How can you possibly celebrate Christmas in California?
It’s a question that always comes up this time of year when I talk with acquaintances from the East Coast or the Midwest.
It seems a lot of folks believe Santa wears Speedos on Christmas Day in California, and makes his rounds the night before on a surf board. Of course his California elves are all blond-haired and blue-eyed dudes who can hang ten.
It may be a balmy 80 degrees with palm trees swaying this year in Los Angeles on Dec. 25, but that’s hardly the case for the rest of the state.
But in defense of LA, they had a lot of sand and no snow in Bethlehem and still managed to celebrate that first Christmas just fine.
Snow - for the most part in California - stays where it belongs up in the mountains. And while folks in the Central Valley don’t have to shovel snow we don’t exactly have suntan weather over the holidays.
We’re lucky if we even see the sun. That’s because The Central Valley is home to that most unique phenomenon: Tule fog. Unlike fog that permeates from water, ours comes up from the ground, helped by the fact the Central Valley is essentially a 450-mile oblong bowl surrounded on all sides by mountains.
Fog doesn’t sneak in on little cat’s feet as the late Herb Caen fondly wrote about how it arrives in San Francisco. In the Central Valley it can jump out of nowhere like a 900-pound gorilla. You know you’ve lived through a real San Joaquin Valley winter when you can go from five miles visibility at 7 a.m. to 20 feet visibility by 10 a.m.
A few years ago someone calling from Kankakee took a pot shot at our fog. They visited here four years prior at Christmas. They recalled having three days of fog which is nothing to anyone who has lived in the valley for any length of time. It isn’t really a case of being fogged in until you don’t see the sun for 10 consecutive days.
The caller then smugly asked how could it really be Christmas in Manteca with fog.
About this time I’ve got to wonder what the climate has to do with Christmas, but for some reason there are a large number of East Coast folks and Midwesterners who are hung up on the fact that it isn’t Christmas without snow.
This inspired me to start humming a few bars of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Obviously Gene Autry came up with the song to celebrate how the jolly old guy navigates down the Central Valley when Tule fog is thick on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas weather put down is a continuum of the worn-out line, “Why would anyone want to live in a place where there are earthquakes?”
Good question, especially since the two biggest earthquakes that ever occurred in what is now the continental United States are thought to have happened in the Long Island area, before there was a New York City, and in the early 1820s in the Mississippi Valley, where the earth shook so violently that the river literally jumped its banks and changed course in spots.
Hurricanes aren’t exactly a worry out here and tornadoes are far from an everyday occurrence. And when not fussing about wild Pacific storms once or twice a year or the fog, we have nothing left to do in California but complain about how it’s never humid enough to sweat sitting still in the shade while sipping a Mint Julep.
I’m sure folks in the Midwest and on the East Coast enjoy their humid summers, freezing winters, blinding snow storms, tornadoes and such. I’m not going to say anything bad about them.
But the idea that somehow we’re miserable at Christmas because we are without snow is insanity. If you’ve ever been in a real East Coast or Midwest snow storm you know they’re not Hallmark affairs. They’re nasty, relentless and they pile up a lot of white stuff.
People die in snow storms on the far side of the Rockies to such a point they count the bodies many times by the dozen. A snow storm death out here even in snow country is a rarity.
And Santa does quite well out here, thank you. He doesn’t have to worry about catching his death of cold although I’m not too sure if the big guy is wild about having bottled water and fruit slices left for him instead of milk and cookies.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.