Season’s Leanings: How to Do The Holidays The L.A. Way

Staying in town through New Year’s Day? From decorating palm trees to lacing up for a holiday hike, L.A. has plenty of traditions worth celebrating

It can be hard to tell what time of year it is in Los Angeles. This week the temperature sprang up to the mid-eighties, then fell back down to the high-fifties. It yo-yoed around in a way that made Angelenos feel like they were living in a Miami/Portland hybrid. And those two things definitely do not belong together. Former residents returning to L.A. from elsewhere probably know to check the weather report before hoping on their flights to L.A.X.—then shrug that report off. Those who (still) live in Los Angeles and who love Los Angeles have made peace with the city’s natural moodiness. The city doesn’t get as chilled a Christmas as most other places in the world, and what it does get isn’t predictable…but that’s kind of cute! Those Santa Anas howling on Christmas Eve make our Santa chimes sing all the louder. The sporadic near 90-degree days are cause for a holiday swim in whatever heated pool you can find.

L.A.’s December temps have led to more than one local tradition. For example, the Holiday Hike. A sacred if crowded getaway on any normal day, the Holiday Hike is something entirely more special. There are fewer people on the trails on the days around Christmas and New Years, so the views remain wide and clear. Everyone is so damn cheery, too. The only thing as charming as the Holiday Hike is taking a bottle of champagne and sitting on the beach with a warm blanket on Christmas evening, which is another way to use (Or maybe abuse?) L.A. at Christmastime.

Another classic? Decorating a palm tree. This sounds so dumb but, hey, palms are our version of evergreens. We owe them the same respect Douglas Firs and White Spruces and Scotch Pines get this time of year. There’s sand sledding—the act of grabbing some sort of ride from a sports store and finding a safe sand berm, then sledding!—too. Here: Mommy Poppins will explain.

Other L.A. traditions aren’t observed anywhere else in the world. Where else can you spend Christmas Day watching movie screeners that a friend of a friend of a friend in the Academy has lent you? For New Year’s Day, we have the Tournament of Roses, a celebration happening at the “coldest time of year” surrounding the re-blooming plants.

Ice skating in shorts in Pershing Square. Shopping at a Farmers’ Market without a coat on. Indulging in the fake snow at The Grove. These little things—the oxy morons-like events, the happenings that traditionally shouldn’t be happening—make the holidays so special here at home. We are a non-conformist city that isn’t like everywhere else in the world, even when tradition takes hold—and that’s why we love it so much.

If that’s not for you, fine: you can drive to Lake Arrowhead or Big Bear or Mammoth for something whiter and colder. We’ll be here, likely in our short sleeves and cutoffs, when you get back home.

Kyle Fitzpatrick is a writer, an infrequent performer, and a lover of dogs, art, shorts, champagne, and L.A. You can find his musings Fridays on CityThink. For more, check out his locally focused art, design, and culture website, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.