‘Tis the season for parties, delicious food… and memorable holiday traditions.
From tree and menorah lightings to parades and festivals, every city has at least one holiday event that brings joy and warmth to residents as the cold winter days approach.
Today, we’re sharing traditions from five cities, big and small, that we feel embody the spirit of the season. So sit back, relax — preferably with a hot cocoa or warm cider in hand — and take a trip with us to:
For eight years, Santa has been coming to Dana Point to surf for a good cause. Surfers and paddle boarders donning Santa-themed wet suits dot the Pacific in a race that you’d likely never see at the North Pole. Proceeds from the race and the annual holiday surfboard auction go towards Surfers Healing, a non-profit whose mission is to provide children with autism the gift of surfing.
Bethlehem — also referred to as “Christmas City USA” — goes all out for Christmas. From Christmas markets that attract a million shoppers per season (Bethlehem has just over 75,000 residents) to the nation’s only live advent calendar and a local beer specially brewed for Christmas, this Pennsylvania city knows how to do the holidays right. Yet, one of their most special traditions is the ethnic Christmas tree exhibit, which displays trees decorated to represent 18 of the cultures that settled in Bethlehem. Represented in the tree display are Polish, German, Lithuanian, Slovakian, Irish, Portuguese, English, Latino, Hungarian, Italian, Grecian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Ukrainian, African-American, Slovenian and Windish traditions.
What weighs two tons and stands 36 feet tall? Why, it’s the New York City Menorah, of course! Considered to be the largest menorah in the world — there’s a 62 foot tall one in Indonesia deemed not kosher because worshipers have to strain their necks to see it — rabbis and mayors alike have needed to be hoisted by a hydraulic lift to light it.
Every year, on the first weekend in December, hundreds of Santas descend upon Breckenridge, Colorado, for the jolliest of races. You’ll see people with the iconic hats, red jackets and beards running down Main Street in an event that’s about as perfect as the Breckenridge holiday dog parade, which takes place on the same weekend.
“Reveillon” dinners are New Orleans’ response to the hunger that many churchgoers feel during the late hours after midnight mass. A Creole tradition, these dinners paired popular breakfast foods like eggs, breads and puddings (and the occasional veal or turtle soup) with fortified drinks like wine and cordial. The word “reveillon” was derived from the French word for “awakening,” and indeed, these feasts can last for hours, even until dawn. And although they originated in homes, reveillon dinners are now served at dozens of restaurants throughout the city.
Regardless of how or what you celebrate, we at NLC wish you a happy holidays!
About the Author: Laura Cofsky is the communications specialist for NLC’s Center for City Solutions.