For as long as anyone can remember, the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club and the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe have offered special holiday meals.
A longstanding tradition for many here in the Ranch, these intimate gatherings enable the spread-out community to come together and celebrate.
"We might not see each other for four months at a time," said resident Niki Shields, who chairs the golf club's social committee. "But at this time of year, people come out to celebrate, to connect with friends and family."
The festivities begin with the Santa Bruch at the Golf Club on Sun., Dec. 14. More than 150 children look forward to sitting on Santa's knee and the arts, crafts and a ventriloquist show.
Grandparents often bring their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, General Manager Steve Nordstrom said.
"It's always fun to see two to three generations of families coming together," he said.
The brunch costs $20 for adults, and $10 for children four-years and older.
For just as much fun, but a more refined evening, the Golf Club offers two Candlelight Dinners on Tues., Dec. 16 and Wed., Dec. 17. Diners can enjoy a served four-course dinner while being serenaded by carolers. Each night offers a different menu, which costs $58.
"The candlelight dinners have been just spectacular," said longtime member Donna Ferrier. "The club is a great place to do holiday entertaining, it saves the wear and tear on me and the kitchen."
Christmas at the Inn
More than 400 people pass through the decorated doors of the Inn for Christmas dinner, said catering manager Liz Dry.
"They are all families who grew up in the Ranch and all come back to spend their tradition here," Dry said.
Shelia Giacomini's family has celebrated Christmas at the Inn for almost 40 years. Her parents began taking the family when the first grandchildren were born. With great grandchildren now attending, the Giacomini reservation has grown to 20 people.
The family looks forward to the tradition every year, which hasn't changed except for the location of the tree and the growing buffet selection - "not the feeling, not the hospitality, that has remained the same," Giacomini said. "You tend to see the same people, so you feel warm and at home."
Variety the appeal
The Inn's buffet offers includes turkey, ham, fish, chicken, sushi and seafood, with all the traditional trimmings as well as signature Asian dishes and desserts.
Variety is a major appeal for diners, Dry said, because "no one person can make all those different things."
The large number of guests is spread out from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., so the atmosphere remains relaxed and personal, Dry said.
The buffet costs $60 for adults, $24 for children.
New Years Eve Bash
To send off 2008 in style, the Golf Club hosts a lively News Year Eve gala, which includes a hosted bar, four-course gourmet dinner and dancing to a live band late into the evening for one inclusive $175 ticket.
Hoping to continue the tradition, the club has booked Party Quake, a live cover band to perform crowd-pleasing dance music.
All holiday events at the Golf Club are open to association members and their guests, not just golf club members, Nordstrom stressed.
But because the events are still mostly Ranch residents, the evenings make for a homey atmosphere.
For reservations, call the Inn at (858) 756-1131 and the Golf Club at (858) 756-1182.