LOS ANGELES -- Lights. Stockings. Garland. It's time again for holiday decorations to emerge from dusty boxes, including the venerated Christmas tree topper.
But if the traditional offerings don't quite fit in with your family's tree, a UCSC grad has designed four new, unique and diverse tree toppers. He still needs help, though, to manufacture them and make his dream a reality.
Raphael Vernassal is reaching out though the crowd-funding website Kickstarter to fund a manufacturing run of the four tree toppers he designed. As of Monday, he'd raised $5,733 from 84 donors -- still short of his $6,200 goal. The fundraiser ends Tuesday night.
Raised by a Jewish mother and Catholic father, Vernassal celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah.
A few years ago, Vernassal searched for a Star of David tree topper -- a meld of his family traditions. Unable to find one he liked, he and his brother-in-law fashioned their own. Last year, he started selling the interfaith toppers online and sold out his initial run of 300.
This year, he expanded his line to four toppers, adding a "Peace on Earth" topper, a rainbow-colored pride topper and a north star. All are made of steel, brass and copper and measure between 8 and 10 inches in diameter.
Vernassal graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2008 with a degree in history. Now an L.A. attorney, he said his products appeal to Santa Cruz's unique culture.
"The peace topper, I think, fits right in with the 'peace, love' vibe in Santa Cruz."
Vernassal is confident he'll meet his Kickstarter fundraising goals.
"It'll allow me to really get things going for next season," he said.
Hurricane Sandy interrupted Vernassal's supply chain, though, delaying delivery of the tree toppers until spring. The toppers aren't limited to the holiday season.
"They can be displayed on an easel, so they can be a home display you can use year-round."
Donors at his Kickstarter site are able to pre-order the toppers for $38. Thanks to a small inventory, Vernassal will be able to fulfill some early donors' orders this season. He also is offering three leaf-shaped brass ornaments exclusively through Kickstarter. The $10 ornaments, which will ship this Christmas, follow the diversity theme: "One tree, many leaves."
Vernassal began this project with a desire to express his identity and traditions, and hopes to help other families do the same.
"Behind the product, it's about family," he said. "It's about heritage."