California is not your usual Christmas holiday destination as many people do not associate the state with Christmas attractions. However, if you are planning to spend your Christmas period in California then we will get you ready for the best features that the state has to offer. 

The state is sun-soaking throughout the Christmas period and it is far away from the traditional snow and winter period that is associated with Christmas in regions like Europe. Spending your Christmas in California will give you a chance to explore some unique activities and things that the state has to offer. 

Each year you are going to find Christmas towns that have been decorated into some of the most exceptional Christmas locations. You are not limited to the type of activities, cuisine, and even the traditions that are observed during the Christmas period in California.

Weather in California during Christmas

The weather in California is unique because there is no snow throughout the year. December is one of the rainiest months in the region and the average temperature is 20 degrees Celsius while the lowest can be around 10 degrees.

Christmas customs and traditions in California

The state of California is not left behind when it comes to Christmas celebrations. Here are some of the Christmas culture and traditions in California,

Hollywood Christmas parade

Perhaps this is one of the most popular Christmas activities in California. On Christmas Eve, the Los Angeles area is beaming with a longstanding tradition of Christmas parade. The event occurs after Thanksgiving, and you will see Santa on floats marching with a band down the Hollywood boulevard.

The parade usually begins at dusk, and you can take your time to join the people as they usher in Christmas cheers and festivities. It is a perfect way of blending in with the people and understanding the culture and the history of the LA people. The band follows a U-shaped route which begins at Orange and Hollywood Boulevard before moving east.

California Christmas Boat and tractor parade

There are numerous places where you can find Christmas parades in California, and you should not be left behind when exploring the region.

The Newport Christmas boat parade is one of the most popular Christmas parades in California. In Newport, you will get hundreds of yachts each year decorated with Christmas lights and their lighting is incredible.

Further read: Party beaches in California

You can watch these parades from various points in Newport beach harbor. It is common to find that these parades begin late in the afternoon, and they usually end at night. On the other hand, the Calistoga tractor parade is another common theme.

This is one of the most common attractions in Napa Valley and here you will find vintage and modern tractors, propulsion vehicles, trucks, and various construction equipment all participating in the parade. During the parade, these machines are usually adorned with a wide array of lights, and they will ride from the Calistoga streets with the Christmas celebrations being the theme.

Queen Mary Ship

The Queen Mary is a ship that is docked on California’s Long Beach, and it is a historic ship that was used during the Second World War to transport soldiers to various destinations.

The main reason why people have kept the tradition of holding their Christmas celebrations in the AREA is that there are hundreds of life-sized sculptures and structures in the ship which are made of over two million pounds of colored ice and it is an exceptional site that you should visit during the Christmas period to get an idea of the vibe in California.

Catholic masses

One of the main traditions around California during the Christmas period is that some people will go to the cathedrals to attend Christmas mass. If you are in the Los Angeles area, you can go to the outside of the Los Angeles Cathedral and participate in the Christmas mass. 

On the other hand, if you are in San Francisco, you can try the cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

Christmas eve dishes in California

California is a region that has diverse cultures and traditions and there are some of the most common traditional dishes that you can find in the region. Here are some of the unique Christmas dishes that you will find people consuming in California.


It is a common theme to see that people in the region usually consume tamales on Christmas Eve. The tamales are traditional Mesoamerican dishes that are usually made from nixtamalized corn dough, and it is then steamed in banana leaves or corn husks.

The wrapping will vary, because it will depend on the raw materials available. These tamales are usually filled with cheese, different kinds of meats, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and chilies. The preparation is usually done during the day and the dishes are served in the even accompanied with various kinds of drinks and desserts.

Learn more about the Christmas traditions in the US:

In many places, you will find that people can prepare them or purchase them from the restaurants nearby. There is also plenty of fresh salsa and guacamole to accompany it and you should try it during your visit to California.

Setting the table 

The table is usually set with bright candles and colorful Mexican linens and ornaments before people can consume the tamale.  If you want to enjoy the dish, then you can participate in the tradition of preparation and the setting of the table.

