It looks like a postcard from a bygone era, all the Woodie-style station wagons, parked side to side at the culmination of Malibu’s Woodie Parade. The wood paneling on the station wagons even gives the sight its version of a sepia tone, the shade we most connect to nostalgic feelings of times gone by. “Every time someone sees one, it puts a smile on their face,” says Fireball Tim Lawrence, the chair of the Malibu Art Commission and a longtime participant in the parade. “And the only thing that makes them better is to adorn them with Christmas decorations.” On days like these in Malibu, it can be hard to remember that the second-largest city in America, an international capital of cosmopolitan culture, lies just on the other side of the western ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains. But that’s the charm of the holidays along the coast: a small-town feel within miles of nearly 10 million Los Angeles County residents. The Woodie Parade is one of the longest-running traditions in the city, even if it’s not a parade in the most traditional sense. The old school station wagons, which got their name from the wood inlays used in their bodies, do drive a loop together, but the real party is at the figurative end of the road, with live music, food, drink, and the titular, parked stars. Those centerpieces are often paired with images of surfers looking for that summer wave (Jan and Dean’s “Surf City” immortalized the cars with the line “I bought a ’34 wagon and we call it a Woodie”), but the sense of freedom that those images evoke applies to the holiday season as well. But it’s not just classic car aficionados that get to celebrate by the sea. It’s December, after all, so Santa makes his way from tip to tip of Malibu, including stops at City Hall (December 16, during “Breakfast with Santa”) and Malibu Country Mart (the afternoon of December 13, and right after Santa gets done at City Hall on the 16th). Those looking to get in Kris Kringle’s ear earlier in the month can take the quick trip down to Simon Meadow in Pacific Palisades on December 9th (and pick up a tree at the same time from the YMCA tree lot).

Malibu Country Mart

Down the road at Chabad of Malibu, Hanukkah is a time for both the Jewish and wider community to come together and celebrate the eight nights of light, with events kicking off on December 7 at the Pier. There, on the first night of the holiday, Chabad will light the grand menorah and host a musical performance by Brandon Jenner. At the other end of the festivities, the party will move to Point Dume Village Plaza on December 14 for a day of activities for kids and something called a “donut menorah” (just put the candle out before eating). Off the coast, the wooded playground of generations of Malibu residents gets decked out for the holidays as well. Holiday Road at King Gillette Ranch, minutes away from the town of Calabasas, features a walking trail full of light displays, Santa (on most weekend dates), carolers, and a winter market for those looking for last-minute gifts. There’s also an assortment of food trucks and pop-up bars for those who like their merriment in liquid form.

Christmas Street in Calabasas

But no matter the holiday tradition, each celebration gets to the center of the season: that sense of community, one that can often feel more cohesive in a town the size of Malibu. “Any kind of event you [hold] that pulls people together in a positive way,” Lawrence says, “is worth doing.”