These are the best Christmas songs from California

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While walking through San Francisco recently, I stumbled upon a full-on Christmas carnival in Golden Gate Park, filled with delighted children, funnel cake vendors, and a Monterey cypress tree adorned with bright multicolored lights.

In other words, the California holiday season is in full swing.

In honor of the most wonderful time of the year, today I'm updating our Christmas 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 full soundtrack on Spotify here.

Feel free to send your own Christmas song recommendations to CAtoday@nytimes.com. Include your full name, the city you live in, and why you think the song deserves to be included on the list.

Happy listening.

“(I'm Having) Hanukkah in Santa Monica” by Tom Lehrer (1990)

Lehrer has said that he wrote this fun song to remedy the lack of Christmas songs focused on Hanukkah, and that he sees it as a kind of answer to the ever-popular “White Christmas.” Santa Monica seems to stand out solely for how well the coastal city rhymes with Hanukkah. A stellar line on the track: “In the midst of the California flora, I will light my menorah.”

“Merry Christmas” by José Feliciano (1970)

This is a must-have song for any California Christmas, and apparently it's also the most searched song in the state during the holidays.

“California Dreamin'” by The Mamas & The Papas (1965)

This classic presents “safe and warm” Los Angeles as the answer to the East Coast's winter weather problems. Michelle Phillips, the quartet's only surviving member, once told the Los Angeles Times: “I can't tell you how many times over the years people told me they moved to Los Angeles after hearing that song.”

“River” by Joni Mitchell (1971)

This melancholy Christmas tune was clearly written from Mitchell's home in Laurel Canyon: “But it doesn't snow here / It stays pretty green.” (My colleague, pop music critic Lindsay Zoladz, maintains that “River” doesn't qualify as Christmas music because she wants to listen to it year-round.)

“It's Christmas Once More in Santa Barbara” by Lois Mahalia (2013)

We love any recognition of one of California's most picturesque cities.

“California Christmastime” from the cast of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (2016)

The first line of 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 push it / This is our Christmas and we love it.”

“Where is Santa Claus?” from The Wolves (2019)

Frankly, the entire Christmas album by Los Lobos, a Mexican-American band from East Los Angeles, should be on the playlist. But we opted for this sensual gem to start.


Today's advice comes from Tamar Raine, who lives in Oakland:

“One of my favorites is the place my family used to go every winter to escape the Christmas madness. We are Jewish, so Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California provided us, as well as several Jehovah's Witnesses, several weeks of relief from the constant calls to 'buy, buy, buy.' We camped in an RV park that had water and sewer hookups, and the park had public showers with hot water, which my dad needed for his back problem.

My mother made potato pancakes at least twice, even though the caravan kitchen was small. My dad, my sister and I grated and grated potatoes. My sister and I unwrapped a small gift each night of Hanukkah. We would all bring our bikes and enjoy riding the wonderful flat trails. “I loved being able to see the stars and the moon so bright, away from the city lights.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future 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 you live in.


A new study by a travel publication has ranked three small California towns among the country's best destinations for a winter getaway.

The study, conducted by New York Travel Guides, compared data from more than 500 small cities across the United States and ranked them based on three main criteria: the city's popularity in winter, weather, and seasonal activities available. The resulting list of 110 locations is a guide to the most winter-friendly destinations to visit this season.



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