Luminarias light the way to one of Monterey’s historic Adobes.
Luminarias light the way to one of Monterey's historic Adobes.
EVERY ONE OF THE 23 historic buildings that takes part in downtown Monterey's Christmas in the Adobes celebrates the season in a slightly different way - and each one reflects a facet of the city's early history.

At Stevenson House, where "Kidnapped" author Robert Louis Stevenson rented a room in 1879, it's a Scottish holiday, complete with bagpipes, shortbread and tea; at Larkin House, home to Alta California's U.S. Consul, military wives in period dress will greet visitors who come calling.

Inside the Custom House, the oldest government building in California, fandango dancers will elegantly twirl; and at Casa Soberanes, once the residence of a musically inclined family, a harpist will pluck strings during the two-night event, on Dec.

The Larkin House decorated for Christmas in the Adobes.
The Larkin House decorated for Christmas in the Adobes. (Herald Archive)
8 and 10.

This marks the 27th year for Christmas in the Adobes, an event that gives new life to some very old traditions. The self-guided walking tour of some of Monterey's most beautiful historic structures give visitors the feeling of stepping back in time, with decorations and entertainment that are true to the mid-1800s, like the luminaria that light the way to each building.

"It's like the old days when people would go house to house, visiting and caroling," said Michael Green, manager of Monterey State Historic Park, which includes significant houses and buildings throughout Old Monterey.

That old-time community spirit is part of the attraction. It's also refreshing to enter a world where Christmas was a quieter, simpler time.

Most of the sites on the tour will have some kind of entertainment and refreshments, Green said, and at some places, visitors can get into the act if they want to - at the Custom House, for instance, they can take instruction in the fandango and take a turn at dancing, if they wish. Volunteers inthe garb of those times complete the picture.

Those who attend don't have to rush through the buildings, either - there's now a two-night pass, so if you don't get to see everything the first night, you can come back on the next one.

Members of the Alta California Dance Company perform dances from early California during Christmas in the Adobes.
Members of the Alta California Dance Company perform dances from early California during Christmas in the Adobes. (Herald Archive)

Added to the holiday tour this year is Casa Estrada, now First Capital Bank in Monterey, which was originally a bordello, Green said. Also new is the Jose de la Torre Adobe, first a private residence and laterthe area's first federal courthouse, and currently the office of the Big Sur Land Trust.

One of the remarkable things about Christmas in the Adobes is that the event is continuing to grow, with more historic buildings complementing the lineup in the past few years. Casa Estrada and the Jose de la Torre Adobe are privately owned and not part of the state historic park, but their current tenants came forward and asked to be included, Green said.

"These are businesses, community groups, and privately owned buildings that have stepped up and become part of the event," said Green.

One of the Christmas Angels used as holiday decorations in Monterey since 1956, the year the first angels were designed by artist Ericka Franke.
One of the Christmas Angels used as holiday decorations in Monterey since 1956, the year the first angels were designed by artist Ericka Franke.
"Their benefit is clearly not financial."

Proceeds from the tour go to the Monterey State Historic Park Association, which uses the funds to pay for children's educational programs at the park buildings. The event is the association's biggest fundraiser of the year.

"It is a family event, and a great way to get into the holiday spirit," said Green.

Information: Christmas in the Adobes, Dec. 8 and 10, 5-9 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission before Nov. 15 and $20 after; a two-night pass is $30. Children ages 6 to 17 are $2 and under 6 are admitted free. Purchase tickets at Cooper Museum Store, 525 Polk St., Monterey, or call 649-7120 to charge tickets by phone.