Holiday traditions, San Francisco style

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One of the biggest holiday attractions in San Francisco is the life-size gingerbread house at The Fairmont. (KGO)

This is the time for holiday traditions. It could be ice skating at the Embarcadero, or eating a special dinner at the Tadich Grill. We ran around town looking for those traditions that are unique to San Francisco.

Our first stop was the Mission District. Walk along 24th Street and you will find Latino families getting ready for making tamales, the traditional meal on Christmas eve.

At La Espiga de Oro (the Golden Spike), the owners were busy grinding fresh corn to make masa dough. People either pick it up prepared to make tamales with their families, or like Yolanda Prieto, they buy the tamales already made and ready to eat.

"It will never be a Christmas, unless there's tamales in my house," said Prieto. "I am taking some chicken and some pork, which are my family's favorite. And so I hope to keep them in the freezer until Christmas eve, and then the party is on."

The party was already on at The Fairmont. Families streamed into the lobby to check out the life-size gingerbread house. Kristine Libby has been here before, but today she brought her two children to for the first time.

"It's a nice tradition. It's a fun place to see to feel the holiday spirit, and it is just nice to be able to celebrate this as a family," said Libby.

This year, The Fairmont unveiled a new perk. A private lunch inside the gingerbread house. Jeff Peterson jumped at the chance to treat his daughter.

"Bryn is my third child that's been here. We've been coming for 19 years. And the Fairmont always does beautiful decorations. We love the Christmas tree, said Peterson.

A few blocks away, families enjoying the seasonal ice rink at Union Square. Jackie Wolf watched her children glide around the ice.

"We go ice skating every year with our kids. I think it just envelopes the season and the coldness and everything we embrace. Being together and enjoying time," said Wolf, who was visiting from Roseville.

Inside the War Memorial Opera House, there was nothing but smiles as families got ready for the afternoon performance of The Nutcracker.

"It's a really fun Christmas tradition to look forward to. And to see all the dancers. It is really fun," said Elena Vitzthum, who was going to watch the performance with several friends and their moms.

Her friend Ana Senn said she just liked the Christmas feel. There is plenty of that feeling to go around in San Francisco at this time of year.

Go here for more stories and videos about the holidays.
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