Finding Christmas Spirit (at the Hotel Del of all places)

Christmas time has come to Southern California and I seem to be finding it unsatisfying so far. There is no snow, no frost, no feeling in the air that the season has changed. I’ve recently moved back to San Diego from the Northeast and now I’m wondering if I’ve made the right decision. I’ve lived in Southern California before so I knew what to expect. I also knew what I was missing while in New England: the ocean. I missed the ocean so badly I could taste it. It was constantly on my mind. I know what you’re thinking- “There’s an ocean in New England”. Trust me, it’s not the same. The Pacific offers warm ocean breezes, the pounding surf, wide soft sandy beaches and spectacular sunsets with the possibility of a green flash. Beaches here are very different from those on the other coast. In New England most of the breezes are chilly for much of the year, the beaches are rocky and the sun sets in the wrong place, at least in my eyes.  On the other hand, this holiday, I am unable to take a long drive down a country road and see deer in the snow covered hills. I am not going to be bundled up in my heavy robe, hot chocolate in hand, watching the snow fall out my front window ( I also won‘t be shoveling it). Here, I have snowflakes hanging from my beautifully lit Christmas tree and from the ceiling of my apartment.  Here there is no chance of snow, but I feel like Christmas is still around if I look for it. During this time of year, no matter where I am, I reflect on the meaning of Christmas, what it means to me and decide how to make it special.

Sure, shoppers fill the malls, as they do on both coasts looking for the perfect gift to bestow on the person they love. Families go to the home of a relative and have dinner, watch the games and  let’s face it, some of the relatives fight amongst themselves, because that’s what some families do….right? But I think if you look you can find holiday spirit and perhaps, the meaning of Christmas wherever you are.

The other day, I attended the Hotel Del Coronado’s holiday festival. I wasn’t going there to find the meaning of Christmas. I just wanted to go see the spectacular tree they put in their lobby every year and the fireworks, but I got much more than I bargained for. During this festival there were games and prize booths for the kids, food stands with everything from BBQ to warm, sugar covered donuts and coffee.  There was the wonderful ice skating rink nestled next to the sea and those familiar ocean breezes I moved 3000 miles to feel again.  To kick the night off there were fireworks over the water. A lovely display that was brief, colorful and spectacular with a backdrop of the beautifully lit Hotel Del Coronado behind it. After getting quite wet to photograph them, (I waded into the surf to get the best vantage point) I walked into the hotel to view the decorated trees, which were beautiful, ornately decorated and lovely.  As I strolled past the booths of laughing children playing carnival style family-friendly games, I again contemplated the meaning of Christmas. I suppose it’s only natural at the beginning of the season to ask that question. People reflect on the year and things they’ve done and sometimes berate themselves for the things they didn’t.  I’m certain we’re all too hard on ourselves, and rarely give credit for what we did accomplish.

I walked around with my toes squishing around in my very wet tennis shoes and I realized that everywhere I looked I saw the meaning of Christmas. A father hoisted his child up onto his shoulders to give him a better look, teenage girls laughed together watching boys with all the possibilities of life ahead of them. A mother held her child’s hand pointing out a Santa Clause or snowman on the tree. A smile, holding hands, laughter, these are the true meaning of Christmas and that night they were happening all around me.

Although I miss New England, I realize that Christmas happens everywhere. Whatever form it comes in, bundled up with parkas and scarves or in shorts and flip flops with a sweatshirt, there is one universal way we all celebrate. It’s not about gifts. It’s about being with the people we love. Days and nights filled with laughter, a smile, a hug and just the very act of being together.

I walked home feeling very Christmassy (is that a word?) indeed, singing a Christmas carol to myself, happy that I’d moved back to a place I love, looking forward to Christmas morning with my husband, feeling the same joy as a child. Perhaps I will make cookies later.

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