This holiday season is a time to stick close to home and stay healthy rather than traveling afar or gathering in big groups. However, it doesn't mean the community is lacking for seasonal cheer that can be enjoyed from a safe distance, whether it's via livestream, from a vehicle, or outdoors in the fresh air (bring your masks).
While the coronavirus has curtailed many holiday plans and activities this year, Filoli House and Garden in Woodside is among those local organizations keeping spirits bright. As in past years, a plethora of programs will be offered, including outdoor light displays, cozy fire pits and special theme nights. The major difference this year is the need for masks, social distancing and advanced reservations (the house is currently closed, as of Nov. 29, thanks to San Mateo County's move into the state's purple tier).
"With the challenges we have all experienced in 2020, hope for a season that brings peace and calm is central as Filoli serves our community as a place of respite. To spread the season of cheer, we have extended our Holidays program into January 2021 and, for the first time, we will be open every night of the week for Holiday Lights," said Chief Executive Officer Kara Newport.
A recent media preview was a bright and festive escape, in spite of a steady rainfall. The lights in the garden are dazzling and have been extended into two new areas, the Woodland Garden and the Garden Court. Seasonal music sets the tone for a casual walk through the gardens, with the opportunity to stop for a hot cider or mulled wine.
Those in the mood for shopping can stop by the Clock Tower Shop, where everything from ornaments to food products to clothing is available. It is also beautifully decorated and smells, well, it smells like the holidays.
And if all of this walking and shopping has built up an appetite, the Quail's Nest Café serves soups, salads and sandwiches (limited outdoor seating), as well as holiday cookies. Beer and wine are also on the menu.
If your visit takes place on a Monday, you can participate in a Theme Night: Holiday Hats (Dec. 7), Holiday Pajama Party (Dec. 14), Night Lights (Dec. 21; sold out) and Vintage Christmas (Dec. 28). And it would not be the holidays without Ugly Sweater Day on Friday, Dec. 18. Wear yours and you might win a prize. Finally, the big man himself, Santa Claus, will be on hand the three Saturdays prior to Christmas for a safe-distance selfie.
For a full list of events and activities and to make reservations, information is available at filoli.org.
Some more December holiday highlights are presented below.
Event info is subject to change with short notice; check directly with organizations to confirm.
To search for more listings, or to submit your own, check out our community calendar.
Palo Alto Players' 'Holiday Family Sing Along'
What: For the third in its Homebound Cabaret series, Palo Alto Players invites audiences to sing and dance along with actors performing holiday classics and more offbeat festive tunes.
When: Streaming Dec. 4-13.
More information: paplayers.org.
What: Children's musician and singer-songwriter Melita Silberstein will perform a virtual holiday concert for families, hosted by Stanford Research Park.
When: Streaming Dec. 8 at 5 p.m.
More information: stanfordresearchpark.com.
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 'Simple Gifts'
What: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley presents an online multicultural celebration of diverse holiday traditions, featuring songs and stories from winter celebrations including Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, Noche Buena, Diwali and Las Posadas.
When: Streaming Dec. 10-28.
More information: theatreworks.org.
What: The Oshman Family JCC is offering access to "Holiday Shorts" by Hank Kimmel, a series of comedic short plays with holiday themes.
When: Streaming Dec. 10-23.
More information: paloaltojcc.org.
'The Christmas Ballet'
What: Smuin Contemporary Ballet presents its first virtual edition of the annual "Christmas Ballet," featuring its trademark blend of classical ballet with holiday tunes and styles including tap, jazz and swing.
When: Streaming Dec. 11-24.
More information: smuinballet.org.
'Brocelïande Winter Solstice Concert: Wassail!'
What: Celtic/Medieval ensemble Brocelïande will celebrate the winter solstice with a virtual concert featuring winter dances, carols, and ballads from many times and places, hosted by East West Book Store.
When: Streaming Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.
More information: eastwestbooks.org.
'Taylor Mac's Holiday Sauce…Pandemic!'
What: Stanford Live will present access to the multitalented Taylor Mac and a crew of collaborators celebrating the glorious dysfunction of the holidays, through music, burlesque, film and more, followed by a virtual after party.
When: Streaming Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.
More information: live.stanford.edu.
What: The Oshman Family Jewish Community Center hosts an online Hanukkah celebration. Participants are invited to bring a hanukkiah (menorah) to light and enjoy a Hanukkah sing-along led by Bay Area musician Isaac Zones. Registration required.
When: Streaming Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m.
More information: isaaczones.com.
Ragazzi Boys Chorus 'Beyond the Stars'
What: Ragazzi Boys Chorus will livestream its holiday concert, with its local youth choristers singing in real time from home.
When: Streaming Dec. 13, at 4 p.m.
More information: ragazzi.org.
'A Virtual Chanticleer Christmas - From Darkness to Light'
What: Chanticleer — the Bay Area a cappella ensemble — can't perform its traditional Stanford University holiday concert but it can present an online version, complete with candlelight procession.
