There’s plenty to do for all the little elves (and adults too) throughout December.

Redwood City’s Hometown Holidays feature a parade with Santa among other festive events. (Photo courtesy Hometown Holidays)

For people who celebrate Christmas, the looming holiday on the 25th feels extra special if you grew up with the tradition of the advent calendar – a countdown leading up to the big day that’s most often celebrated with little chocolates. In that spirit, we’ve pulled together a selection of the most festive and fun Christmas, Hanukkah and Las Posadas celebrations happening throughout the Peninsula to give you activity and event options every day leading up to Dec. 25.

Looking for more? We also have a list of Peninsula holiday markets, and you can find an arts and entertainment-focused guide to holiday-related shows and events published by our sister publication the Palo Alto Weekly here

Dec. 1

Attend a tree lighting in San Bruno or Colma to ring in the new month with a round of holiday cheer. The ceremony in Colma includes a visit from Santa, hot chocolate and illuminating Town Hall, while the San Bruno ceremony includes those offerings plus live music and decorated windows to view. 

Dec. 2

Burlingame, San Carlos and Half Moon Bay are hosting evening festivities with lights, parades and more. Pacifica is set to host a Community Center  lighting, caroling and elf market Friday evening, plus more festivities over the weekend at its Holiday Extravaganza

Tiny tots and parents alike take in the festive scene as Caltrain’s Holiday Train stops by each December. (Palo Alto Weekly file photo)

Dec. 3

Want to see Santa travel in something more modern than a sleigh pulled by reindeer? St. Nick is arriving at the Hiller Aviation Museum by helicopter to visit and hear kids’ holiday wishes and will also appear on Caltrain’s Holiday Train Dec. 3 and 4, with stops in select cities (access the schedule here). Redwood City also hosts its tree lighting ceremony Dec. 3 with carolers and an oversized ornament on Courthouse Square for seasonal selfies. Palo Alto’s Cubberley Center is hosting a Swedish Holiday Market and festival. And for $100, you can have a spiritual adviser teach you about the winter solstice and how to make a Yule Log. 

Dec. 4

Pacifica hosts the Holly Jollypalooza offering live music, craft beer, wine and cocktails, food trucks and a gift expo. Double J Ranch is offering a photo op for kids to take family photos with Styx, Santa’s horse, in Montara. And Brisbane hosts its Festival of Lights with an inflatable toboggan, singing, a tree lighting and a visit from Santa. 

Dec. 5 

Enjoy family fun time at the Peninsula JCC’s Hanukkah-Palooza, featuring a juggler, a magician, crafts and games, plus food for purchase from the Waffle Roost food truck.

Dec. 6

Craft festive ornaments or stocking stuffers at the Campbell Library’s Adult Christmas Crafts night, which will have origami paper, fabric scraps and ribbon available for use. 

Dec. 7 

Take advantage of Redwood City’s Makerspace to assemble holiday crafts, cards, labels and packages. Or combine holiday festivities with networking at the Women in Business Council and National Association of Women Business Owners’ holiday party and silent auction at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara. Women and men are welcome. 

Dec. 8 

Bring an unwrapped toy to this Belmont fire station to help out with a toy drive and get a visit with Santa. 

Dec. 9 

Catch some classic holiday tunes at Menlo Church’s Christmas concert, featuring orchestral, choral and singalong components. 

Dec. 10 

Get fresh air and make some art at the Montalvo Arts Center’s “Holiday Chalk the Walk” celebration, encouraging visitors to make chalk art at Charmaine’s Garden Terrace in Saratoga, featuring hot chocolate and holiday music. Don your Santa suit for Redwood City’s third annual Santa Con pub crawl, starting at Courthouse Square. Or catch a hip-hop “Nutcracker” performance at Foothill College’s Smithwick Theatre or in San Mateo. Learn about holiday traditions from around the world at the San Mateo County History Museum’s craft event for kids. 

