Can anyone recommend a Christmas event in the area? I would like to do something special during the holiday season. I am looking for something that is low-key, that keeps Christmas magical and not commercial.
- Check out Festival of the Lights at Vasona Park (Los Gatos), Christmas in the Park (San Jose) and Nutcracker at Zeum. Los Gatos and Los Altos have carriage rides at Christmas time. Try to book early.
- Christmas in the Park in San Jose is fun for some Santa magic. Live groups perform, and there are carnival rides. Go in the evening if you can, when all of the lights are on. They also have an outdoor ice-skating rink and plenty of family-friendly restaurants nearby.
- The Festival of Lights in Los Altos is really nice. It’s very crowded, but there are tons of really nice, lit floats as well as school bands and such.
- On the more commercial/expensive side we always go to San Francisco. We go to Union Square and ice skate and look at all the shops, go out to lunch and often drive or take the cable cars to Ghirardelli Square for hot fudge sundaes.
- Christmas Tea at Top of the Mark in SF is very nice. Great magician!
- I love the Velveteen Rabbit by ODC/Dance in San Francisco!
- A favorite of my kids’ is Bethlehem AD. A church in Redwood City, plus hundreds of volunteers, transforms a vacant lot into the village of Bethlehem in the year 0 AD. I believe it’s open the last three nights before Christmas Eve.
- Check out “Bethlehem” in Santa Clara—a walk through the Christmas story. We really enjoyed it last year. It is free, but they can really use the donations.
A very special tradition for my family is Filoli’s Christmas event. My mother and I started taking my daughter to their annual Christmas Lunch with Santa when my daughter was 2. It’s become quite the tradition and is something we all look forward to. Although the house is open and filled with boutique items for sale, we actually don’t do much shopping. The kids love the puppet and magic shows in the grand ballroom, as well as the opportunity to explore the grounds, jump in the leaf piles, run through the rose garden, etc. It’s become one of their favorite holiday traditions and something they will always remember fondly. I believe you have to order tickets well in advance but something to put on your calendar for next year.
- Holiday trains include the Niles Canyon Railway’s Polar Express, Roaring Camp in Feltonand the Fantasy Train of Lights in Los Gatos.
- Also check out Bay Area Kid Fun for ideas a little closer to Christmas.
Holiday Tipping: Who and How much?
What is the protocol on giving a gift or bonus to a cleaner, gardener, nanny, etc. for the holidays? Who do you tip, and how much do you give?
- I’m not sure yet but somewhere in the range of $200-$500 as well as personal gifts for every member of her immediate family.
- Tipping is really out of control here. I think nanny pay is outrageous as well, given the economy. I agree with $200-$500 for nanny. I would only give gifts to her family if I know them well, but I don’t.
- We give our nanny about one week’s salary, in cash—normally she’s paid through a payroll service.
- When we had a nanny I’d give her $150-$400 depending on economy and what kind of bonuses my husband and I were getting.
- We usually give a personal gift, but no money.
- Since I have a service and pay by leaving a check in the owners’ name on the counter, for the holidays I always give the women who actually do the work the same amount I pay weekly but in cash (I hand it directly to them and tell them it’s for them and not the owner).
- I tip our housekeeper with one week’s salary.
- I give them half of what I’m paying them every time, so $40-$50.
- I give my housecleaners an extra week’s pay in cash and make it clear it is for her. (I don’t have a big service but there is more than one cleaner and the owner of the business.) This is the first year we have a gardener, but I guess I’ll do the same for them.
- No money, but I usually give a small gift of food.
- I give a box of cookies, and this year I might splurge on a box of cupcakes.
- I usually tip gardeners with food.
- I’ve heard it’s appropriate to tip gardeners, babysitters, and house cleaners an extra month’s pay—so if you pay your gardener $150 per month, then the holiday “bonus” should also be $150.
- I have a gardener and a house cleaner. They each get $100 for the holidays. I try to give it right after Thanksgiving so they have it to spend on their families before the holidays.
- If your kid’s class doesn’t organize a group gift, then a gift card or gift basket is a nice teacher gift.
- I think a money tip would be insulting since they are less servants than community leaders. I always give a nice gift such as a fancy homemade item and a gift certificate to a spa or something like that. I give something to all of my kids’ teachers with the nicest gifts going to the teachers that spend the most time with them. Teachers are so underpaid that my main goal is to make sure they feel appreciated.
- I gave teachers gifts from preschool through elementary school—some years a class gift if someone organized one and some years a personal gift, but it was never very extravagant. (My elementary school had a book of “Teacher Favorites” so you could find their favorite book store, coffee shop, restaurant, etc.).
- I just started teachers last year and chose to give them each a Starbucks card. They get SO many sweets I think that most would prefer something different. In the past we’ve also given Whole Foods gift cards as a class.
- Besides school teachers I also get small gifts for the teachers my daughter sees a lot—her dance teacher she’s been going to for 7 years, her gymnastics coach, etc.
- Teachers are the hardest because there are so many of them. We usually do a group gift for school teachers, and when we don’t I buy Macy’s card for $40-$50. For activities teachers (dance, music, gymnastics, soccer) I buy Starbucks cards for $20. I don’t want to give cash, and I feel most people do Starbucks at least occasionally.
- In the boom days I gave the garbage collectors $20 but did not leave anything the last several years. Not sure why I should feel obligated to tip.
- I have never tipped the garbage men, newspaper people or the mail person.
- Newspaper people: when I had newspaper delivery they would leave these notes around this time of year with their names on them, which I personally found annoying.
- I don’t tip garbage or postal—if I knew either well enough, I’d give them some cookies. Money feels tacky, especially given their benefits and pensions.
- I used to tip garbage & mailmen, but after a few years realized that our normal garbage & mailmen took holidays on Christmas week and I was giving gifts to subs, so I stopped doing that.
- I think it’s nice to give a card with cookies or a small treat to garbage men, mailman, paper person, etc.
- I used to spend $50 on my secretary’s Christmas gift, and that was in addition to the other 2-3 lawyers she served each year AND the firm’s Christmas bonus.
- I also tip extra to my hairdresser and manicurist when I go in December.
- CBS Money Watch published a survey in 2010 about tipping.
- Of course it’s not about the amount you give–it’s the thought that counts. I’m sure any gift will be appreciated! Happy holidays!
The Editor has compiled questions and selected responses from the PAMP Forum on BigTent. Comments have been edited for space consideration.