The 12 Ways of Christmas

New traditions pair well with the past for a simple and memorable holiday season.

Holiday season cooking

On the first day of Christmas, San Diego gave to me… a holiday that is simple and carefree. This year, FINE magazine decided to stick to the basics, updating past traditions and focusing on what’s really important. Here are 12 of our finest suggestions.

Twelve Seats at Dinner

Let’s trade in hors d’oeuvres and small talk for fine dining and conversation. Pass on the Gatsby-esque extravaganza, and focus on a simple time with your closest friends. When the emphasis is on quality over quantity, you have more time to savor the moment and reflect on the past year.

If cooking is your forte, pull out all the holiday stops and craft a feast for the amount of people you feel comfortable hosting—might we recommend the Burgundy Tri-Tip, a.k.a. “Cardiff Crack,” from Cardiff Seaside Market ( as the centerpiece? And if you’d rather steer clear of the kitchen altogether, there’s a bevy of caterers to handle the work for you, among them The French Gourmet ( and Waters Fine Food & Catering (waterscatering). Either way, prioritize people over spectacle, and we promise you won’t even miss your second cousin’s latest boyfriend.

Eleven Smiling Strangers

December remains a time of giving, a holiday tradition that never grows old—and bringing the whole family in on it makes it that much sweeter. And there’s no shortage of charities that need support during the holidays. For example, Community Christian Service Agency’s Clairemont Service Center sponsors the Christmas Family program, where your family can provide food and gifts for a low-income family. Its Pacific Beach center provides holiday bags for homeless clients containing knit gloves and hats, stamped Christmas cards, hygiene items and holiday candy ( It’s a simple way to spread the spirit to someone you never met.

Ten Toes on Main Street

Skip the stress of crowded malls, and hit the Main Streets for your holiday shopping. San Diego’s neighborhoods, from the Gaslamp to La Jolla to Rancho Santa Fe, boast charming shops with unique finds. From clothing and jewelry boutiques, to one-of-a-kind pieces crafted by local artisans, Main Street has you covered, including some of our favorite spots: Peaches en Regalia in Del Mar (, Made In Earth Jewelry at the Del Mar Plaza ( and Le Dimora Home Decor in Del Mar ( And if you’re hesitant to break the department store tradition, remember shopping locally directly benefits our communities. In fact, according to Think Local First, a regional initiative headed by The San Diego North Chamber of Commerce, $45 to $68 of every $100 spent at a locally owned business goes back into the community and tax base. It’s just one more thing to feel good about as you stroll in the fresh air and pop into local shops and cafes.

Nine Personalized Letters

First things first, the best holiday cards are still those with photos. Some might think photos are everywhere Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.... Social media has gone crazy with the photos, but there is still nothing better than print. Yes, a printed photos will bring a smile to your face. If your card has a photo it increases the odds of the recipient hanging on to the card, or even displaying it. I know for myself I did out all the old cards with photos year after year and proudly display them. 

If you are one of those people who doesn't like to take photos we officially give you permission to forgo the awkward family photo. Everyone has Facebook anyway. This year, take a break and send handwritten greetings to the select few you know will appreciate it. Nothing will leave an impression on your sister or grandmother like a sincere letter that shows you really care. You can make it nicer with some high-end stationery shops like Ink By Kimberli Parker in Hillcrest ( and Seaside Papery in Coronado (, you’re sure to find the perfect canvas for your heartfelt sentiment.

Eight Yoga Poses

This season, take time to breathe. During the hectic holiday season, it’s easy to put your health on hold. So why not put yoga at the top of your list? Yoga Smoga located in La Jolla ( has your relaxation covered for the holidays. Or you can practice at home, running through the eight basic postures of a sun salutation. By the end, you’ll feel ready to face whatever challenges the holidays may bring.

Yoga Smoga

Seven Fishes Feasting

What better time to sample local sea fare than The Feast of the Seven Fishes? An Italian-American celebration, this Christmas Eve feast typically consists of seven different seafood dishes—but we won’t blame you for starting with just a few. It’s a great tradition to anticipate the arrival of Christmas and to savor tastes that are uniquely San Diego.

Six Happy Hostesses

Surrender the cookies and mugs filled with candy. Give hosts—and teachers, hairdressers, and neighbors—a useful gift they’ll actually appreciate. Share a bottle of gourmet olive oil from Temecula Olive Oil Company ( or some Lady Primrose home and body products from Wysh Boutique in Carlsbad ( From a fine bottle of wine to gourmet coffee beans to Voluspa luxury candles (, a little extra thought can go a long way.

Five O’clock Sunsets

One positive of daylight saving time is you can catch a sunset a little early. Take a few moments in the afternoon to relish your view of the west with your family. It’s like enjoying your own personal holiday light show.

Health in San Diego Yoga

Four Sticks for Roasting

When the sun goes down, engage in a true San Diego experience and host a bonfire on the beach. Cuddle up with your family or friends, make some s’mores and tell … Christmas stories. It’s the perfect time to read classics like “The Night Before Christmas” or “A Christmas Carol.” And don’t be surprised if things get a little musical—the only thing better than campfire songs are Christmas ones.

Three Spa Treatments

OK, the gifts for everyone else are bought and wrapped—now it’s your turn. Indulge in the trifecta this December with a manicure, massage, or a facial. Many local spas offer holiday-themed packages to get you in the spirit. And if you just can’t stop with three, add a Microneedling at Image Spa in Encinitas ( or DNA Cryostem Cell Therapy at Beautiful You Skin & Body Rejuvenation ( It’s time to have yourself a merry little Christmas.

San Diego Spas Image Spa

Two Orders of Room Service

If you’re looking for a little romance, why not escape to a local resort? San Diego locales offer excellent staycation opportunities, and the holiday season can be the best time to take advantage of them. At the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, you can laze the day away with the “Elves and Eggnog” package, which includes breakfast in bed for two. Or slip away to Kona Kai Resort & Marina on Shelter Island ( for a private bonfire for two. 

Christmas gift Luxury Hotels

San Diego locales offer excellent staycation opportunities, and the holiday season can be the best time to take advantage of them.

And a Partridge in a Live Tree

Tired of setting up the tree every year? Cap off the holiday with a live Christmas tree, embellished by a string of lights and a few small ornaments. You’ll love the simplicity of it and the environment will love how green it is. You can even rent a tree from The Living Christmas Co. ( or adopt a live potted tree delivered by singing, dancing elves ( And once the season is over, plant the tree in your yard. It will be a testament to your simple and memorable holiday.