'This is the highlight': SJ crowds determined to keep holidays happy amid ongoing pandemic

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Despite the pandemic, many in the South Bay were determined to keep the holidays happy this Christmas Eve.

Crowds in Downtown San Jose said they spent last Christmas locked down. This year, their spirits are up and they are getting out.

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After having to attend Christmas Eve mass virtually in 2020, churchgoers explained there was something very special about Friday's in-person service at Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in Downtown San Jose.

"This is the highlight tonight. Right now," Bob Bancroft told ABC7 News. "Just going in and being here in church."

Bob and his wife, Terry drove in from Morgan Hill. Originally from the East Coast, they said the ongoing pandemic kept them grounded.

"We didn't feel it was good to travel, so we decided to stay put again," Bob explained.

Terry added, "Stay safe, close to home. But you know, it's hard when you're not near your family."

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Longing to be around people, family or otherwise, seemed to be the big motivation for those out and about.

At San Jose's beloved Christmas in the Park, guests were met with Christmas Eve crowds for the first time since 2019.

"Literally has been a long time, having stayed at home. So, during the holiday season I wanted to go outside, see people," Santa Clara resident Yanin said.

"We definitely wanted to be with people," Sunnyvale resident Nivetha Pu said. "Spend time with friends and hang out. I think this is kinda happening now."

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Sunnyvale resident Julio Leiva shared, "Here, you see all the Christmas trees all the in the park. The people... happy. The kids are screaming... very happy."

The return of the usual sights, sounds, tastes and traditions- with the addition of masks to mark the ongoing pandemic.

Many admitted they've had to make some adjustments for this year's celebrations. However, above all, they are determined to keep the holidays happy.

"It still doesn't feel normal yet," Los Angeles resident Mark Tapio Kines said. "Because we usually get together at my sister's house. We're doing a restaurant this time, just because it's a little easier with my mom and everything."

After having to stay separated last year, every moment is carrying greater significance this Christmas.

"I'm just glad that we can do this," Kines added. "We can walk around and enjoy things, and go to bars, and go to restaurants and not be just locked up from it all."

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