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California Christmas December 14, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


I couldn’t imagine a Christmas without snow. So for the first two years I lived in California, I dutifully flew home to spend the holidays with my family in Nebraska. This was a spiritual pilgrimage as well, as I did learn there really is such a thing as Purgatory – it’s being stranded indefinitely at the Denver Airport waiting for the weather “to clear.”

My husband, Richard, is from Idaho so even after we got married we alternated flying back and forth between these two exotic snow-covered destinations at Christmas. But at some point, traveling with two small children over the holidays got to be too much. It was time to establish our own holiday traditions – but a Christmas without snow?

Can you say Feliz Navidad? While everyone was talking North Pole, I found my answer to a Christmas without snow South of the Border. When we lived in New York, one year we flew to Mexico the day after Christmas. We stayed in Zihuantanejo, a small fishing village on the Pacific Coast.  This is what I remember. As we rode in a taxi with no seat belts to our hotel, a huge pig sauntered across the road. I turned to my husband and said, “This isn’t a developing country – this is the Third World!) When we arrived at our hotel shortly after 8 a.m., the manager, Pepe, had two icy Coronas in our hands before our luggage hit the ground.

Not only was Mexico warm and sunny, but it was (dare I say it?) so Christmasy! There were Christmas trees at all the hotels and restaurants decorated with tin and straw ornaments and elaborate nativity scenes nestled in piles of Spanish moss. It was gorgeous, colorful, and the atmosphere was festive. Think about it. Margaritas are green and hot sauce is red. My sons got to break open a red and white star pinata and the kids were excited to get a piece of candy and an orange!

When we moved back to California it was a done deal. Adapt or perish. Tradition is tradition, but we chose to embrace new traditions. Last week we put up the tree. It’s a real one as I love that fresh pine smell (not the pine scent you spray around the house). Our tree is festooned with Mexican tin ornaments and colorful woven spirals and straw angels. (Which also makes it earthquake friendly!) There’s only one ornament on the tree that’s breakable. It’s a clay angel bell we bought the first year we were married at the gift shop outside Mijares, a local Mexican restaurant that’s still in business. The angel dangles from the top branch of the tree as a reminder of just how fragile life can be.

The stockings are hung from the chimney. And yes, when the temperature dips to 45 degrees in Los Angeles, it really feels like it’s freezing. (Who forgot to add insulation to the houses here?) Our pig, Maisie, loves to lay in front of the fireplace so I guess we really have gone Third World.

So if you drop by our house on Christmas Eve, prepare to enjoy tamales and Mexican hot chocolate.  With Global Warming, I just wanted to give everyone a heads up as to what could be in store. In the meantime, Feliz Navidad!


1. Bev from England - December 15, 2008

Wonderful !!!

As someone from england we most likey will have wet , dull , cold weather for christmas…BUT you never know and lots of us hope, every year, for snow AT christmas. Hardly ever happens.. in my 47 years i remember so few and now wonder if I imagined the ones i DO remember lol But IM a firm believer that christmas is what you make it so snow doesnt have to be necessary for a lovely christmassy feel and look.

I was very interested to read about earthquake friendly ornaments… most of mine would shatter , of course the few quakes we get here are so small it shouldnt matter, but that was a real eye opener for me !



2. Tony - December 19, 2008

my brother and his family live in El Paso Texas so they have all those great tin and straw ornaments on their treee – when I went to visit this last time I was able to buy some really great Christmas Skull ornaments which are on my tree now – people ask me about them and I tell the story of how we went walking through the streets looking at all the great Christmas things in Mexico while I was there and when I saw them I had to buy them because of the great handpainted art on them – by the way I love Mexican Chocolate. I just had some the other day with Mexican bread.


3. Catherine Sherman - December 21, 2008

I thought about your oranges while our Australian friends were here and wished we could just walk into our yard to pluck a few. At home, the Australians make freshly squeezed orange juice every day, although they buy their oranges. I’ll find out soon whether they grow oranges in Australia. I was able to scrounge up two oranges from the refrigerator for their juice here, and then we had to go to the store to get more. The Australian boys were so thrilled to see snow, and even the parents were fascinated because it was so light. I assured them that the thrill would quickly pass, and I think it did by day three. Now they are in Chicago, where it is even colder. They’ll probably have a white Christmas there. It’s a LONG way from Sydney to travel for a white Christmas.


4. lilikaofthelake - December 27, 2008

I love California Christsmas. Going to the Redondo Pier for breakfast in the soft snappy salt air. Palm trees and the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea markets. Heaven on Earth. Now it is lovely Wisconsin Snow and fog and cabin comforts (fever) for months on end. I bet you miss Nebraska – but just a little. Pass me some oranges.


5. Remembering Kathy | Catherine Sherman - December 1, 2010

[…] still one of the highlights among many highlights in my life.  Kathy and I had a great time with Jan, and I am blessed that we are still close friends.  Her blog […]


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