Christmas Traditions

What are some of your favorite Christmas/Holiday Traditions?

For me, Christmas isn’t really Christmas unless I do two things. One – bake Christmas cookies and two – cut down/pick out a Christmas tree. Now, picking up a tree from Safeway or Home Depot gets the job done, and can be cost effective, but for me and my family, it’s about more than just getting a tree.


Ever since I can remember, going out to get a tree was a special day. Some years it would just be me and my mom, and other years, we would go out with all my cousins and grandparents too. I didn’t realize how lucky we were to be growing up in Sonoma County, with some of the best tree farms in Northern California.

The whole process of finding the prefect tree would take at least a half a day. We would usually drive out to a farm in Sebastopol. The good ones had little gift shops with a fire burning, serving hot apple cider (the non-alcoholic kind) and hot chocolate. Free small candy canes, were pretty standard too. We would spend at least an hour or so walking through the trees. My mom would bring bits of yarn or ribbon, which we would tie to trees that were ‘contenders’. After looking at every possibility, we would usually go back to the first or second tree we had found. My mom would check out the base of the tree, and get into position with the saw. As she worked hard to chop down the tree, I would watch and prepare to yell ‘timber’. After the tree finally fell we would haul it up to the front of the farm, pay and load it into the car.

Then, onto stop number two. Until 2013, if you visited a tree farm in Sonoma County, you would receive a coupon for a free bag of apples at Twin Hills Ranch. (The Ranch has since been sold, and is no longer operating) Twin Hills was the  best – Old tractors and big dirt hills to climb on, hot apple pie and apple cider, a warm fire, homemade gifts, crafts and baked goods. It was magical….


Well, now that we have little ones of our own, and have moved to the Peninsula, new traditions are emerging. Still, cutting down a real Christmas tree is a special part of our holiday prep. Although tree farms are not as easy to find south of San Francisco. There are a number of them in Half Moon Bay, along highway 92.

Here are the highlights, along with a list from another local blog Red Tricycle:

NOTE: If you are driving out to Half Moon Bay on the weekends, be prepared for lots of traffic. Go mid-week if possible.

Lemos Farm: This one is our family favorite! We’ve been there the last four years, and it’s now firmly a part of our holiday traditions. It’s great for toddlers and young kids. They have a playground, petting zoo, small train, pony rides and more. (Bring cash, they don’t take cards, and check Groupon for deals before you go!) You can cut your own tree down for around $30, or buy a pre-cut noble fir (prices vary by height).

Santa’s Tree Farm & Village, the first tree farm you will reach when driving to Half Moon Bay via HWY 92, has a small train, mini putt putt course, a gift shop and more.

Half Moon Bay Nursery is a huge nursery, right along HWY 92. You can’t miss it. During the holiday season they sell potted Christmas trees. Not the best for kids, but awesome if you have a green thumb and are looking for rare varieties or a huge selection.

4C’s Christmas Tree Farm Located along HWY 92, and, as a bonus, next door to a winery. This is a typical tree farm with different varieties of trees. No train or pony ride, but did I mention that it’s next door to a winery?

Ski Lane Tree Farm is located on HWY 1, (Take HWY 92 into Half Moon Bay, turn right at the stop lights for HWY 1, and it’s not far) They offer pre-cut trees. It’s a simple stop along the road, but it looked like they had nice trees.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Sugar Cookies – A Family Tradition at Christmas




About Michelle Laker

A California native; I spent 10 years living, studying, working, (and falling in love) in the United Kingdom. I returned to the Bay Area in 2011, with my British husband in tow. I am re-adjusting to life in the bay, feeling more like an expat than a local. I have spent my career working with international student & families. I love learning about other cultures, languages, and traditions. My desire to welcome newcomers, and help you make the most of your new life in the Bay Area comes from the unforgettable memories (and mistakes) I made during my time in the United Kingdom. If you've just arrived, and don't know where to start, email me ( I am happy to help!

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