I love the weather in California. Yesterday I walked to the village under a sun so warm that the light sweater I was wearing was too much. The temperature rose to 80F (26.6 C) from 60F (15C) or below for several days the week before. Nights are coldish to cool right now, which means I can sleep cozily under a light comforter. And you always know that when it rains, or clouds gather, the sun will shine again in a day or two.
My mid-western parents, remembering the weather extremes in their native Missouri, loved to brag about going to the beach on Christmas day, if you wanted to, to our landlocked relatives trapped “back east”. I secretly wished for snow.
And this year, snow lingered on Mt. Baldy for several days last week, a reminder that it really is winter. I took a drive up there to my favorite spot beside a little stream . Snow still huddled in the shadows. I sat on a rock in the sun, warm and toasty.
I have met some interesting people here and am feeling like I will survive. I even had a small Christmas party. So many concerts, plays, movies, art exhibits abound that I am almost overwhelmed.
But I hate the commercialism. Holidays seem to be an excuse for marketing not only gifts but decorations, tons of decorations, mostly cheap, plastic, gaudy, and tasteless. Store windows vomit Christmas decorations as a stimulus to remember to buy gifts. Two months ago it was pumpkins and skulls, then a nod to Thanksgiving with autumn leaves and turkeys, and now there is a whiff of chemical imitations of “Christmassy” spices wafting here and there. Every available surface is covered with poinsettias, garlands, lights, reindeer, Santa Clauses, elves, wreaths, Christmas trees. Sometimes even the real thing. (except for elves and Santa Claus, of course.) I am told some people decorate every room in their homes.
What happened? I feel like Rip Van Winkle, waking up after 23 years in Europe to find an overblown copy of my homeland, the real one buried under an avalanche of Things For Sale. Material values smack you in the face at every turn. Where is the war on Christmas? The war on Christmas, or the Christmas spirit, is in the encouragement of gluttonous buying.
England has Christmas decorations. In Shere, they peek out of store windows, poinsettias sit at shop doorways, a garland of lights wind around the huge fir tree in the square. People gather on Christmas Eve to sing carols under that tree, bundled in scarves and caps against the cold. The vicar says a few words and leads a prayer, then everyone retreats to the pub opposite for mulled wine or to private homes for a gathering with friends. Some people string up a few lights around the windows, and hang wreaths on doors.
So I am not against Christmas decorations.When my children were little I loved to decorate with a real tree, real branches of holly and berries, bake cookies and fill the house with the aroma of cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. The tree went up around mid-December and down after New Year’s day.
When I was a child, the tree went up on my sister’s birthday, Dec. 17th or 18th, and came down the day after Christmas. That was it. A tree with balls and lights and maybe a few candles in the dining room. We all got a main present, and a couple of smaller ones. Sometimes aunts and uncles came and we had turkey and all the trimmings ,pumpkin and mincemeat pies, talked and laughed and ate. After dinner the older folks pretended not to snooze in their chairs, and later we went for a walk before tackling the leftovers.
Call me Scrooge, call me an old woman who lives in the past, where everything was better. I don’t mind. I guess I am. It was better.