Dreaming of a…Californian Christmas

Posted on: 13 November 2009 by Mark O'haire

In most places, Santa arrives on a sleigh, in California they do Christmas with a twist.

If you are dreaming of a place with more gleaming sunshine than snow, where you can stroll down bustling boulevards rather than battling the bad weather, then California is the haven for you. While you won’t find a sleigh on the beautiful beaches, the Golden State holds some Christmas secrets of its own with the stunning wine regions putting on a grand show sure to add sparkle to the festive period. 

One of California’s best kept Christmas secrets is ‘Carols in the caves.’ Set in the depths of the wine country in Napa Valley’s wine caves at the Caldwell Vineyard, you will find a performance taking the traditional carol concert in a new direction. From 15 December right through until Christmas, people use outlandish and ancient instruments to interpret famous carol favourites, such as Silent Night and Deck the Halls, putting their own mark on the celebrations. This event, held in a candlelit, lakeside mountain-top cave, brings together all kinds of people and sees Christmas celebrated in a completely new way. Napa Valley is a beautiful oasis of vineyards, decorated with festive

Calistoga, the northernmost point in Napa Valley meanwhile, hosts an unconventional annual Christmas parade in early December. The Tractor Christmas Parade offers great fun for all the family, especially children eager to get involved in the action and clamber all over the tractors. Adults can sit back, immerse themselves in the spectacular wine country, and look at the expanse of unrivalled views, whilst sipping some of the best wine California has to offer.

Napa Valley is not the only wine region in California that knows how to put on a show for Christmas.

If you have young children in tow, and want them to get stuck in with some Christmas activities then head to Healdsburg in the famous wine region of Sonoma County. On 23 December, The Relish Culinary School opens its door to excitable young children for a one off Christmas teddy bear tea. Chef Nitsa Knoll will give the children a helping hand making beautiful and delicious tea sandwiches, as well as getting messy decorating teddy bear cookies. There is a fantastic holiday atmosphere, with the kids getting stuck in with their cooking as well as enjoying a visit from Santa himself, while the parents can sit back and take pleasure in live Christmas music, yummy treats, and a glass of wine from California’s favourite wine regions.

For the entire month of December, Sonoma County Wineries holds a gingerbread competition. Each winery tries to outdo the others as they construct and display a gingerbread house version of their winery. Visitors to the wineries over the festive period are not only encouraged to get involved, but vote for their favourite gingerbread creation. Visits to a few Sonoma wineries are a must to truly get the most out of the heated competition, and try some fantastic Christmas wines. Each vote is entered into a competition to win a case of Sonoma’s finest wines, and the gingerbread competition winner is announced in January.

Head to Fairmont Sonoma Mission Valley Inn where they set up a massive, beautifully lit and decorated Christmas tree in the lobby. The building is steeped in history, and worth a stop to walk through its grand lobby and gorgeous grounds, and enjoy a mulled wine, made with hand picked grapes from the Sonoma vines. 

If you have jetted to California in the hope of some glorious sunshine and beaches to stroll on barefoot, then you won’t be disappointed.  See in Christmas in Capitola, only a two hour journey from Napa Valley in the car, where you will be greeted by Surfin’ Santa. He will be decked out in a red wetsuit with all white trimmings. From November 28, Santa will be on hand to look over children’s Christmas lists, as well as hand out free candy canes for all. Give your loved ones presents on the beach, and instead of slaving away cooking turkey, enjoy a beach barbeque where the whole family can get their hands dirty.

Celebrate Christmas California-style for an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. Turn traditional rules on their head and escape for a holiday season with a difference. However, some traditions stay the same in California. Before they go to sleep they still say ‘to all a merry Christmas and to all a goodnight!’

For more information about California Wine click here.

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