The 25 San Antonio holiday traditions everyone should try at least once 

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San Antonians love to celebrate. Give us an excuse and we'll throw a parade, drink to excess or sleep overnight in the park for a prime barbecuing spot.

Throw a holiday into the mix and we'll latch onto traditions and maybe even pass them down for generations in our families. That certainly holds true when it comes to Christmastime, where jam and awful lot of culture, customs and excuses to party into our calendars. Almost like it's Fiesta or something — but less muggy outside.

Whether you're new to SA and need a rundown on our holiday traditions, looking to vary up your winter routine or just want to make sure you're checking every possible item off the list to fully validate your puro punch card, here's your list. 
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Catch the Ford Holiday River Parade It's too late this year, but definitely pencil this one in if you haven't already witnessed brightly illumunated barges lighting up the River Walk.
Photo by Jaime Monzon
Watch the tree lighting at Travis Park Yes, some folks were upset when this decades-old tradition moved from Alamo Plaza to Travis Park, but that doesn't make it any less festive — or the 50-foot tree any less breathtaking.
Photo via Instagram / bpiernik
See Trans-Siberian Orchestra play San Antonio likes metal. San Antonio likes Christmas. What's better than bringing them together by watching this touring act bring them together by shredding Christmas carols?
Photo via Instagram / transsiberianorchestra
Watch the lighting of the menorah on the River Walk Head down to the Arneson River Theater for the annual Chanukah on the River festival. Enjoy a kosher dinner and a jelly donut while you're there.
Photo via Instagram / malach_eliyahu
Stock up on holiday tamales There's no culinary delight that captures SA holiday tradition like tamales. Purchase a dozen (or two or three) to bring to a holiday party — if you can bring yourself to share.
Photo via Instagram / lalasgorditas
Stroll the River Walk to look at the lights You don't have to be a tourist to wander the River Walk and take in the lights. It's romantic, and your out-of-town guests will expect a tour.
Photo via Instagram / ingridalamode
Go ice skating at Travis Park It doesn't take long to become a tradition in San Antonio. Although it only debuted in 2019, the Rotary Ice Rink at downtown's Travis Park has already become a must for many residents.
Photo via Instagram / explore_with_westley
Drive through Windcrest for the light displays This Northeastern burb is all about the over-the-top Christmas light displays. Pile into the car and marvel at just how seriously some folks take decorating their houses.
Photo via Instagram / missjenflowers
Watch the Nutcracker Prior to the pandemic there were as many as half a dozen local and touring groups presenting this holiday classic on any given year. In 2020, there was even a drive-in version. Clearly, it's still a hot holiday ticket.
Photo courtesy of the Moscow Ballet
Throw a tamalada No, this isn't one for beginners, but if you're serious about having a Puro San Anto Christmas, invite the relatives over to make your own tamales. Just be ready to have your Tia telling you exactly how should be done.
Photo via Instagram / jmichaelwalker1
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See Las Nuevas Tamaleras If you're not ready to host a tamalada, the next best thing may be watching Las Nuevas Tamaleras, the long-running holiday comedy written by San Antonio playwright Alicia Mena.
Photo courtesy of Burras Finas Productions
Listen to underground caroling Natural Bridge Cavern's Christmas at the Caverns is a popular way to celebrate the holidays. Visit "Spelunker" Claus, roast s'mores and listen to Christmas carols echo through the underground cavern.
Photo via Instagram / naturalbridgecaverns
Attend mass at one of the Missions The four Spanish frontier outposts that make up the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park are all functioning Catholic churches and hold Christmas Eve mass.
Photo via Instagram / missionsofsanantonio
Kayak the illuminated San Antonio River If you're feeling outdoorsy, partake in the newish holiday tradition of the Annual River of Lights Holiday Kayak Event, which explores the Museum Reach's "River of Lights" display.
Photo courtesy of San Antonio River Authority
Head up to Boerne for A Dickens Celebration The historic town north of SA hosts four weekends of Yuletide shopping and fun as part of its annual A Dickens Celebration. Wander back in time and enjoy the fun.
Photo via Instagram / dickenscelebrationboerne
Volunteer with the San Antonio Food Bank San Antonians love to give back and help out. Helping ensure local families have food on the table is one of the best ways to live up to the spirit of the holiday.
Photo via Instagram / safoodbank
Visit a Pearl Holiday Night Market The Pearl development operates regular night markets duirng the holiday season that include an array of locally produced food items and other goods. Grab a craft beer or a glass of wine and stroll.
Photo Courtesy of Pearl
Visit a craft cocktail bar for a holiday libation San Antonio's had an explosion in craft cocktail bars. Put down your Bud Light, call up a date and savor some amazing seasonal cocktails.
Photo via Instagram / omnilamansiondelrio
Shop at a local makers market It's great to spend your money with local creators instead of at a big box store. The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and Brick at the Blue Star throw worthy markets, but they pop up all over town during this time of year.
Photo courtesy of Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
Attend Incarnate Word's Light the Way Festival The University of the Incarnate Word doesn't just string countless colorful lights all over its campus. The school also holds an annual fest to celebrate turning them all on.
Photo via Instagram / uiwcardinals
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Attend a Kristkindlmarkt German immigrants San Antonio and the Hill Country play a big part in SA culture. Visit a Kristkindlmarkt, or German holiday market, such as the one held annually at Beethoven Maennerchor.
Photo via Instagram / beethovensatx
Catch a performance of Los Pastores This folk play about the shepherds' journey to see the Baby Jesus is one of the city's oldest holiday traditions — photos of it go back to the 1800s, although it likely dates back further.
Photo courtesy of UTSA Libraries Digital Collections.
Jazz up Christmas with Doc Watkins Catch a holiday show by local jazz bandleader Doc Watkins and enjoy swinging Yuletide classics, including the infectious music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Photo via Instagram / jazz_texas
Participate in a toy drive If you're looking for another way to give back this season, help spread cheer to those in need by donating to or volunteering with a toy drive such as those conducted by Blue Santa and Elf Louise.
Photo via Instagram / elflouisecp
Figure out which spot serves the best boozy eggnog Might as well make your 300 calories per cup count by seeking a bar or restaurant that can serve up a delightfully boozy version. Liberty Bar is a good starting place.
Photo via Unsplash / Aleisha Kalina
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Catch the Ford Holiday River Parade It's too late this year, but definitely pencil this one in if you haven't already witnessed brightly illumunated barges lighting up the River Walk.
Photo by Jaime Monzon

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