Christmas at Filoli

Filoli Mansion, Woodside California

For the past 25+ years during the Thanksgiving break, my mother and I, along with our maternal aunts, grandmothers, girl cousins, and some friends, partake in a real special Christmas treat.  We gather at Filoli Mansion in Woodside, California for the annual Holiday Traditions.  The mansion’s lower floor is beautifully displayed with exceptional holiday decorations, numerous Christmas trees and the happy sound of Christmas music!  Each year, I become giddy with excitement on the morning of our visit to Filoli.  This is how I kick off my Christmas season with a resounding gong!

Filoli Mansion, Woodside, California

 My mother Diane looking fabulous in her Christmas red!

I love Filoli!  And not just at Christmas time, but in the spring, summer, and fall.  The property has so much to offer.  I enjoy touring the mansion and meandering the many gardens that the Filoli property maintains.  I love sitting in the comfy bamboo furniture in the tea house out in the west terraces, listening to the love birds cooing in their aviary in the corner, while staring out over the rose garden.  One can imagine themselves, in a time long ago, when ladies and gentlemen enjoyed afternoon tea together.  Filoli is from a bygone era when times were simpler, less chaotic, and there were more peaceful moments to cherish with your family and friends.  Call me a romantic!

Throughout the year Filoli hosts many events, which celebrate the seasons and where visitors may enjoy all that the property has to offer. House tours are offered during the visitor season (February through October), which are led by docents.  Filoli’s property is quite extensive, with formal gardens, a pool area, fountains, fruit trees, and meandering nature trails lead peacefully through the mountains that rise up from the back of the property.  School children come to Filoli for field trips and hike these mountains.

Filoli Mansion Woodside, California

Filoli Mansion, Woodside, California

For those of you that don’t know of Filoli, the estate is one of the finest remaining American country estates of the early 20th century.   Reknown San Francisco architect, Willis Polk, combined many architectural styles in designing Filoli.  The estate is a “historic site” with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Filoli is located 30 miles south of San Francisco off highway 280 at Edgewood Road.

Filoli mansion, Woodside, California

Filoli was built for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn in 1917 who were prominent San Franciscans whose chief source of wealth was the Empire Mine, a hard-rock gold mine in Grass Valley, California.  Mr. Bourn was also owner and president of the Spring Valley Water Company whose property comprised Crystal Springs Lake and the surrounding lands and area that are now part of the San Francisco Water Department.  They selected the southern end of Crystal Springs Lake as the site for their estate.

Filoli mansion, Woodside, California

Mr. Bourn arrived at the unusual name Filoli by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.”

Filoli mansion, Woodside, CA

In 1937, Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth purchased the estate.  The Roths owned the Matson Navigation Company. Under the Roths’ supervision, the property was maintained and the formal gardens gained worldwide recognition.  Mrs. Roth made Filoli her home until 1975 when she donated 125 acres, which included the House and formal gardens, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations. The remaining acreage was given to the Filoli Center.

Filoli mansion, Woodside, CA Front foyer

Filoli mansion, Woodside, CA

The formal living room in the center of the mansion

Filoli mansion, Woodside, CA

I love all the squirrel decorations and nut bowls!

Now operated by Filoli Center, the 654-acre estate is a California State Historic Landmark and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. This outstanding showcase of early twentieth-century architecture and garden design is lovingly preserved and cared for by a dedicated core group of professionals and a fleet of volunteers who are members of Friends of Filoli, which my mother, and others in my family, are members.

Filoli mansion, Woodside, CA

The ballroom.  Notice the murals on the walls.  These murals are reminiscent

of the homeland estate from which the Filoli owner immigrated.

The fireplace’s opening is 5 feet tall.

Filoli mansion, Woodside, CA

The ballroom has a stage for an orchestra, which is behind this Christmas tree.

Filoli mansion, Woodside, CA

The Holiday Traditions event is a seven-day shopper’s delight!  The entire lower floor of the mansion is filled with amazing merchandise that the Filoli buyers have painstakingly purchased all year long.  A month before the event opens, the mansion is closed to tours, the furniture is removed, and a team of stylists and florists, with many volunteers, transport the mansion into a wonderland of Christmas magic!

Filoli mansion Kitchen, Woodside, CA

The two room kitchen

Filoli mansion kitchen, Woodside, CA

Filoli mansion kitchen, Woodside, CA

Filoli mansion kitchen, Woodside, CA

Filoli mansion kitchen, Woodside, CA

The mansion is decorated from head to toe with exceptional Christmas decorations and trees, home decorative items, kitchen items, delicious prepared foods, candy, and baked goods, floral arrangements, women’s clothes and jewelry, furniture, children’s toys and books, recipe books, music CDs… plus so much more!  It is an unbelievable sight to behold, which never ceases to amaze me!

Filoli mansion music room, Woodside, CA

The music room

Filoli mansion music room, Woodside, CA

Filoli mansion music room, Woodside, CA

In addition, there is always musical entertainment such as carolers, choir groups, pianists, and harpists that further set the perfect festive mood.

Filoli Holiday Traditions, Woodside, CA

Filoli, Holiday Traditions, Woodside, CA

Visitors to Holiday Traditions have a few options to enjoy the event.  My mother and I, with our cousins, always purchase tickets for shopping and the luncheon.  A delicious luncheon is catered each year and served in Filoli’s Visitor and Education Center, which is located adjacent to the mansion.  Both the Visitor Center and dining room echo the theme of the event each year with beautifully decorated trees, woodland animals, floral arrangements, and lighting.  For those of you with young children, Holiday Traditions offers a lovely luncheon designed especially with young children in mind.  Santa and Mrs. Claus greet the children and there is entertainment.  Children’s Luncheon tickets include admission to the holiday shopping boutique in the mansion.

For those visitors that don’t want the catered luncheon, a “shopping only” ticket may be purchased.  Or, there is an on-site Cafe’ where small food items and coffee and tea may be purchased.

Filoli, Holiday Traditions, Woodside, CA

The gentleman’s salon set up as the children’s room

Please note that this is a sold out event each year, therefore you need to plan early and purchase your tickets well in advance.  Please visit their website to read about Holiday Traditions and all of Filoli’s seasonal events, as well as learn about their floral arranging and gardening classes, nature trails, mansion and garden tours, volunteering at Filoli, and so much more.

Filoli, Holiday Traditions, Woodside, CA

Filoli, Holiday Traditions, Woodside, CA

Filoli, Holiday Traditions, Woodside, Ca

In just a few more months, I will be going back to Filoli with my mom to visit in the spring. The gardens will have the most amazing explosion of tulips and spring flowers.  It is absolutely gorgeous!

May you enjoy this holiday season with peace and joy in your heart.  God bless you and your family.

Woodside, California



  1. Looks lovely. I will have to plan to go sometime. I love your photos.

  2. Wow! Gorgeous! I will have to make the trip sometime. As always beautiful pictures, loved them.

  3. Thank you for sharing this, you did a beautiful job of interpreting this beautiful place.

  4. Loved all the photos Teresa but my favorite is the tree outside, with the sun and light coming through, awesome photo!!

  5. Gorgeous photography, as always. One question, how in the world did you get all the photos with no people in them? That place is always packed – you must truly be a photoshop wizard!

    • Teresa Giovanzana says:

      Hi Teresa,
      Filoli was so gracious to allow me to come into the mansion prior to the event opening where I may photograph. I have never seen the mansion set up for the boutique without the general public in the mansion with me. It was a rare treat to wonder from room to room and marvel at all the splendor by myself! WOW…I told Filoli management there was so much more that I would have purchased!!!

  6. Diane Dovholuk says:

    Great article. I will try to take a few friends there for Christmas cheer. Merry Christmas!

  7. Barbara Bostedt says:

    Teresa…you captured the real essence of the holidays in choosing the different areas for your photos….and how special that you were granted a personal preview …along with your camera. I want to go there someday.

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