Each year I like to try out something new around the holidays and see if it is something we would like to do again the next year and develop it into a new holiday tradition.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair – We went to the Dickens Fair a few years ago and brought all the kids – that was a disaster. We went late, making parking a hassle and then it was very crowded. We hadn’t pre-purchased tickets so we waited in a long line to purchase tickets. Once inside, all of the lines were long and that made getting food for hungry kids a long endeavor. All of it made for cranky kids and cranky parents for something that was supposed to be a lot of fun and very festive. In the end, we couldn’t tear the kids away from the dancing at Mr. Fezzywig’s Annual Christmas Ball. I liked it enough to go back again the next year, without kids! I now go early and find others who want to dress up in “Old England” costumes and enjoy it to the hilt! Now I plan it all out so that I can go see the shows I want and I never miss the Can Can. The most fun I had was when I took my oldest and his friends and we met others who also dressed up. We went early and got to see almost everything before it became to crowded (I don’t like being in crowds, so if you go it might not seem too crowded for you.) We enjoyed the candied nuts and took silly pictures together by the signs and the enormous trees. Although, next time I won’t put my corset on before we drive up there – that was the most uncomfortable car ride of my life! I haven’t done anything that painful in a long time!
Ice Skating – Our school would always try to do an ice skating event at the Palo Alto Winter Lodge where we had an hour or two with the place to ourselves. We could bring pizza, cookies, hot chocolate, etc. and enjoying watching the kids skate or get out there on the ice with them. You could spot my kids easily – two of them were in shorts. Yes, shorts, even on the ice. Last year, McKinley actually put on his running tights along with a wooly hat. Go figure! We’ve tried out a lot of the other ice rinks around the Bay Area, most of which are temporary and pop up in places like Justin Herman Plaza near the Ferry Building or in Union Square. We also have Belmont Iceland near us. We’ve tried them all. The temporary ones are fun because they are outdoors, but they are usually small and crowded. The great thing about Palo Alto Winter Lodge is that it is indoor/outdoor with a giant tree in the middle of the rink, complete with Bistro lighting. It’s always fun there!
Cable Car Caroling – One year we did Cable Car Caroling with some friends where we hopped on a designated cable car and went around to local nursing homes and senior centers to sing Christmas carols. It was a joy to sing Christmas carols over and over without being in church or a musical production with rehearsal after rehearsal! Seeing the smiles on the residents faces was incredibly gratifying. Some even joined us in singing the carols. I always love going to Christmas parties hosted by singing friends – we always end up caroling and it sounds so fantastic! Christmas music – do you love it or hate it?
A Christmas Carol – the group we usually see perform is at Ralston school and we try to go to the Gala which is held after the show at the Ralston Mansion. The food and drinks are fantastic and the house is decorated beautifully. It’s fun to be able to visit with your fiends in the cast and to enjoy the festive atmosphere. The group performs a cookie different versions of this play. I love the musical version of it with more dancing and singing than acting. It never gets old!
Other Productions – I’ve played in so many Christmas productions that I’ve lost count, but every once in a awhile, I attend a performance of the Nutcracker or another holiday concert. I haven’t been to a Sing Along Messiah since High School. I love playing in a Tuba Christmas. But I haven’t played regularly in an orchestra for a few years so now I mostly see productions. I saw a Russian Ballet troupe dance the Nutcracker two years ago, which was interesting but made me think Tchaikovsky was on drugs when he wrote it (even though the music is fantastic)!
Filoli – One of my favorite things to do during the holidays, especially when the kids were younger and we could have lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, was to visit Filoli (the mansion that was used in the opening of Dynasty). They decorate the entire estate in an over the top festive manner. We went to the evening dinner dance one year and we lucky enough to enjoy the ballroom. Each room is decorated with a different theme and almost all fo the ornaments and decorations are for sale. A shopper’s paradise! We always like to buy tulip bulbs from their amazing collection. One of the best times I had there was when my mom and I went to the “after it’s all over” sale. Everything is at least 50% off. It made some of the things normal priced but you could find some great things for gifts. As the kids grow older they aren’t really interested in lunch with Santa anymore so we haven’t been for a few years. Maybe I need to go with girlfriends instead of the kids 🙂
It’s a Wonderful Life – My absolute favorite thing to do on Christmas Eve is to goto the Stanford Theater to watch It’s a Wonderful Life. It starts at 9 pm and lets out around midnight when all is dark, quiet, and peaceful. Actually there is a line around the block of people waiting to get in and you now have to purchase your tickets earlier in the day (or week). I got lucky a couple of years ago when I went by myself and didn’t have a ticket – there were a few seats open and David Packard let the remaining fans come in and watch it – no fee – grab a popcorn and go on in. I love that he preserved the theater and refurbished the mighty Wurlitzer organ. It’s such a treat to be able to enjoy it, especially with a Jimmy Stewart movie like It’s a Wonderful Life.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Which ones do you wish you were still doing? Which ones do you wish would go by the wayside, never to be resurrected again?