Hometown Traditions

December 18, 2022


A few weeks ago several bloggers that I follow made a post called "Hometown Traditions" and I found it so interesting to see how other towns and villages celebrate Christmas and the holidays. I live in Los Altos in Northern California and my hometown is brimming with traditions from tree lightings to fun runs. Want to see the traditions we enjoy?

The first holiday event in our town is the annual Holiday Stroll that falls on the second Friday of November. The downtown streets and shops are decorated for Christmas and stay open late and serve bubbly spirits, appetizers and cookies, have raffles and sales and giveaways. It's super crowded and fun and we hate to miss it. I used to work in one the most beautiful shops in town, Cover Story. We would have our husbands set up a drinks table on the sidewalk in front of the store and act as bartenders. The wine was free and the guys had a blast and you can imagine that we were the most popular shop on the block! I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of that!

The next event is the Festival Of Lights Parade which falls on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. There are marching bands from the local schools and local business and organization sponsored floats, with the last float featuring Santa Claus. We have lived in this town for almost 50 years and I think the parade is at least as old as that. Our tradition was that the dads would meet downtown early Sunday morning, chalk off and label sections on the sidewalk for our group, and drop off the folding chairs and blankets. That evening I would host a gang for turkey soup and then we would all trundle off downtown to watch the parade. I have given up the tradition of serving soup to the gang, and now our kids manage to do all work of chalking off a spot for us. All I know is, I show up and have a chair to sit on. Very nice! The streets are closed off and the kids run wild until the parade starts and we all love it. This is sponsored by the Rotary Club.

The next event is called First Friday. Every first Friday night, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors a downtown musical event. On every corner you'll find either a rock band, an oompah band, a Barbershop Quartet, etc. and all the shops stay open late. We rarely miss it and most always take Carter. We stroll around to listen to music, meet up with friends, and then have pizza at Carter's favorite Italian restaurant before heading home with a very tired little kid. The December First Friday is even more special as Santa and Mrs. Claus also attend and of course the town is decorated for the holidays. Below is a picture from last year. 

Our own street hosts an annual progressive dinner party--drinks and appetizers at one house, dinner at a second house, and dessert and singing at a third. This year's party was last night and I hosted the appetizers. About 50 people attend, including neighbors who have moved away, new families who have just moved in and even adult children who grew up on the street come back with their children. It's like old home week for them. My neighbor across the street has a large house and rents out rooms to foreign Stanford graduate students. Last night her two young renters from Germany attended and I think they really enjoyed being part of such a folksy American tradition.

How it works: One kind gentleman organizes it each year and in early November sends out emails to secure the three venues and find the date convenient for most. After that a google doc spreadsheet is set up and we fill in what we want to bring foodwise, and of course, it's BYOB (bring your own booze). At the last house and after munching on desserts, we find a seat near the piano with our own personalized songbooks. We have a reluctant pianist (love you Judy) and two enthusiastic men who lead us in carols. Our last song is Silent Night, and then we all say goodbye and quietly walk home in the dark, so thankful that we have so many nice neighbors. No pictures of that event because it's always such a mad house and I never seem to have the time, but I do have pictures of my son-in-law's banana bread. He makes 3 dozen loaves each December from his mother's recipe. Even though I don't consider him to be handy in the kitchen, this is entirely his own thing and my daughter does not help him except to wrap them up and tie the bows. They then take an evening to walk or drive to friend's houses and drop off a loaf. Isn't that a nice tradition?

Of course we always make cookies and decorate a gingerbread house or two. I find I do quite a bit less than I have in the past, but this year I hosted a cookie exchange/luncheon and it was a super success. I had 16 women and asked each to bring two dozen cookies, homemade or store bought, no judgements, in a cookie tin. When they arrived they arranged them on trays I had set up on the dining table. After a lunch of salads and champagne,  they circled the table and filled their tins with a variety of cookies to take home. Remember the peg doll Santas? I gave them out as party favors and they were pretty darn cute.

I'm all ready for the cookies!

Another tradition that is not mine but a friend's tradition. She says December is just too busy to add another party and so instead hosts a Twelfth Night Party. She accepts offers of appetizers and serves soup in mugs and cookies on platters for dessert. In early January we have a wonderful time meeting up with friends and asking how their holidays went. 

The dark side of traditions!

I think I've told you I sing in a church choir. We had our concert yesterday. It was actually the day after my cookie swap luncheon, and the afternoon of the neighborhood party, so three events in two days, not good timing and our weekend was jammed but that's the holidays for you. (As I'm typing this my husband just asked me what I wanted to do today and I said, absolutely nothing! He laughed and agreed.) But back to the concert. I've been singing in our church choir for decades and a few of us gals used to host a huge party afterwards for our friends who attended, doing all the appetizers, dinner and dessert ourselves, and this was after singing in two concerts. Oh my, that was back when we were young and must have had tons of energy. We can no longer pull off that sort of thing and now we're content to stumble over to a restaurant after the concert and while I don't want to ever give up singing in the choir, there are some traditions I am willing to give up. So since I've told you about all the traditions I love and try to keep up with, I will admit that I seem to ditch a few every year, because there is a dark side to traditions too. When a once-loved tradition becomes too time consuming or stressful, I'm good with letting it go. For that reason I don't send out Christmas cards anymore. I love receiving them so keep sending them to me please, but a decade ago I had to admit that it's just not something I can easily pull off. I also don't fuss over gift wrapping. I love receiving a beautifully wrapped present, but I've run out of steam in that department and the store bought wrap and a tag works well for me. And how grateful am I that I don't have to do that Elf on the Shelf stuff? Isn't that like a new idea for every night in December? Yes it's cute, but yikes! So join me and let's go ahead and ditch those annual traditions that simply drive us crazy and only continue the ones that make us feel warm and fuzzy. Maybe that will become our new tradition! xo Kristen

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  1. Wow, thank you for this, Kristen. I’ve never heard of a community in Today’s World come together with so many charming traditions. Beautiful. Cookies, scrumptious. And why do “salads and champagne” stick in my head? Chloe

    1. thank you Chloe! I think that is why I love my town so much. And the salads and champagne? What better to serve women, right? lol!

  2. Merry Christmas, Kristen. Thanks for your blog. I love it.


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