Who needs a White Christmas? Snow is cold, wet, and creates a mess on your floor when you track it inside. No, white Christmases are for people who just don’t know how to live or travel properly. You need to experience Christmas at a Southern California beach.
Beach communities don’t try to replicate the holiday traditions of sad, pathetic cold people. Instead, they have created their own winter holiday traditions.
Decorating the Christmas Palm: Well, sure, beach dwellers who celebrate Christmas have traditional Xmas trees in their homes. We aren’t monsters. More importantly, I challenge you to find a Southern California homeowner who hasn’t been maimed or injured decorating their palm trees. If you are unaware, palm trees have lots of pointy bits on them. Despite the minor cuts and abrasions, palm trees with Christmas lights are a staple of the Southern California landscape in winter.
A Merry Boat Parade: My favorite Christmas spot in Orange County, California, is the Newport Beach Boat Parade. The parade has been an annual tradition for more than a hundred years! What do you think of us now, New England? (I admit that I wrote a post extolling the virtues of Christmas in Massachusetts called: The Nantucket Christmas Stroll: A Festive Weekend in New England. But, that event has only been going on for about 40 years. Ha!)
The Newport Beach Boat Parade takes place in the harbor around Balboa Island. We first walk around the island and view the beautifully decorated homes owned by really, really rich people who can afford the good decorations. Then it is time to settle in and watch the Boat Parade. The boats are owned by really, really rich people who can afford the “good” yachts. There are neon party boats, Christmas tree boats, pirate ships, and surfing santas on boats. The people on the boat call out to the spectators on the island, and we all cheer back at the boats. Sometimes, the cheering is fueled by alcohol.
The Traditional Lighting of the Pier: Huntington Beach hosts an annual holiday lighting of the Main Street pier. Residents and tourists gather at the beach and watch local groups perform Christmas music. Then, the mayor counts down to the lighting of the snowflakes on the pier. It is an eagerly anticipated event with a small-town, holiday feel. For the record, if it snowed during the pier lighting, the good people of Huntington Beach would immediately shrivel up and literally die from the cold. This would obviously diminish the holiday atmosphere a bit. So, keep your snow to yourself, Wisconsin.
Cruising the Harbors: Beach communities down the coast of Southern California offer harbor cruises in December. Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and San Diego, among others, organize boat tours to view the decorated homes on their respective harbors. The harbor cruises usually take place for several weeks during December.
Not Wearing Coats: Have I mentioned that often, very often, the only outerwear a Californian needs at Christmas is a sweatshirt? The beaches are busy with people playing volleyball and surfing; the restaurant patios are filled; and the bike paths are populated with beach cruisers, strollers, and joggers. We don’t take it for granted. We are filled with glee and a sense of superiority over cold-climate dwellers.
These are but a mere sampling of the many delights of beach communities at the holidays. Beach towns don’t have a white Christmas, and it would spoil our fun if we did. Our Christmases are centered on being outside. At the beaches. On our piers. In our harbors. On our boats.
You may read about my other Christmas journeys at: