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Christmas is a Wrap January 2, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Entertainment, Holidays.
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As much as I love Christmas, once the lights come down and the decorations are carted back upstairs, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief.

Oh, the foot?  My son bought that one year for Halloween at the 99 Cent Store. It’s become a family tradition to put it in the foot of one of the boys’ Christmas stockings as a stocking stuffer. In my house, we’re big on traditions. These are the lasting memories that are the stuff of childhood (and later on – therapy).

Unfortunately, our annual tradition of going to see a really inappropriate movie on Christmas Eve was crushed when we showed up to see Rare Exports only to be told it didn’t start until Christmas Day.  In past years, movies have included  GremlinsDeuce Bigalo Male Gigolo, and Bad Santa. What can I say? I live with men. As much as my husband enjoys Love Actually, you can only watch it so many times. Ditto on It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story (though Darren McGavin’s character always reminded my husband of my father).

This year my friend Nora introduced me to The Bishop’s Wife which stars Cary Grant as an angel (think early George Clooney). The movie was released in 1947 when what a woman wanted most was a new hat. The coolest thing the angel does is make it so that the non-believer’s bottle of brandy automatically refill after it’s been poured. Now that’s the spirit of the season!

The day after Christmas we did make it to Rare Exports (Click Here to watch the trailer) to learn the story behind  the Real Santa Claus. It was actually a rather clever movie though it could kill tourism to Finland faster than you can say “dead reindeer.”

California Christmas December 14, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Travel.
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christmasca

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!