One tradition that carries on -- pandemic or not -- is piling into the family vehicle to view the festive lights and decorations on homes in nearby neighborhoods.
This is a tradition for the intrepid decorators, who brainstorm all year about finetuning their displays, as well as for the visitors, who love seeing old favorites and also discovering what's new.
Twenty-three years ago, Livermore resident Alex Dourov, a holiday home decorator himself, took the guesswork out of driving around to see lights.
"When my family moved to Livermore in 1992, we relied on newspaper listings to find local homes decorated with Christmas lights," Dourov explains on his website. "The local newspaper was helpful but many times we would get lost or stumble on a 'stinker.'"
Finally in December 1999, Dourov created a database of displays in the Tri-Valley that were verified to make a night's viewing more enjoyable, and he posted the addresses with photos on his newly created website, www.lightsofthevalley.com.
"As people in other East Bay cities, then the Greater Bay Area cities submitted their homes for consideration to be added to the website, the website grew," Dourov said.
In 2011, the site became californiachristmaslights.com with searches for homes by geographic area plus extras such as "the house of the day."
"The website is used by a number of touring and limo companies in the Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego areas including the Livermore Wine Trolley," Dourov said.
One of the traditional favorites in Pleasanton that gets better and better is Widmer World, 3671 Chelsea Court, which has its own website, widmer-world.com.
Another place that is an industry in itself is Deacon Dave's, 352 Hillcrest Ave. in Livermore, now holding its 38th display. It was closed last year in the best interests of its volunteers and visitors but has returned in all its glory. Its website is casadelpomba.com.
Dourov presents a spectacular showing at 467 Knottingham Circle in Livermore. He believes in interactive displays and lists 14 things for kids and adults to do, including the following:
* Play in the snow (bring a few quarters)
* Make the train smoke and whistle
* Help the penguins with their campfire
* Make the 6-foot-tall JOY sign dance to the music
* Call Santa on the Santa phone on the porch or take photos with Santa
* Control the animated Christmas tree
The website is a labor of love for Dourov, requiring about 100 hours per holiday season to update it.
"Each year the website receives hundreds of submissions, asking to be placed on the website," he said. "Only about one out of every 25 or so submissions is ultimately showcased on the website."
Dourov keeps in touch with displaying homeowners to make sure his information is current. For this year, about a dozen folks have moved out of state, he said, but others have been added.
The best thing about the tradition of viewing the lights is it can be done by young and old, hearty and infirm. And Dourov has pointed out that his website, with photos of each location, makes it possible even for the housebound.