Dec. 11

Belmont’s Alpha Acid Brewing Co. is hosting a dog-friendly Rock and Roll Holiday Market featuring live music, craft beer and food from Satay By The Bay and Sweet Pipers, plus a number of vendors selling art, vintage clothes, jewelry, records and more. 

Visitors take pictures in the reception room at Filoli. (Photo by Michelle Le)

Dec. 12

Through Jan. 8, head to Filoli to stroll the historic gardens alight for the holiday season. Visit the ballroom to see seven different winter holidays – Kwanzaa, Oshogatsu, Yalda Night, Lunar New Year, Hanukkah, Las Posadas and Christmas – represented in different tablescapes. Many weekend dates are already sold out, so weekdays are a better bet. 

Dec. 13

San Mateo on Ice, an ice rink in the city’s Central Park, is hosting one of two free community ice-skating sessions. The rink is open through Jan. 8.  

Dec. 14

Take your pet to San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center for the last day of its pet portraits with Santa. Foster City hosts its tree-lighting ceremony with boats and other watercraft lit up to celebrate from the lagoon

Dec. 15

It’s the last weekend to catch “Elf: The Musical” at Hillbarn Theatre & Conservatory. Los Altos hosts its European-style holiday market downtown. 

Dec. 16

Enjoy a luxury holiday wine tasting at the San Francisco Wine School in South San Francisco celebrating Champagne and port, where you’ll see Champagne sabered, port tonged and snack on light bites – tickets are $195. 

Dec. 17

Head to Sunnyvale’s TETRA Hotel for a Puppy & Parent Ugly Sweater Contest – the winner gets a two-night weekend stay at the hotel and a $100 food and beverage credit. Plus, the hotel’s got live music, special Mrs. Claus drag performances and complimentary s’mores. 

Dec. 18 

Celebrate the start of Hanukkah at Redwood City’s Courthouse Square, where Chabad MidPen promises Northern California’s first graffiti menorah, latkes, donuts, arts and crafts and moon bounces. 

Dec. 19 

Palo Alto’s Museum of American Heritage highlights the creations of BAYLUG (the Bay Area Lego Users Group) and model train enthusiasts to showcase Lego mini cities and displays through Jan. 15. 

Dec. 20

Los Altos Hills neighbors are gathering to carol from neighborhood to neighborhood starting from Town Hall. Treats and drinks will be provided. 

An angel performs at “Bethlehem A.D.” in Redwood City. (Embarcadero Media file photo)

Dec. 21

Spread holiday cheer with a Las Posadas caravan traveling from farm to farm from San José to Half Moon Bay to sing Spanish Christmas songs and deliver tamales and gifts to farmworkers. 

Or see a live Nativity reenactment at Redwood City’s last “Bethlehem A.D.,” which aims to recreate the entire city of Bethlehem the night of the first Christmas through Dec. 23. (They’re also looking for participants. Costumes provided.) A Grape in the Fog hosts a speakeasy night for winter solstice with Prohibition-style cocktails and live music. And Menlo Park’s Springline hosts a holiday fest with a free movie night and hot cocoa bar in its new plaza. 

Dec. 22

Catch the Bay Area’s Allman Brothers tribute band, Freestone Peaches, and raise funds to support the Rich May Foundation at the Guild Theatre’s Holiday Jam in Menlo Park. 

Dec. 23

Get a break from the holiday carols with a live “Christmas in Space” concert by Orbit 17 at Winters Tavern in Pacifica. 

Dec. 24

Consider making a trip to see some holiday lights at Palo Alto’s Christmas Tree Lane or Eucalyptus Avenue in San Carlos, two Peninsula destinations for neighborhoods decked out in holiday decor.

Kate Bradshaw

Kate Bradshaw

Kate Bradshaw reports food news and feature stories all over the Peninsula, from south of San Francisco to north of San José. Since she began working with Embarcadero Media in 2015, she's reported on everything from Menlo Park's City Hall politics to Mountain View's education system. She has won awards from the California News Publishers Association for her coverage of local government, elections and land use reporting.

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