A classic Christmas returns to Old Town

Vendors, businesses gearing up for Country Christmas
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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Revelers have two chances to participate in Country Christmas, Old Town Auburn’s classic holiday celebration.

On two Saturday evenings, Dec. 10 and 17, Old Town opens its arms to the community for food, shopping, music, dancing and old-fashioned holiday togetherness. Linda Robinson, president of the Old Town Business Association, has organized the event since 1995 and said that when the weather cooperates, the free event draws between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors each night.

“Of all the events that I organize, Country Christmas has been my favorite, and close to my heart,” Robinson said. “Growing up in the ’40s and ’50s in Oakland and Berkeley, my parents, and especially my father, made Christmas real for my brother and me.”

That included reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” trimming the Christmas tree as a family, reading the Christmas story and roasting chestnuts.

Making memories like those is the intention of Country Christmas, and an array of food and craft vendors and performers return year after year to help make it happen.

The Scottish Country Dancers have performed at the event for 20 years, and teacher Ed Johnston said they’ll be back this year to get audiences feet tapping and even pulling some out of the crowd to join in the dancing fun.

Twelve dancers will present a reel, a jig and a strathspeye, a traditional Scottish dance. Johnston said the troupe is always well-received and garners great audience participation.

“We just enjoy the atmosphere, we enjoy the public, we enjoy the whole thing,” he said.

Other performers include the Auburn Community Brass Ensemble, several dance schools and the Thunderfoot Cloggers. Santa Claus, his elf and the famous Christmas Tree Lady will be present, and all Old Town businesses will be open until 9 p.m. with their own open house events, refreshments, hot chocolate and cider.

“The weather looks like it’s going to cooperate with us on Dec. 10,” Robinson said, adding that Country Christmas is an all-weather event with no rain dates scheduled. If it does sprinkle, attendees should bring an umbrella and come enjoy the fun anyway. There will be a free shuttle provided from the Gold Country Fairgrounds.


Make an ‘Eggstra Special’ gift

Two special events planned this year are an ornament signing at the Auburn Old Town Gallery and an “egg-citing” eggshell art ornament workshop at Eggstra Special.

Virgi Bondi, owner of the eggshell art gallery, will host the “Make it and Take it Egg Party” from 5-9 p.m. both nights. For $5, participants get a pre-carved egg to decorate with Christmas goodies inside and out, choosing from a pile of figurines, poinsettias, rhinestones, greenery and more.

“This is another way to give back to the community,” Bondi said. “For only $5, they have an egg to take home and call it their own.”

Personalize an ornament

From 5-8 p.m. in the gallery, artists Linda Miller, Ann Ranlett, Nicholson Blown Glass, Michelle MacKenzie and Shannon Morgan will personalize and date ornaments for customers while they shop. The gallery also offers free gift wrapping.

The ornaments range in style from blown glass by Janet and Rick Nicholson to detailed animal paintings and charming painted wood ornaments.

“I can remember when I was a kid, buying an ornament each Christmas,” said MacKenzie, who sculpts her ornaments out of clay and finishes them with a colorful glaze. “These are handmade pieces, you get to meet the artists, and for some of these customers, it might be the first time they come into Auburn.”

Season’s eatings

For the hungry Country Christmas attendee, there’s no shortage of food options. The Kiwanis Club will sell chocolate, the Fire Department Hook ’n’ Ladder Company will serve up clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls, The Top Dog will have its hot dog cart, Sierra Grill and Smokehouse will serve pulled pork and pasta and Tsuda Café will offer chocolate chip cookies and other baked goods. In addition to those treats, save room for kettle corn, funnel cakes, licorice, Mexican food, baked potatoes and, of course, chestnuts roasted on an open fire.

For those who need a place to warm up and relax, the bonfire offers yet another place where community members can gather for camaraderie and conversation.

“It’s just like old-school Christmas in the 21st century,” Bondi said. “I love the way that everybody just huddles around the bonfire, listening to the carols.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at


Country Christmas in Old Town Auburn

Dec. 10 entertainment schedule

5-5:15 p.m.: Flag ceremony and anthem

5:15-5:45 p.m.: Auburn Community Brass Ensemble

6-6:30 p.m.: Scottish Country Dancers

6:45-7 p.m.: Linda’s Christmas Story

7:15-7:45 p.m.: Pamelot Dance School

8-8:45 p.m.: Thunderfoot Cloggers


Dec. 17 entertainment schedule

5-5:15 p.m.: Flag ceremony and anthem

5:15-5:45 p.m.: Auburn Community Brass Ensemble

6-6:30 p.m.: J&J Performing Arts Christmas Show

6:45-7 p.m.: Linda’s Christmas Story

7:15-7:45 p.m.: InSync Dance Studio