From the History of the Famous Sierra Madre Villa Hotel by William Lauren Rhoades, son of the proprietor:
When Christmas time rolled around the real fun began. I will describe a typical Christmas day in the late seventies. The day before Christmas was one of excitement for all were preparing the gifts, some driving into Los Angeles, a thirty mile drive, to get the last few gifts needed and to shop for all the rest and only about two dry goods stores, two book stores and a few other places to purchase but that made it all the more exciting. There was a tree to sit up fully ninteen [sic] feet high, that was the height of the ceiling, and a spread of branches in proportion. Then the trimmings, popping the corn and putting on the cornucopias, hanging the glass balls and the angel on the top. That day the Chinese boy, Sam, made mysterious trips to Mother's room with packages coming from the servants and Chinese on the ranch.
Christmas morning was always the opening of an eventful day. I well recall Christmas of 1878. After breakfast I was taken out to the front of the house and there stood my donkey, which was given me two years before to ride and I named her after my Mother, Jennie, and there she was hitched up to a two wheeled cart made to order with a swell leather seat, the running gear was painted red and the body black, the harness was black with shining brass buckles. The guests all stood round enjoying my delight. I took Mother in at once and we drove off in style and many were the happy days I had with the children at the Villa in that turnout.
Christmas morning the coach that ran to the San Gabriel Southern Pacific Railroad Station daily for the mail and passengers, was ready to take any who might wish to go to the Episcopal Church in San Gabriel, as was the custom on Sundays. Then the day passed and all were in readiness for the big event in the evening with the Christmas tree.
Rhoades goes on to describe the evening festivities that took place in the hotel parlor with the Rhoades family and hotel guests attending. Christmas carols were sung and the tree was "stripped." There was a gift exchange with Villa's many Chinese workers. Rhoades reports that, to the delight of hotel guests, the workers would enter the parlor with a flourish. Dressed in fine silks, the workers had "their heads freshly shaved with their cues hanging down their backs with red ribbons braided into their hair." They came bearing gifts of sweet lichi nuts, ginger and dainty cakes. In turn, the workers were given a fattened pig for roasting.
The author of this account, William Lauren Rhoades, was the son of William Porter Rhoades. The elder Rhoades was the proprietor of the Villa and co-owned the Villa along with his father in law, artist William Cogswell. The young Rhoades lived at the Villa over much of his childhood.
The full history written by William Lauren Rhoades is at this excellent neighborhood website.