While on a walk in San Francisco recently, I stumbled upon a full-on Christmas carnival in Golden Gate Park, replete with delighted children, funnel cake vendors and a Monterey cypress strung with glowing multicolored lights.
In other words, California’s holiday season is in full swing.
In honor of the most wonderful time of the year, today I’m updating our holiday soundtrack, a collection of California songs for the season based largely on your recommendations. Last week I started the playlist with the Beach Boys and Merle Haggard, and today I’m adding seven more songs. You can listen to the entire soundtrack on Spotify here.
Feel free to send your own holiday song recommendations to CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your full name, the city in which you live and why you think the song deserves to be included on the list.
“(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica” by Tom Lehrer (1990)
Lehrer has said that he wrote this amusing song to remedy a lack of Hanukkah-focused holiday songs, and that he sees it as a kind of answer to the ever-popular “White Christmas.” Santa Monica seems to be featured solely because of how well the beach town rhymes with Hanukkah. A stellar line on the track: “Amid the California flora, I’ll be lighting my menorah.”
“Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano (1970)
This is a must-have for any California Christmas, and also apparently the most searched-for song in the state around the holidays.
“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas (1965)
This classic casts “safe and warm” L.A. as the answer to the East Coast’s winter weather woes. Michelle Phillips, the only surviving member of the quartet, once told The Los Angeles Times: “I can’t tell you how many times through the years people told me they moved to L.A. after they heard that song.”
“River” by Joni Mitchell (1971)
This melancholy Christmas tune was clearly written from Mitchell’s Laurel Canyon home: “But it don’t snow here / It stays pretty green.” (My colleague, the pop music critic Lindsay Zoladz, argues that “River” doesn’t qualify as holiday music because she wants to listen to it year-round.)
“It’s Christmas Once Again in Santa Barbara” by Lois Mahalia (2013)
We love any shout out to one of California’s most picturesque cities.
“California Christmastime” by the cast of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (2016)
The opening line from this song from the wonderfully strange TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” tells you everything you need to know: “Well, you can take your snow and shove it / This is our Christmas and we love it.”
“¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” by Los Lobos (2019)
Frankly, the entire Christmas album from Los Lobos, a Mexican American band from East L.A., should be on the playlist. But we went with this sultry gem to start us off.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Tamar Raine, who lives in Oakland:
“One of my favorites is where my family used to go every winter to escape the Christmas craziness. We are Jewish, so Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California provided us, as well as a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses, several weeks of relief from the constant calls to ‘buy, buy, buy!’ We camped in a trailer park that had water and sewage hookups, and the park had public hot showers, which my dad needed for his bad back.
My mother would make potato pancakes at least twice, although the trailer kitchen was tiny. My dad, sister and I would grate and grate potatoes. My sister and I would unwrap one small gift each night of Hanukkah. We would all bring our bikes and enjoy riding the wonderful flat paths. I loved being able to see the stars and the moon so bright, away from the lights in the city.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
As 2023 comes to a close, tell us what the best part of your year was. Did you have a big birthday, start a new job or adopt a pet? Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your name and the city in which you live.
And before you go, some good news
A new study by a travel publication has ranked three small towns in California among the best destinations in the country for a wintry getaway.
The study, conducted by New York Travel Guides, compared data from more than 500 small towns across America and ranked them according to three main criteria: the popularity of the town in the winter, the weather and the seasonal activities available. The resulting list of 110 places is a guide to the most winter-friendly destinations to visit this season.