SFist held court with the royal tannenbaums known as the Tree Twins, and these two “firries” will be out enlightening San Francisco every night through December 24.
Old-school San Franciscans remember “the San Francisco Twins” Vivian and Marian Brown who delighted generations making public appearance in their matching outfits and fur coats. But not long after the second of these grand dames passed in 2014, a new pair of twins surfaced who are delighting us in their fir coats. Those twins are a newer holiday tradition known as the Tree Twins. SFist caught up with the twins Jingle and Tingle as they prepare for their final three nights of appearances, culminating Saturday, December 24 at McLaren Lodge at the eastern end of Golden Gate Park, right next to their kindred timber Uncle John’s Tree light display.
“We’re romantic Christmas trees that Santa sent here to San Francisco to specifically improve the Christmas spirit in this city,” the one tree Jingle tells SFist. “So many neighborhoods are dark and not very Christmas-y. They need Christmas magic."
The Tree Twins are now in the eighth year of their arbor odyssey “We started one year with one night, because we liked going out all decked out,” Jingle explains. “One year we did it once, a few years later we were up to a couple weeks, and now for the last four or five years it’s been every single night between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.”
“Every year we try to do something new,” Tingle adds. “Last year we ventured out to New York City. This year we went to London. We loved it there. Up until the time they gave us a virus.”
If you’ve seen the Tree Twins before, your eyes are not fooling you —the tree design is different this year, and in fact gets updated every year.
“The first year we actually made it out of just large, green felt leaves, and it was all based around an inverted tomato cage,” Tingle tells us. “And then every year, it was like oh, we can make this a little better. Oh, we want these to travel to Seattle and New York and London, so how do we make that happen?”
“We had scars from the tomato cage version of this costume on our shoulder,” Jingle says. “It was so painful.”
“The lights were at one time very easy to break,” that tree adds. “A single hug could destroy the costume in one night. So over the years, what we’ve done is every time new lighting technology comes, out we upgrade. Now we walk around with a huge Christmas battery,” Jingle said showing off this year’s array of programmable lights.
Try as SFist did, we could not get the Tree Twins to break character or tell us who they really are. “Santa sends us to San Francisco to pretend that we are other people, that we are people with day jobs, human beings,” Jingle explains. “So at Christmastime, between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, he sends us out as our true selves to enlighten the city and to dazzle the people of the city.”
That said, if you must humbug and refuse to suspend your disbelief, the Chronicle went behind the tinsel in their 2021 Tree Twins profile that does reveal Jingle and Tingle’s true identities.
The Tree Twins will be out Thursday night in the Castro, while Friday’s location has not been announced (keep an eye on their Instagram for that). But we do know the Tree Twins will be at McLaren Lodge and Uncle John’s Tree in Golden Gate Park for their annual Christmas Eve party on Saturday night. “Christmas Eve is ONE time when we DO know where we’ll be! An unofficial, unsanctioned Tree Twins Cookie and Dance Party is always held at the OFFICIAL SF Christmas Tree, also lovingly known as ‘The Christmas Onion,’” their website says. “On Christmas Eve we’ll stay in one place all night, dancing beneath the Onion.”
“The mission is largely just to spread joy and cheer, and that’s what we do. We don’t do this for money,” Tingle says. “We only ever ask one thing, and that is to pay forward a kindness.”
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist