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Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
Carmen Herbert's boys stand in front of a life-size gingerbread house at the Grand America. Seeing the displays is one of the Herbert family Christmas traditions.

Christmastime is the most wonderful time of the year, but can get overwhelming with so many different holiday parties, activities and family get-togethers.

In our home, we have many family traditions that are meaningful with both my family and my husband’s family. But as far as public outings go, I decided a while back that we would have to make sure not to pack in so much that we end up spending the season acting more like Scrooge rather than Santa. Here are the Herbert Top 6 Must-do Christmas Outings in December. Traditions matter, and maybe some will become new favorite traditions of yours, as well.

1. Baum’s in Provo for a real Christmas tree

A non-negotiable for me every year is a real tree. We never had a fake one growing up, and the memories of cutting them down or hunting through tree lots for the perfect one are so sweet. There is no artificial fragrance that can even compare to the fresh, clean scent of a pine tree, and the needles that rain from heaven after the tree has turned brown are worth it (or at least that’s what I tell my husband every year around this time when he’s trying to screw the new tree into the stand with little to no curse words).

Carmen Herbert's boys during their trip to pick out a tree from Baum's tree lot in Provo. | Carmen Rasmusen Herbert

That was our reality before we discovered Baum’s beautiful real flocked Christmas trees. Because the flocking seals in moisture and preserves the tree, there is no need for watering, no needle shedding and no stand setup! For a few dollars more they will throw in a beautiful pine bow that will fill your home with the scent of beautiful balsam. Real tree for me, real easy for my husband. Win-win.

2. Christkindlemarkt at This Is the Place Heritage Park

For the past few years we have had the opportunity to attend this beautiful German Christmas market near Emigration Canyon. We listen to my nieces perform Christmas songs, explore the gingerbread-style shops, and eat the most delicious bratwurst’s and Dutch Poffertjes. It’s one of my favorite days. And if you go during the evening, you’ll be able to catch the stunning candle-lit parade.

3. Santa and the Grand America

We have shuffled back and forth between our favorite Santas for years, but this year a friend posted a Santa pic from Jolley’s Gift and Floral in Sugar House, and so we decided to give it a whirl. It was well worth the drive — you can schedule a private 10-minute appointment with Santa and get a beautiful photo for $15. There is also homemade cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate and wassail just outside. My kids loved it, and after, we drove downtown to the Grand America hotel, where there are stunning holiday window displays and a giant life-size gingerbread house.

4. Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point

Carmen Herbert boys pose for a photo at Thanksgiving Point's Luminaria. | Carmen Rasmusen Herbert

This is a new tradition for our family, but one that will most certainly continue. The Ashton Gardens are turned into a winter wonderland in a stunning display of Christmas lights and decorations. Not only is it visually spectacular but there are also different fragrances enhancing the experience as you walk through the different scenes (candy cane lane, reindeer evergreen forest, etc.). This is for sure a must-do, and although it’s not cheap, it’s well worth the time and money for an unforgettable experience.

5. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert

Nothing says Christmas like these concerts. Brad and I get dressed up and go on a special date night to hear amazing music from professional well-known singers, the choir, and Christmas stories from a different guest artist every year. If you choose one thing to do during the Christmas season, this should be it.

Tickets to this concert go quickly, so it takes some planning ahead or taking a chance with the stand-by line. Or the previous year's concert airs on KUED and BYUtv throughout the season.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert's boys participate in the Nativity at the governor's mansion with their cousins. (Notice the dove, Carmen's youngest boy, with a full cookie stuffed in his mouth.) | Carmen Rasmusen Herbert

6. A live Nativity

Whether it’s a church or family Christmas party or a more public and performance-type setting like Tuachan in St. George or the Alpine Live Nativity, this is a must for reminding our children what the true meaning of Christmas is. For us, it’s at the Snelson Family Christmas Party up at the Governor’s Mansion in Salt Lake. Afterward, we head over to Temple Square and look at the beautiful lights and feel the peaceful spirit that radiates just as brightly.

As far as public activities go, these are my favorite. This year, I am so excited to be performing with some of Utah’s favorite speakers for the “Laughing All the Way” Christmas shows. It’s so fun for me to not only get to experience the magic of Christmas, but to be a part of that magic as well. For me, it’s not necessarily about what we’re doing, but that we’re all doing it together, in a spirit of joy and love.