Pasadena’s Langham Huntington Hotel’s signature shade of pink may be a trade secret, possibly a custom blend, pastel yet vibrant—nothing remotely like the screeching Barbie pink that assailed the senses all summer.
Consulting the Pantone Matching System, the subtle tone rests in that equipoise between the warm and the cool, perhaps closest to Ballet Pink (PANTONE 203), Pink Lemonade Pink (PANTONE 210), and Seashell Pink (PANTONE 217). It pairs well with both silver and gold.
The refined shade is everywhere at the Langham Huntington Hotel year-round, from the exclusive gold-flecked macarons that greet guests as a deluxe room amenity to the pink porcelain pet bowl and plush bed-pillow provided for guests arriving with companion animals. The Spanish Mission Revival-style building exterior itself blushes pink, especially at sunset, providing a soothing and elegant palette for the Langham’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in the Horseshoe Gardens earlier this week.
Glowing white bulbs – not flashing red and green – illuminate the arches leading to the front doors. Huge, crimped bows of pastel pink velvet are mounted above the lobby entrance, framing your visit like an enormous gift. Eight-foot nutcracker soldiers painted in candy-sweet pink tones stand guard to fend off the slightest whiff of Scroogery. Passing the bar and approaching the gardens, a white-frosted faux-fir gleams, its snowy boughs sheltering confectionary packages wrapped in gold and ballet-slipper pink.
Let’s keep it real: Christmas can be terrifying. Anyone with children, or anyone who remembers being a child, may recall the visceral trauma of being overdressed to the point of sweating, bundled up in an overheated indoor shopping center, crushed into a Tokyo subway-strength queue, ear-drums cringing from the audio barrage of synthetic shrieking choirs, punctuated by amplified bellows of Ho,ho,ho! from Santa’s throne, retinas shocked by the throbbing red lights that suggest a massive SWAT bust versus tidings of comfort and joy. Screams and tears are a frequent response, sometimes even from the kids.
Cruel elves, punishingly clique-ish flying reindeer, scary nutcrackers and their ilk find their roots in centuries of folklore, often Germanic in origin. If your Yuletide has never included an encounter with the Bavarian legend of Krampus, consider yourself lucky. The Grinch is a lightweight compared to this guy.
By contrast, tree lighting at the Langham was both gentle and genteel. This unadvertised event sold out in less than one hour, according to Director of Operations Emilio Padilla, and about 500 guests gathered to celebrate on one of those crystalline late afternoons-early evenings that remind you why you haven’t moved somewhere with more affordable housing and fewer coyotes.
The cash bar furnished grown-ups with a flute of chilled premium champagne or other adult beverage to make spirits bright, while the hors d’oeuvres table provided enough sugar in the form of a Hot Chocolate bar with toppings including mini-marshmallows and cacao shavings, mini-cupcakes, caramel popcorn, candy cane cookies, and rich brownie bites topped with whipped cream and crowned with a perfect, jumbo strawberry to send their progeny into giddy hyperspace.
From mirror-finish chafing dishes on white-draped tables, the festive menu also included Thai Vegetable Lumpia, Smoked Turkey Sliders with Winter Spiced Cranberry Aioli, Apple Pie Empanadas, Hot Apple Cider and freshly roasted Italian chestnuts. Families decamped at small, round tables dressed with white tablecloths and white folding chairs, facing west as the sun began its descent around 4 PM, made even jollier by the a cappella harmonies of The Other Reindeer, who fa-la-la-la-la’ed in charming Dickensian attire beneath the arch of a giant stylized Christmas ornament.
Uniformed wait staff scurried across the sprawling lawn, gathering, straightening, replacing and replenishing. Two brightly painted, slow-chugging trains choo-chooed around the premises. Face painting added a further bit of whimsy to the children’s holiday attire, which included antlers, sequins, and, in one memorable case, metallic rose gold cowboy boots.
The foot traffic added a surprising element to the festivities: the ancient perfume of wet grass and sweet soil promising that spring will come again. Elsewhere, Christmas underfoot might be expected to crunch to the smell of wood smoke. On these spacious and gracious grounds, mature aloes and agaves are just now coming into bloom, sending up spikes and stalks that will shortly burst into a blaze of orange-red and acid-yellow flowers. Stately palms shimmer alongside the enormous Christmas tree—a lifelike replica, reflecting the Langham’s commitment to eco-sustainability.
Kids queued up for their chat with Santa in his sleigh, entertained by Jack Frost clad in a sparkling silver suit. The “Beaver” Moon, just one day away from being completely full, rose above the gathering as wisps of parting clouds blushed Langham pink as if on cue. And while many revelers celebrated the season with cozy Nordic knits, puffa vests and Victorian-themed velvets in shades of burgundy and emerald, even as the sun set and the switch was thrown to illuminate the decorated tree, the air never got cold enough to see our breath.