Winter Holidays in Southern California

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We here in most of Southern California, specifically in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, have a completely different outlook on celebrating the winter holidays than most of the rest of the country. Many of us came from someplace else and have come to terms with the lack of snow and the presence of perky palm trees with Christmas lights on them.

When I moved here from upstate New York in the 70s, in December, my then husband and I laughed and laughed at the ominous sound of the weather casters’ reports of “bone-chilling 40s.” Forty degrees in upstate New York is practically barefoot weather. We didn’t wear coats much that year, and basked with the windows open to the point where visiting friends begged us to close them and put the heater on.The lack of snow or the need for cocoa and mittens was pleasant, but a little disconcerting.  I understand more about the holidays now.

And I substitute over-the-top Christmas light displays and the typical So. Cal uniform of a parka worn with sandals and/or shorts till it warms up in the afternoon for graceful but wet and cold falling snowflakes. Merchants still paint snow scenes and snow men on their windows during the season, but it seems unconvincing and anomalous to me. I never send out Christmas cards with pictures of snow or snow men on them; I tend to opt for Santa at the Beach or a manger scene with palm trees and deep blue skies, instead.  We still drink hot drinks when it drops down to the forties, and buy each other hats and scarves on the off chance we’ll get to use them, and play carols about cozy fires and blustery nights, but our weather, if not our attitude, is more like what Mary and Joseph experienced in the Holy Land than what we were brought up to think of as a typical Christmas climate.

I see Southern Californians around me, sending oranges to relatives in the mid-west and wearing jackets purely as a fashion statement, until the torrential rainstorms start, if they ever do. We had one big rain so far this year, with rain coming down in buckets for about a day, with blue skies and crisp little puffy cloudlets afterward. We may or may not have rain again this year. I’m betting that we will, but even the weather guys mostly don’t have a clue.

I’ve come to prefer my t-shirt and sandals weather Christmas and my Thanksgiving at the beach after the turkey dinner to the kind of holidays I celebrated when I was growing up. Bringing the Christmas tree home in a Santa hat and shorts and wearing strapless dresses to Christmas parties is fun and attractively off-kilter to me. I wouldn’t trade them for all the sleighrides in the world.


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