From Grass Valley to Sonora, locals celebrate the season throughout the month of December. Since most of the communities in the foothills are too low for snow, residents must travel to higher elevations for a white Christmas. With heavy high-Sierra snowfall beginning in early November this year, the snow is easy to find. Snowboarding, skiing, old-fashioned sleigh rides--all these activities abound close by.

The holidays in the foothills reflect both historic and modern heritages. Contemporary rituals--tree lighting, visits by Santa or family outings in search of the perfect Christmas tree--all of these activities take place in dozens of towns large and small throughout the foothills.

In El Dorado County, Apple Hill and the Georgetown Divide, for example, feature dozens of Christmas tree farms where families can choose and cut trees for reasonable prices. And thousands of families do just that.

But many local holiday rituals honor the legacy of the California Gold Rush. Columbia State Historic Park, for example, features candlelight tours of the old buildings. The City Hotel there features magnificent Victorian banquets, held this year until December 19. The dinners have become a favorite holiday season activity for hundreds of people. Hotel employees are dressed in period costume and assume 1800's personalities. Black tie or costume dress is encouraged.

At Christmas in Coloma, visitors enjoy wreath making, costumed docents and old fashioned music.

And there's so much more. Check with local groups on schedules.

(Above) On a cold December evening, cloggers on Mill Street in Grass Valley keep warm with some lively stepping during Cornish Christmas, celebrated December 10 and 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. Cornish miners worked the fabulously wealth underground gold mines here for many years.

(Left) In this long night-time exposure with flash, a visitor on Mill Street warms up with some home-made chili.

Christmas in Coloma - Sun, December 10, 2006
In this annual event, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park recreates an old-fashioned, 1850s Christmas, with period crafts, music, strolling musicians, historic trade demonstrations, 19th century Christmas programs and plays, and wreath making. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information contact 530-295-2170 or 530-622-3470.

(Below) Snow seldom falls in Coloma in the winter, so local road contractor Doug Veerkamp brings a truckload of snow every year for the kids to play in at Christmas in Coloma.

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