ornament tunnel.
"I don't think it could come soon enough," Jesus said. "All year, we've been stuck in the house and not being able to do anything."
Every hour on the hour, starting at 5 p.m., the Bloc's bright installations come to life, as 18 million hues of lights dance to festive tunes. It is all free of charge, but the best part is the priceless look on Rose and Daisy's faces.
"To see them so happy and just intrigued by all the colors and stuff, it's amazing," Jesus said. "It makes me so happy."
Festive lights are poised to take an outsized role this year as people look to escape from the dim reality of yet another wave of COVID-19 cases in SoCal.
Like the Facios, Syd Barker has had a rough year of her own.
As a theater manager, she lost her job in September due to the pandemic. She drove an hour and a half from Orange County with her mom for a little holiday cheer.
"We don't usually put our tree up this early. We usually wait until after Thanksgiving, and we put it up yesterday," she said. "Today, we decorated the house; we put our tree up, lights up, [and] we put up tinsel. We've been getting ready a lot earlier this year."
For the Facios, the show was a reminder that even during a global pandemic, there is still plenty to celebrate.
"That's what I strive to do," Jesus said. "Make them happy and give them a good time, so they don't think about what's going on in the world."