California Christmas 


Cool Christmas Traditions—Old and New

By Craig MacDonald

Christmas is a festive time of year, full of cool traditions both old and new. If you happen to be in a large city like San Francisco, it's so much fun to walk around and look at all the incredible, colorful lights and displays in business windows. Many homes also feature sensational spirit—both outside and in. Think of all the delicious Christmas food, some are lucky enough to taste—even the aroma is special. How I fondly remember my mom making penuche (Italian fudge-like candy) and I got to lick the bowl of remnants before it was washed.

Many look forward to sending (and receiving) Christmas Cards to (from) distant friends and relatives, making ornaments, setting up luminaries, Christmas trees, holiday lights, poinsettias, missile toe, wreaths, Yule logs and maybe an old Lionel train on tracks around the tree.

It's a great time to help others—donate money to Salvation Army Bell Ringers or other worthwhile charities; donate food, blankets, shoes or try to help the homeless or less fortunate; give someone a job (whether it's a simple racking leaves or one with a permanent paycheck) or do random acts of kindness—visit a senior citizen home and brighten someone's day by listening to a lonely sole's story or singing a song.

I remember Bing Crosby once gathered his wife and kids and went around his new neighborhood in Hillsborough, trying to spread joy by singing Christmas carols. One family didn't recognize the Crosbys and when Bing started to sing, they slammed the front door in their faces.

There's always a lot of stress from the hustle-and-bustle, traffic, finances and pressures of the Christmas Season and a lot of sorrow for some who terribly miss their loved ones who passed or moved away. Maybe you lost a job or don't have any money to buy gifts. But no matter what your situation, it's important to always remember the real reason for the season—the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Churches will have special services—some on Christmas Eve and some on Christmas Day itself, which just happens to fall on Sunday this year. It's a great time of year to read Scripture by candlelight or visit an historic mission like La Purisima and feel a real sense of the past. You also get an historic feel by strolling down Olivera Street in Los Angeles.

Some make a visit to Disneyland their tradition. I recall as a kid, my dad fascinated me each Christmas Eve by putting oats in a bowl out on our front porch for Santa's hard-working reindeer. The next morning I'd rush to the door and look outside and sure enough, those reindeer had eaten all the oats! I loved singing Jingle Bells and Silent Night sitting on a couch in San Jose with my grandmother or hearing a Mariachi Band singing Feliz Navidad before my father, mother and sister at the old Hamburgesa in Old Town San Diego. One of the coolest things I anxiously looked forward to was my dad driving us by Lima Family Mortuary in Willow Glen to see the incredible Nativity scene in the 1950s. So many people looked forward to doing the same thing and that wonderful creation of holiday spirit by the Limas has now turned into the fabulous "Christmas in the Park," where hundreds of thousands of people get to see the Lima displays and so very much more in downtown San Jose. It has become one of the state's top tourist attractions the past 35 years.

For many of us, you can't think of the holidays without thinking of Bob Hope and all the unbelievable Christmas Show tours he did for our military troops in Vietnam and all over. He and many patriotic dancers, singers and musicians, gave up their holidays to risk their lives and bring hope and joy to our service members, who too, were away from home serving their country. As an Army veteran, I want to thank Bob and everyone who went the extra mile to show they cared about the sacrifices others were making. Let us not forget today's military men and women serving in the United States and all over the world, who are helping keep our freedom.

Christmas is a great time to think of others and to appreciate (and be grateful for) your blessings, no matter what you have; love your family the best you can, if you're lucky enough to have family; love your fond memories and do what you can to make the world a little bit better place using the talents that each of you have. Please try to keep that Christmas Spirit year-round. We need it like never before. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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