BURBANK, Calif. — This holiday season is unlike any other, with the coronavirus pandemic impacting two of the wonders of Christmas: family and togetherness.
But a longtime Burbank resident is continuing to spread the light, joy, and cheer of Christmas, at a time we all so desperately need it. For over 35 years, Ed Pape has brought Santa’s Workshop from the North Pole to the San Fernando Valley.
At his home on Catalina Street, Pape's joyous Christmas display is renewing the hope and faith for his neighbors going through tough times.
At 73 years old, the self-employed handy man built just about every piece of his very own Santa’s Workshop. “We started cutting a building,” he said.
From the ticket booth counting down the days until Christmas, to the toy factory conveyor belt. Pape said, “We went piece-by-piece trying to figure out exactly what we wanted.”
His love for the most wonderful time of the year comes from a very special place: Pape’s son EJ was born on Christmas Day.
“Funny thing is [EJ] should’ve been born on the 24th but the doctors said since we disturbed him on Christmas Eve, we’re going to have a Christmas baby,” he said.
Pape's Christmas baby grew up to become an LAPD captain. Fearless when patrolling the streets of the valley, but in the Pape household, EJ was known as "Mr. Christmas."
“[EJ] wanted to build basically the ticket booth and teeter totter. My wife told me to go out and help him. He convinced me,” Pape said. That was about 35 years ago, and each year neighbors came to expect the father-son duo’s extravagant holiday display.
Pape said, “It’s just giving to the community, giving them joy, happiness, trying to make something exciting for them, where families can come together.”
Two weeks before Christmas in 2016, EJ unexpectedly suffered a ruptured aorta. Sadly, he passed away days later.
“On Christmas, it’ll even be tougher, but we’ve managed,” said Pape.
But even during the saddest years of his life, Pape continued to spread the joy, light, and hope of Christmas in honor of EJ. Reminding his neighbors that in tough times, life goes on, but only if we believe.
“We’re only here for a short period of time and we all need to believe in something,” said Pape.