While it is easy to get caught up in Christmas present (gifts), we should not forget Christmas past (its heritage). Christmas is a holiday wrapped up in traditions, from jolly St. Nick to mistletoe kisses and those tree ornaments that have been handed down from generation to generation. Soak up the historic side of Christmas at holiday events all around Southern California.
Heritage Square (3800 Homer Ave., L.A.) will offer its Holiday Lamplight Celebration at 4 p.m. Dec. 6-7, when you can take guided evening tours of these historic Victorian-style houses. Advance reservations are required, and the tour is recommended for ages 6 and up. Tickets: $30 adults, $15 ages 6 and older; www.heritagesquare.org.
The Grier Musser Museum (403 S. Bonnie Brae St., L.A.) also offers a glimpse into Victorian Christmas celebrations at its annual holiday party from 1-5 p.m. Dec. 7. You can take guided tours of this lovingly restored Queen Anne house at 1 and 3 p.m. and enjoy refreshments. Advance reservations are requested for these tours as well. Tickets: $12 adults; $6 children; www.griermussermuseum.org.
You also can experience a Victorian Christmas at the Banning Museum (401 E. M St., Wilmington). There will be period-inspired storytelling, ornament making, carolers, crafts, museum tours Santa visits from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 6-7. The museum also hopes to unveil a replica of Phineas Banning’s first stagecoach. Free; www.thebanningmuseum.org.
A horse-drawn trolley will trek visitors between the Banning Museum and the nearby Drum Barracks Civil War Museum (1052 Banning Blvd., Wilmington), which offers a Civil War-era yuletide event from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 6-7. Check out the vintage holiday artifacts and listen to seasonal songs that will be performed on a restored 1864 Steinway piano. Free; www.drumbarracks.org.
Find out what Christmas was like when California was young at A Rancho Christmas, 1-4 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Autry National Center (4700 Western Heritage Way, L.A). Learn about work at a ranch, go on a themed scavenger hunt, and dance the fandango. Tickets: $10 adults, $4 ages 3-12; www.theautry.org.
At Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site (4600 N. Virginia Rd. Long Beach) visitors can experience how Christmas was celebrated in Southern California circa 1878. Theatrical vignettes will reveal what daily life was like on a local sheep farm in the late 19th century, and there will be holiday snacks and songs to enjoy from 1-4 p.m. Dec. 7. Tickets: $3 per person; $10 per family; www.rancholoscerritos.org.
Down around Olvera Street’s Paseo de la Plaza, the Christmas celebrations trace back to an even older era. The Virgen de Guadalupe Celebration Dec. 11-12 has its roots in the 16th century, while the traditional Las Posadas Dec. 16-24 represents the nine-day trek that Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem and includes a candlelight procession filled with music and the breaking of a piñata. Free; www.calleolvera.com.