When: Streaming Dec. 15-Jan. 1.
More information: chanticleer.org.
'Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol'
What: Stanford Live members and Stanford University students can access Manual Cinema's world premiere adaptation of the Dickens Christmas ghost story classic — involving Zoom calls, puppets and visual innovations.
When: Streaming Dec. 17-19.
More information: live.stanford.edu.
What: The Choral Project and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra presents a virtual version of their annual holiday concert, "Winter's Gifts."
When: Streaming Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.
More information: choralproject.org.
'Hershey Felder Tchaikovsky'
What: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley favorite Hershey Felder is currently based in Florence, Italy. Thanks to livestreaming, local audiences can catch "Hershey Felder Tchaikovsky," a spinoff of "Our Great Tchaikovsky" with an extended emphasis on "The Nutcracker," online.
When: Streaming Dec. 20-27.
More information: hersheyfelderlive.com.
What: John Bianco continues his late father's tradition of putting on a holiday model-train display, this year running on indoor tracks (visible through windows) only. Engines and trains change daily.
When: Planned to run Wednesdays-Sundays from about 6:30-9 p.m. through Christmas Day.
Where: 2387 Adele Ave., Mountain View.
Christmas Crèche Exhibit (online)
What: The 33rd annual event presented by the Menlo Park and Los Altos Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints goes virtual this year with an online exhibit of photos and videos of Christmas crèches submitted by the community.
More information: christmascreche.org.
What: The San Mateo County Historical Association will offer a virtual presentation on holiday traditions from around the world, plus a recorded concert from the San Francisco State University Handbell Choir.
When: Streaming Dec. 5 at 10 a.m.
More information: historysmc.org.
Gamble Garden Festival of Trees (online)
What: Visitors can enjoy a virtual "stroll" among holiday trees decorated by creative individuals, groups, and organizations. All trees are available for purchase by online silent auction with proceeds benefiting Gamble Garden.
When: Online Dec. 4-5.
More information: gamblegarden.org.
Palo Alto Christmas: a Visual Christmas Experience
What: Four local churches are inviting visitors to each of their campuses to enjoy a socially distanced scavenger hunt by car, bike or on foot to spot items hidden among holiday decorations. After visiting each church, guests can register their findings online and be entered in a prize drawing for gift cards, a Kindle and an iPad.
When: Dec. 12-25, 5-10 p.m.
More information: paloaltochristmas.com.
Christmas Tree Lane
What: Every year, neighbors along two blocks of Palo Alto's Fulton Avenue adorn their yards and houses with lights and festive displays. This year will mark the 80th anniversary of this beloved neighborhood tradition.
When: Dec. 12-31, 5-10 p.m.
Where: 1700 and 1800 blocks of Fulton Avenue, Palo Alto
More information: christmastreelane.org.
What: Downtown Redwood City's annual celebration is planned to go on with COVID-19 precautions in place. Participants must register in advance for a slot in the car parade, from which they can spot Santa, collect treats and observe music and decorations.
When: Dec. 19, 3-6 p.m.
Where: Downtown Redwood City (directions will be released upon registration).
More information: hometownholidays.org.
Homage to the Holidays Video
What: The City of Los Altos, Festival of Lights Parade Association and Town of Los Altos Hills present a video homage to local holiday traditions — the Town of Los Altos Hills Barn Lighting, the City of Los Altos Holiday Lights and Street Decorations, Festival of Lights Float Display — airing on local access TV.
When: The video airs Dec. 6-Jan. 3 Saturdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. and Wednesdays at noon on KMVT 15 (Silicon Valley Community Media Comcast Channel 15, Uverse Channel 99).
More information: losaltoshills.ca.gov.
German Holiday Market
What: German International School of Silicon Valley's annual Germany holiday market is virtual this year, available online and offering an array of traditional German holiday treats.
When: Through Dec. 20.
More information: germanholidaymarket.org.
Palo Alto Art Center Holiday Sale
What: Palo Alto Art Center artists in a variety of media are selling their creations in a virtual holiday sale (orders placed online and then picked up on site).
When: Online through Dec. 6.
More information: paacfshop.org.
FabMo Artisan Showcase
What: An online showcase of creations by about 60 artisans that features unique clothing, fine art, fashion accessories, jewelry, home decor items, gifts, toys and dolls and holiday items, all crafted at least in part from FabMo's stock of discontinued designer samples that have been rescued and repurposed.
When: Through Dec. 31.
More information: fabmo.org.
What: The Oshman Family Jewish Community Center has partnered with Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen to present a contactless drive-thru pop-up where visitors can purchase all the trimmings for a Hanukkah meal. Pre-order and pick up; early orders are encouraged.
When: Dec. 10, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (pickup)
Where: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
More information: facebook.com.
Sheryl Nonnenberg is a contributing writer to Palo Alto Online.