How a Former East Coaster Survives the Christmas Holidays in a Tropical ClimateUSA MAINLAND — By Cathie Nichols on December 20, 2011 at 01:20
By guest blogger Cathie Nichols. Photos Copyright © Cathie Nichols.
BEING AN EAST COAST (outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) transplant living on the West Coast (Carlsbad, California) can be a real bummer during the Christmas holiday season. White sandy beaches are definitely not the same as a sea of sparkling white snow. Making angels in the sand is messy and requires several showers just to get the beach out of one’s hair.
Snow, on the other hand, is clean, quiet, and soft.
What I miss most about the east during the holidays are the lights reflecting on the snow at night. I used to walk alone around my neighborhood and check out the displays. Many people went overboard when it came to highlighting their homes with animated deer, strings of lights that make you wonder how they got them all the way up there, and music to accompany the twinkling.
Walking around my suburban San Diego neighborhood in the “frigid” 57-degree air is just not the same as shuffling through a couple inches of powder with each step more muffled than the last. My neighbors’ homes are typically laden with white (or blue) fake icicles, which only irritates me more. Why aren’t there suns, flamingos, and palm trees on a string?
I suggest everyone stop trying to look like a winter wonderland and embrace our tropical climate!
My kids did not grow up in an area where snow was the norm. I think I’ve done them a disservice by not dragging them somewhere freezing cold at Christmas so they could experience the magic of seeing holiday lights reflecting on snow. They do not know the magic of turning a snowball into a snowman. They never experienced the mountains that the snow plows make, or missed a day of school because of snow. Every child should have at least one snow day in his or her lifetime.
So what is an East Coast “girl” (ahem) to do? Each year I get my holiday spirit from visiting local San Diego attractions that get all gussied up for the holidays. The more ridiculous the decorations, the more likely I am to be there. Hokey? Heck yeah, count me in!
For example, the Del Mar Holiday of Lights show, which I attend every year to the dismay of my family. While I’m oohing and ahhing over the somewhat old-fashioned light displays, my kids are groaning and providing excessive eye-rolling. I make them go every year. It’s as if seeing the lights gives me the power to keep shopping for Christmas gifts in shorts and flip-flops.
The Del Mar Holiday of Lights show is an extremely popular event in San Diego and is well attended. If you decide to go the weekend before Christmas (like I did), expect to wait an hour in line before you even get inside the track. (Sigh.) The show opens its season on Thanksgiving Day and ends this year on New Year’s Day, so if you want to be one of the first (or the last) to see over 400 lighted displays, I suggest going then.
The light show is one in which the participants drive around a horse racetrack in one’s own vehicle to look at the lights, so if your little one doesn’t do well trapped in his car seat for an hour, get to the show when it opens at 5:30 p.m. According to one of the direction pointers in the parking lot, there are fewer people waiting to get inside near the dinner hour.
Another annoying exercise I put my kids through is driving around the area in search of homes with incredible light displays. Usually what I do is bake sugar cookies and then, while they’re cooling, we take a ride in the family minivan. The minivan is now thirteen years old and stinks from so many different spills over the years, so I try to keep the kids’ sensitivities in mind and make the trip short.
The cookies are integral to this evil mom plan because I let the girls know upfront that they can frost, decorate, and eat the cookies after we get home if they keep their impatience to themselves. This threat usually works, especially after the first sign of their annoyance—I simply raise my eyebrows while pursing my lips.
Sure, we have to drink the hot cocoa with the sliding glass door open, but it’s the tradition that counts.
One final activity that gets me in the mood for Christmas in this tropical climate is to visit the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas. It’s a time for me to spend alone looking at the lights without the kids begging to go home. There’s nothing that will break the spell as quickly as a child complaining about how much her feet hurt!
The plants at the San Diego Botanic Garden are like beautiful artwork during the day but, lit up, they’re magical. Even though while I’m at the gardens I am not making progress on my ever-increasing Christmas list, I feel I need the time to get the same calm and peace I used to feel from walking around in the first snow of the season in the East.
Because the trails are so peaceful, it is a quiet time to reflect on the true spirit of the season.
Although there’s nothing that will ever replace my memories of the snow and the Christmas lights of the East Coast, I have found other ways in which to get into the holiday spirit . . . while walking around in flip-flops and sweating in my hat, scarf and mittens. ———
Cathie Nichols (aka @Bloggoneit) is an author-in-training and is in the process of writing a book on a topic she knows very little about. Sometimes overwhelmed with three kids, a husband, a dog, a cat, and a couple jobs, she finds her sanity by escaping life through a super sappy movie or venting in a blog post at Bloggoneit.