When you live in a place with more palms than snow, stereotypical images of Christmas just dont work. Its awfully hard to go on a sleigh ride at the beach, after all. But Californians, being an imaginative lot, have come up with a whole batch of variations on Christmas traditions and some new ones of their own, too. From shopping for gifts to buying a tree, visiting Santa Claus to watching a delightful Nutcracker Ballet, youll discover Christmas parties, concerts, games, eggnog drinks, plays, movies and countless events in California. Christmas in California doesnt just happen on December 25, however. It goes on all year long as folks decide to keep the holiday bulbs lit because they look so festive. From a Halloween costume, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, to Harley Motorcycle Santa Claus dudes that head to Mothers Bar or Cooks Corner, signs of Christmas are everywhere.
Seattle sure knows how to celebrate the holidays. From a spectacular holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony to giant gingerbread displays and indoor snow showers, the Emerald City pulls out all the stops when it comes to spreading holiday cheer. And there’s no better place to catch the most festive holiday events than downtown Seattle. So whatever level of merriment you and your little elves are looking for this year, we’ve got you covered.
No holiday brings the Mexican-American community together like Christmas. Every year Las Posada, the 9-day celebration, takes over the hearts and minds of many people of Mexican descent in Los Angeles. Posada means shelter and the celebration recreates Mary and Joseph’s search to find shelter to give birth to the baby Jesus. The celebration includes music, food, and dance, and ends on Noche Buena, Christmas Eve. Every night a different couple acts as Mary and Joseph and a procession follows behind. On Christmas Eve, families gather together and eat tamales, drink champurado, a warm spiced drink, and attend midnight mass. Many Catholic churches have Posada celebrations, but none as big as the one on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. If you can’t make it to a posada, I’ve included a few places to get supplies for your own.
About an hour northeast of Sacramento, the historic and quaint Nevada City takes great pride in their annual Victorian Christmas festival. A former Gold Rush town, Nevada City now is noted for its many historic buildings, mountainous surroundings, and bygone picturesque downtown. The Christmas season in Nevada City has been described by its Chamber of Commerce as “a genuine Christmas card come to life” as the city transforms into a winter wonderland complete with twinkling white lights, authentic gas lamps, and carolers dressed in Victorian apparel. Festival attendees are encouraged to dress in period attire, complete with feathers, scarves, and top hats.
Northern Utah’s Ogden, one of the country’s great railway hubs, welcomes in the holiday season each year with their downtown Christmas Village. A winter wonderland is staged in the middle of town as miniature cottages pop-up, modeled after Santa’s North Pole Village. Each of the 59 elf-sized cottages has its own theme including The Elf Workshop, The Grinch, and Santa’s Castle, a cottage where children can visit with Santa himself. Rides on the free Polar Express Train are a favorite, as the locomotive passes through a glow-in-the-dark tunnel painted with holiday flourishes.
Washington D.C.’s oldest neighborhood comes alive each December on Christmas with the warmth of the holiday lights that dot the streets and historic buildings of Wisconsin Avenue NW during Georgetown Glow. The yuletide decorations fill the area known for its over 450 stores, restaurants, and galleries, making it a one-stop hub of art and commerce for holidays. This year’s fourth-annual Holiday Window Competition, kicking off November 28, pairs local shops against each other to create the most inventive and fun window displays on Christmas.
Known as the Ozark Mountain Christmas, Branson, Missouri, doesn’t mess around when it comes to Christmas spirit. Branson transforms overnight as the city puts on its best and brightest Christmas flare. The historic downtown shopping center on Main Street has street lights wrapped in evergreen garland with lights flickering on the trees along the way. Known as the Live Music Show Capital of the World, Branson is home to fan favorite events such as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, where the arena performance is adapted to incorporate snow, evergreens, and traditional holiday music.
McAdenville, a small town about 20 minutes outside of Charlotte, gets so into the Christmas spirit each December that they change the name of their village to Christmas Town USA. More than 600,000 people visit Christmas Town USA to gawk at the 450,000 lights that decorate this hamlet. Over 375 trees light a route perfect for a winter stroll through the McAdenville’s downtown. One of the favorite vantage spots is at the nearby lake, where 33 trees line its perimeter, reflecting peacefully in the water. It’s hard to miss the town’s fountain, featuring a jet of water that is propelled up 75 feet, lit with vibrant colors every 10 seconds.
Charlottesville’s vibrant community bands together to deliver an incredible presentation of holiday lights and festivities throughout the historic town, home of Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall, a walkway that serves as the cultural hub of the city, transforms into a winterscape complete with a holiday market. Featuring 90 local vendors of holiday crafts and goods, this is a prime place to pick up unique gifts for loved ones on your list. While in Charlottesville, make sure to visit James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier estate, where Christmas is celebrated in nineteenth-century style, complete with candlelight tours of the estate, live holiday music, and children’s crafts.
Imagined as a true one-stop Christmas destination, Koziar’s Christmas Village has been a tradition since 1948. A regional hotspot for families, this popular Christmas town packs crowds in to gaze at the million-plus light displays, visit the small cottage dioramas and shops, as well as meet face to face with Mr. Claus. Look out for the several scenes depicting Christmas beneath the Sea, Christmas in the Jungle, and Christmas in Other Lands, housed in former chicken coops.
The tiny town of Zoar, Ohio about 40 miles south of Akron, offers an old-fashioned Christmas with its many historic landmarks and homes, all artfully decorated with evergreen garland finishes. Marvel at the chance to visit fully operating blacksmith and tinsmith shops, where local artisans produce crafts and goods the old fashioned way. The Historic Zoar Village offers walking tours that trace the history of the town, which gives the opportunity to observe the many buildings decorated for Christmas in nineteenth-century style. The excursion concludes at the Zoar United Church of Christ, where Christmas carols are played on the chapel’s original organ.
In between Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago and an hour away from Milwaukee sits Elkhart Lake, a getaway town known for its summertime racetrack. Come winter, Elkhart Lake shifts it focus to an all-out Christmas-time celebration, complete with its famous Old World Christmas Market. Modeled after the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, the market features a hundred vendors from the region selling crafts, art, and the traditional schnitzel, sauerbraten and potato pancakes. For something truly unique, stop by the Wade House, a local resort for mid-nineteenth-century Christmas celebrations, including a horse-drawn decorated carriage through the woods. It’s like stepping directly into “Jingle Bells.”
The Genesee Country Village brings yuletide to the hinterland with its annual Christmas celebrations. Travel back to 1849, the year New York declared Christmas, Independence Day, and New Years Day state holidays, as tour guides take you through the village streets. Live music, dancing, and tree lighting are part of the experience as you join your guide in visiting the homes of the residents to inform them of the news that Christmas has just been declared an official holiday.
People in United States celebrate Christmas in many ways they would like to. In the days or even weeks before Christmas Day, many people decorate their homes and gardens with lights, Christmas trees and much more. Do visit these 10 U.S. Towns for Incredible Christmas Celebrations and share your experiences with us. We would love to hear about your experiences on this Christmas 2015.
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