Holiday Traditions in California

The holidays are a time to join family and honor history and heritage. In our state, we have a diverse range of cultures, and each of these groups celebrates individual holiday traditions that make California unique during the holidays.


Many Texas holiday traditions can be traced back to Latin American and Spanish cultures. Tamales are a popular tradition and can be found on tables across Texas during the holiday season. This customary dish is thought to have originated around 7,000 B.C., with the domestication of corn by indigenous cultures in Mexico and Central America. Tamales first made their way to the U.S. with Spanish expansion, and have played a significant role in California’s culinary heritage. In the 1800s, women known as “Chili Queens” sold delicious chili and other fare, like tamales, at makeshift stands in the plazas of old San Antonio. Today you can buy tamales at grocery stores but, the long labor-intensive process of la tamalada, making tamales together, is the key ingredient in celebrating this unique holiday tradition.

Christmas Eve at the Hotel Del Coronado

The Hotel del Coronado decorates top to bottom with magnificent trees, garlands, and traditional decorations. The hotel also has a special dinner in the ballroom hosted by the Lambs Players dressed in period costume. The actors welcome you as you enter as if you are entering their home and after a delicious dinner they put on a play about their “family” and the holidays. Before or after the dinner you can go ice skating at a rink on the beach.

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade in Newport Beach

John Scarpa, an obscure Italian gondolier, and Joseph Beek—the developer of Beacon Bay, the Balboa Ferry Line, and the principal force in the early development of Balboa Island—arrived in the Newport Harbor area more than 100 years ago. These two men established what was then called the Tournament of Lights, an event that would continue for the next century, that became the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. The boat parade is hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. More than 100 boats adorned with holiday lights and decorations float around the harbor nightly while spectators watch from grassy knolls, nearby boats, hotels, and restaurants. Fireworks kick off the event, and tens of thousands of people come out to watch the parade.

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater Holiday Show

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater has been part of the Angelino Community since 1963. Imagination and fantasy continue to thrive in Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark #958, utilizing more than 2,000 handcrafted puppets with over 200 performances a year. Each holiday season they put on a themed show that delights all ages.

The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker

Created by actress, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker has become a Los Angeles holiday tradition since it debuted in 2010. The story has been rewritten in a modern, cultural context, given a contemporary score and danced by a cast of primarily African-American dancers, many from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Tchaikovsky’s score is replaced by original music from performers such as Arturo Sandoval and Mariah Carey. Similar to the classic ballet, Kara is given a magical nutcracker filled with hot chocolate that puts her to sleep, meanwhile the nutcracker transforms into a prince who takes her on a journey to distant lands. In this adaptation, narration is provided by a trio of wise-cracking rats.

Scientology Santa at L. Ron Hubbard Winter Wonderland in Hollywood

The tradition started when Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard first donated a tree to the city in 1983. Take the kids to visit the Scientology Santa on the south side of Hollywood Boulevard. The controversial organization creates a Christmas display called L. Ron Hubbard Winter Wonderland. There’s a man dressed as Santa Claus who sits on a red chair in front of a phony white mountain. At the church’s Hollywood location, a 60-foot tall tree stands flanked by rows of smaller, equally festive trees.

Happy Holidays from Golden State Mortgage

From our families to yours, we wish you a bright, beautiful holiday season.

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