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The standard imagery surrounding the holidays, at least in this country, is decidedly wintry. Santa wears a warm fur coat and drives a sleigh, after all, and almost every piece of holiday media takes places in chilly environments. It’s “The Polar Express,” not “The Tropical Railway,” and a “winter wonderland,” not a “Shangri-La summer.” For those of us who live a little closer to the equator, it can be enough to create some cognitive dissonance. There is a sense of disorientation if you, like me, are a transplant from more temperate parts of the map. I grew up in New England, and our holidays were set in a world like those of a Norman Rockwell painting, a Bing Crosby song, or a Robert Frost poem without all the dark undertones. We’d wake up early, when it was still bitter cold. My brother and I weren’t allowed to stir our dad until 6 a.m. but we were often up long before that. To pass the time, we went down and stared at the tree, patiently waiting for the moment when our presents would be revealed. One year, I remember we were up at what had to be 3 or 4 in the morning. My mom, dad, or Santa himself had turned the porch light on, illuminating the gently falling snow outside. It was as picturesque as it gets, the stuff of holiday movie magic. So you can imagine the disconnect I felt when I moved to San Diego, and suddenly, December was more likely to surge into the triple digits than fall to freezing. What do you mean we can walk the beach on Christmas morning without needing an Everest-level parka? You’re telling me the best light displays are on boats, not houses? How does Santa even survive down here without passing out from heat stroke? After an adjustment period — at first, I couldn’t even tell that the stores were decorated for the holidays because my brain couldn’t compute a sunny holiday display — I’ve come to realize that while the atmosphere may be THE SUN MAY BE SHINING BUT YOU CAN’T MELT THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT
way, way different, the holiday spirit is the same. During this time of year, people are out on in droves to spread cheer and enjoy the festivities. There are countless San Diego-specific holiday traditions, some of which you can read about on Page 4 of this newsletter. Today, the holidays feel just as natural, and just as magical, with shorts on as they do in a Christmas sweater. I do miss the snow, though. Well, maybe not really. I don’t miss shoveling snow, I don’t miss driving in snow, and I don’t miss its habit of altering plans. Come to think of it, I guess what I really miss is the idea of snow and that moment when you wake up and the blanket of white is perfectly undisturbed, save for maybe a few animal prints trailing off into the distance. Very quickly, though, it becomes brown, salty, and malformed. Perhaps I’m lucky, then, that most of my coldest and snowiest holiday experiences can live on in my memory, where even mountains of snow don’t require any shoveling.
Happy holidays, everyone! Whether you prefer them cold and chilly or sunny and warm, we can all agree that they’re a special time.
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