A Very Scientology Christmas: Inside L. Ron Hubbard's Winter Wonderland

Since 1983, the Church of Scientology has ran a Santa Claus photo-op on Hollywood Boulevard, where they hand out their founder's writings to visitors, but they deny using it to attract new members.

Dec 23 2016, 5:00am

Known for its historic Crossroads of the World outdoor mall, the city of Hollywood has become the crossroads of kitsch, from Johnny Depp impersonators to street drag queens. Every holiday season on Hollywood Boulevard, the campiest Christmas decorations come from the Church of Scientology: The controversial religious organization sets up a Christmas display called L. Ron Hubbard's Winter Wonderland, where a man dressed as Santa Claus sits on a red chair in front of a fake white mountain. At the church's Hollywood location, a 60-foot Christmas tree stands by rows of smaller, equally festive trees and a billboard that says, "WELCOME TO THE AGE OF ANSWERS... ALL ARE WELCOME."

In 1992, the Detroit Free Press reported that the tradition started when Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard first donated a tree to the city in 1983. At the time, gang violence plagued Hollywood. The city even partially blockaded cars from driving down the road in the early 90s. Hubbard's donation served as a symbol to show the city he had helped the community. "Mr. Hubbard's contribution was viewed as an investment in the community and helped revive it," a Church of Scientology spokesperson says in an email. "It was received with very warm thanks from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and many others."

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