Theme Parks

During your travel to California during Christmas you will find many theme parks celebrating the holiday. The Christmas period brings the spirit of decorations, joy, gifts, and sharing.

Tree lighting ceremony

The Christmas period is an amazing period for the people of California, and you can join in the celebration by participating in the Christmas tree lighting ceremonies that are conducted across the cities and communities in the state. The tree lighting ceremony usually involves using natural trees or artificial trees. These trees are often decorated with lights, stars, and other items.

Ice skating

While the temperatures of California might be over 70 degrees Fahrenheit during Christmas, ice skating is one of the popular Christmas traditions in the region. You can explore the wide range of ice rinks that are found across the state of California ranging from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even San Diego. It is a perfect activity for friends and family to bond and enjoy their Christmas time.

Grilled meats

Grilling is a common practice in California during the Christmas period, and you will find people grilling all kinds of meats during this period. Depending on your taste and preference, you can try grilled meats such as pork, chicken, beef, and mutton. It is common to find that these meats are usually salted, peppered, and with garlic added before they are grilled over oak.

Further read: Dangerous animals in California

They usually have a very unique taste and the sides that are served include garlic bread and beans. These are some of the traditional dishes that you are going to find people enjoying in California during the Christmas period.

Christmas nativities in California

The California charismas nativities are not limited to the statues along and in the church displays.You will find them in different places around the state and you can see the different statues from that of Mary, Jesus, and the manger.

The churches are the producers of these inspirational events, and it is a tradition that is mostly followed by Europeans living in the state.

California zoos

The California zoos are some of the most exceptional places where you can explore the different characteristics of the state during the Christmas period. They set up amazing light displays, snow and leopard days, reindeer days, and other fun activities that are all part of celebrating the Christmas traditions around the state.

Disneyland Christmas Fantasy

The Disneyland holiday season is an impeccable period when you are going to see some of the unique traditions that are observed in California. During your travel to the region, you will see some of the features that make up Christmas in Europe like reindeer, snow, and dazzling lights.

It is a perfect place for the whole family, and you can take your children for the best experience that they can have in the region.  There is a nightly snowfall which is artificially produced, and it keeps the holiday spirit alive.

The activities usually begin in late November, and they run throughout December.

Christmas Lights in California

This is one of the most unique traditions during the Christmas period. When you visit California, especially the major cities around, you are going to see some of the most exceptional street light illumination.

The atmosphere in the area brings the Christmas spirit to people to all those visiting the region. The Mission Inn festival lights on the riverside are some of the most exceptional features that you can enjoy during your visit to California. This place is renowned for putting up over 3 million lights and over 400 animated figures in the area. 

The streets are highly decorated, and you are going to have an exceptional time as you get to see the people and the energy, they put into setting up the lights. There are shops and bakeries in this area that sell Christmas delicacies such as Christmas cakes and pies.

Sing along

This is one of the fun Christmas traditions that you are going to find in the state of California. During your visit to California, you will see some of the most unique traditions that people enjoy in the state. If you like being part of a huge public performance, then this is the best place for you because you will have a chance to join the crowd and participate.

Here people usually get several Christmas songs like “O Christmas tree”, and “Jingle Bells”. You are given the lyrics to the song, and you will be required to perform for the crowd.

It is an exceptional experience as the crowd is amazing and they like participating in the event as well.

Exploring Christmas markets in California

This is a common tradition among the people of California. There are various Christmas markets around the state, and you will have an exceptional time during your travel to the area as you get to explore them.

The Cambria Christmas market is one of the most popular locations that people visit. Here, you can get gingerbread for your Christmas meals. It is one of the most authentic German Christmas markets in the state.

The diversity of the state of California makes it a perfect destination for you to enjoy different traditions from different parts of the world. The market will give you a chance to enjoy traditional German drinks, foods as well as handcrafted products that are often completed by millions of nutcrackers, Christmas lights, and a visit from Santa.

Learn more about the Christmas traditions around the world:

Aurimas Bio

Hi there! I’m Aurimas, a man behind Go Look Explore. I’m passionate about hiking, exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, and everything outdoors related. Let’s connect.