November 28, 2015

Switching Gears for Christmas

Thanksgiving is over in the US for another year. The food is put away, the autumn decorations have disappeared and Christmas music is playing everywhere. Are you ready to switch gears?

I grew up in Montana, where it's cold. The cooler temperatures signal the change from summer to autumn, from fall to winter. By Thanksgiving, the trees are bare and the wind is cold. Even in Utah, November was mostly cold and dark, and there was snow on the mountains even if there wasn't snow on the ground. All of that made it easy to switch gears.

Things are different here along the Gulf Coast. After living here for six years, I am starting to notice some subtle signs of the changing seasons, but they are subtle.

My daughter observed today, for instance, that by late November the Cypress trees have turned brown. For the first few years we lived here, I assumed the trees were either sick or dying. Now, I'm starting to think it's a sign of the season.

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Christmas decorations are different here, too. I'm used to lots and lots of Christmas decorations. Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations, too. Starting in late September, stores and neighborhoods are decked out in whatever the theme of the season might. Unlike New Orleans, along this stretch of the coast, very few people get into the Halloween season, and nobody hires a professional artist to paint leaves or turkeys in their store windows.

I'm used to Christmas lights in abundance, covering trees, bushes, houses, stores ... what have you. In Salt Lake City, the LDS church decorates Temple Square with thousands upon thousands of tiny twinkling lights, and walking through the square to look at the lights is a popular pastime in December.

Decorations are very different here. Not wrong, just different. Since trees don't drop their leaves in this climate, it's probably a fire hazard to string thousands of tiny lights in the branches--or maybe it's just a different custom. Whatever, Even after 6 years, I still don't think "Christmas" when I see palm trees with their tops dark and trunks wrapped in lights.

Nor am I used to Christmas shopping in flip-flops and capri pants, although I'm not going to say I don't enjoy that. I do.

I miss snow in theory, not in reality. But the differences mean that switching gears to Christmas season doesn't happen naturally for me. Even if I'm out Christmas shopping, it doesn't feel like Christmas shopping, so Christmas Eve always sneaks up on me. One day it feels like the middle of the summer, and the next people are expecting presents under the tree I haven't put up yet.

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I'm going to try really hard this year to get with the program. To embrace Christmas the way it is here instead of expecting it to magically become what it was there. I want to find a way to make my heart feel like this -->

Maybe I'll turn on Christmas music or watch Christmas movies on TV, pull a few Christmas books from the shelves and read them again. Because I don't want Christmas to sneak up on me again. This year, I want to be ready!


(An Addendum:)  After writing this post, I set off to snap a few pictures of Christmas decorations in my part of Florida. One of our cars was already on the fritz, and the remaining "good" car broke down on the way to take the pictures.

Luckily, my dear friend, Wendy, came to our rescue and by some miracle we even passed a couple of decorated trees on the way home.

Thanks, Wendy, for pulling over so I could get pictures in spite of everything that went wrong. Sharing one just wasn't enough, so here's another.

To add to the seasonal joy, our only TV sizzled to its untimely death today and since I recently discovered that my computer won't play a DVD, watching Christmas movies may not be on my list of things to do for the season this year -- but I'm determined to press forward.

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells ... Ho Ho Ho!
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