This is my tenth Christmas season in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego. Prior to our relocating from north Idaho, Bishop Mathes (our previous bishop) told me that despite the beautiful weather, San Diego is not the easiest place to move into. He gave three reasons, 1) it’s expensive, 2) palm trees are an acquired taste, and 3) it won’t feel like Christmas because of the weather. In Jim’s defense, he also gave reasons why this is the best place in the country. Over the years, I have learned that the Marshall family needs to do intentional Christmas activities so that it “feels like Christmas.” We have developed some good traditions. My favorite traditions are simple – driving around Christmas Tree lane in Chula Vista, good Advent liturgies, the Men of Saint John’s Christmas Party, the Vestry Christmas Party, and watching our favorite Christmas movies with the boys.
I am wondering what activities remind you that Christmas is coming? Since the weather is no indicator of the shift of seasons, what stuff helps you get into the Christmas mood?
We moved from the Pacific Northwest – eastern Washington and north Idaho – where the weather starts to cool down at the end of August. I have trick-or-treated and Ethan has hunted for Easter Eggs in the snow. White Christmases are anticipated. There are no leaves on deciduous trees by Thanksgiving and it is always appropriate to have a fire in the fireplace while enjoying turkey. However, this past SoCal Thanksgiving was epic – we ate our entire Thanksgiving meal outside! It was almost too hot; but, you know, we buckled down and did it. Aunt June was with us from New Jersey for a Thanksgiving feast she will never forget.
Elijah was born in Escondido when we were living in San Marcos. Two years ago, he experienced snow for the first time at my sister-in-law’s cabin. He does not own a scarf nor does he know what a white Christmas is. Thanksgiving outside was no big deal to him. Yesterday he was told to wear pants to school (his default uniform is shorts). Elijah is totally SoCal. He knows Christmas is coming because of our family traditions. The weather is no indicator to him.
This past Sunday, we had the pre-greening tradition of moving the Christmas decorations from storage into the Narthex. Christi and I had been bemoaning, again, about how it doesn’t “feel” like Advent or Christmas. Nevertheless, after bringing up all the boxes, with a whole bunch of faithful volunteers (and one truck), we both sighed and said, “Ah, Christmas…” In my youth, Christmas – specifically the season of Advent – was heralded by a hay ride. We would jump into the back of a truck owned by someone from church, get some hay, and drive around the neighborhood singing carols and shouting, “Merry Christmas!” Neither of my boys can imagine driving around in the back of a truck. Nevertheless, this past Sunday, both boys got to experience the joy of truck-bed-riding when we ferried the Christmas gear from the shed to the Narthex in John Chudacek’s truck. True, it was only in the parking lot, and there was no hay, but, the experience will last a lifetime. The Marshalls now have a new Christmas tradition.
If you are looking to get into the spirit of celebrating the birth of our Savior, stick around after services this Sunday, help green the church and I guarantee you, in your heart you will feel like Christmas is coming. And maybe you can even take a ride in the back of John’s truck.