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The Story Behind a San Diego Holiday Tradition

The Hilton Mission Valley still plans to bring joy this season

The holiday season may look a little different this year, but a time-honored tradition will continue to light up San Diego with one simple message: joy.

At the Hilton Mission Valley, spelling out this three-letter word in lit windows overlooking I-8 and the 163 has been a tradition for over 30 years, and one that general manager Jayson Zimmer knows is needed now more than ever.

“Certainly during tough times like this, the community really needs something that makes them feel good,” Zimmer says. “That’s what this has always been for people, and I think it will be especially meaningful this year—we’re all still trying to find the joy in life.”

The process remains the same: 83 guest rooms are blocked to spell out the letters, where standing lamps are placed in the center of the window and lit to “connect the dots.” It’s a collaborative effort between staff and guests. When the room is occupied, the lamp is placed in front of a blackout curtain, allowing the lights to stay on during the night and the guests to still get some shut-eye.

After this tough year, the hotel has made some adjustments to the lighting schedule. To conserve energy (and finances), the “joy” lights will display only on the weekends and through select weeks in December.

Zimmer says he receives a flood of phone calls and emails each year—some from guests, but most from local commuters—thanking him for continuing the holiday tradition. It’s a gentle reminder for all of us that creating joy can be as simple as switching on a light.

Hilton Mission Valley

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