What’s your favorite holiday tradition? There are plenty to choose from on The Coastside. The Night of Lights parade in Half Moon Bay, quiet walks on tourist-free beaches, shopping local in a community overflowing with boutiques and paddle-boarding Santas are just a few.
Our favorite? It’s gotta be the Pillar Point Harbor Lighted Boat Festival, an evening spent wassailing around the commercial and pleasure piers enjoying the creativity of seafaring neighbors competing in a floating holiday decoration contest and sharing top-side treats.
- Mariner wit: Captain Barry and crew aboard the “Rosella” inject a bit – quite a bit – of humor into their annual contest entries. No surprise here since the captain’s standard patter for dockside sales is a crack-up year around. This holiday the crew preened on the prow dressed as giant penguins, squawking, flapping, waddling and striking a pose for the appreciative crowd. The judges were appreciative, too, as the Rosella won first prize – again – in the commercial vessel category. Click here to view past winners from this droll crew.
- Booze and sugar cookies: On some pleasure craft, the contest is merely an excuse for topside parties. Some even share adult libations or offer up holiday cookies and other nibbles to the rabble on the pier, creating some unusual pairings you likely won’t find at Pasta Moon.
- Safety first: The docks bob in the water. The crowds on the narrow walkways jockey with dogs, mooring cleats, baby strollers and each other. Liquor flows. And yet, no one ever seems to fall into the harbor – a Coastside Christmas miracle, to be sure.
- Seafaring Santa: Instead of employing a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive for their visit with Coastside kids by party boat accompanied by eight musical Elks from San Mateo – the concert band variety.
- Fresh seafood: Not every working fishing boat is into the whole decoration thing, and that’s OK. It’s crab season, and more than a few revelers went home with fresh crab for a late evening feast thanks to entrepreneurial fishing crews who know a good night for sales when they see one.
- Local, local, local: The Half Moon Bay High School Choir performed. Traffic on Highway 1 was not oppressive. Parking, while a bit tighter with this year’s crowd, was available. We ran into several good friends wandering the docks. The locals just may have outnumbered the tourists.
- Balmy breezes: The Coastside is rarely balmy any time of year, but a warm breeze from the east made the evening unusually pleasant – another Coastside Christmas miracle, perhaps. Attendees and organizers mused that the fine weather may have turned out a record crowd.
- Deck the dogs: The Coastside is a dog-lover’s paradise. Holiday events such as the Boat Lights contest and the Night of Lights parade attract local canines dressed in an array of holiday finery. Some even don lights. We foresee a “Deck the Dog” contest in The Coastside’s future.
- Shimmering lights: It wouldn’t be a boat light contest without, well, lights on the boats. And they shimmer so nicely on the harbor water. Traditional holiday yard themes are common: Charlie Brown, the Grinch and, somehow, minions. But we preferred the captains who lit up the night with nautical themes, employing elements such as shell-shaped lights, anchors bedecked with wreaths, crab traps and brightly lit dinghies filled with colorful packages.
- Good cheer: On this night, we heard no muttering about politics, traffic, development, leashes or dog poop. None of the downers that clog our NextDoor social media feed. Instead, we enjoyed lots of laughter, smiles and community camaraderie as we tripped along inches above the water enjoying the shimmering lights and a good time. Perhaps that was the best Coastside Christmas miracle of all.