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December 04, 2011

Real Christmas Weather

By Elaine Viets

Christmas lights reflected in the pool. Twinkle lights on the palm trees. Shoppers in T-shirts battling for bargains at the mall.

It’s Christmas in Florida.

Do I miss the cold weather Christmas in my hometown in St. Louis?

Heck, no. Snow is pretty in photographs, not in my boots. I don’t celebrate the season of freezing and shivering. Electric blankets and cozy stoves don’t keep me warm. I like the sun.

Anyway, warm weather Christmases are more authentic.

The first Christmas took place in Bethlehem – the one in Israel, not Pennsylvania. In December, PalmtreesandtwinklelightsIsrael is only slightly cooler than Florida. The temperatures are about 40 to 65 degrees. Jesus would need swaddling clothes. Santa Claus would be sweating in his fur-trimmed getup.

Besides, there were palm trees at that first Christmas, just like in Florida. Fir trees were a much later addition, imported from Germany.

You can still celebrate your old-fashioned American Christmas. Just remember many early Americans disapproved of the celebration. Bostonians outlawed it for more than two decades starting in 1659. And it isn’t that old a tradition, either.

What we think of as Christmas is a fairly recent American invention. The move toward a family-oriented Christmas started around 1828, when unemployed New Yorkers held a good old-fashioned Christmas riot. Think Occupy Wall Street without the videos. The city government reacted the same way it did now. They brought in crowd busters with badges and created the New York police force.

Meanwhile, bestselling authors were molding public opinion about Christmas. Washington Irving wrote "The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent." – sentimental stories where a rich titled dude invited the peasants into his home for the holidays. Irving’s peasants were cute, well-scrubbed types, sort of like walking Hummel figurines. They did not pick their teeth or put their muddy feet on the coffee table. They got along just fine with the rich squire. In short, Irving created an amazing piece of fiction. Such was the power of the season – and Irving’s writing – that Americans felt his stories illustrated the true spirit of Christmas.

On the other side of the pond, international bestseller Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol," a truly barf-worthy tale. Oops. I mean, a classic which has endured for nearly 180 years, provoking guilt-ridden parents to overspend on their offspring and overeat with relatives they’d rather avoid.

After that, the traditions started piling up. German-Americans made Christmas trees popular and by 1853, Franklin Pierce had one at the White House.


But before you get all misty-eye about ritual fir killing, Sears Roebuck sold the first artificial Christmas tree in 1883. The deluxe version had 55 limbs for a buck. So that artificial tree isn’t a new invention. It goes back 123 years.

In fact a Florida Christmas is probably more traditional than a "deck the halls with holly" celebration with snow and ice.

Besides, we have ice in Florida. Lots of it.                        Floridachristmas

In the drinks at the outdoor Christmas parties.







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Here in the central valley of California, Xmas is usually a rainy and chilly time. We keep the snow way up in the mountains.

I did spend one Xmas in the tropics, back in 1973. It was pretty sweet barbecuing and getting a tan on Xmas Day.

And I've always wondered what the people in Australia and South America feel about the sleighs and winter wonderlands and Burl Ives as as snowman. Christmas is in the summer for them. It must be more like our 4th of July - barbeques and baseball, or the South American equivalent of those.

So do people have stockings by the fireplace in Florida? Or do you hang your bathing suit on the line instead?

I always had a white Christmas growing up in Syracuse (and then a white 4 months after that). Where I am now, not far at all from Bethlehem PA, it's hit or miss with snow. But that's just fine.

Laura, I have a cousin living in OZ right now. Going to the beach for the day is the Christmas tradition. The traditional gift for children, sand buckets and shovels. She's Jewish and still found it a little weird.

I have been to Ba'it Lechem (Bethlehem). It was July. The Church of the Nativity is pretty small. Bethlehem is in Judea, just south of Jerusalem. Judea is also known as the West Bank. It is controlled by the Palestinian Authority. In 2002 Hamas Terrorists hid out in the Church of the Nativity. The alter was used as a latrine http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2002/05/19/inside-the-siege-of-bethlehem.html.

Here in Wisconsin it's all sledding and snowball fights when you're a kid, and sledding on a snowmobile and throwing snow with a snowblower as an adult. I don't like to do either. We've been fortunate this year - no snow yet - but I do like a white Christmas. Here the alternative to snow is brown grass and empty trees, so the snow is camouflage for all that depressing dead looking stuff. If it would just stay on the yards and trees, and off the streets and sidewalks, it would be perfect. I've lived in Wisconsin almost all my life (and celebrated every Christmas here), so warm Christmases seem strange to me. Despite my dislike of snow and ice, I don't think I'd like to live anywhere else. I appreciate the seasons too much. Also, I don't do hot. A perfect day is in the mid-sixties, with evening temps in the 40s so I can sleep with the window open.

"Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol," a truly barf-worthy tale."

I am so glad to know I am not the only one who dislikes this story. So maudlin. I love Dickens, but this is not his best.

Dare I also say that I don't like The Nutcracker?

I hate cold weather. I was tricked into moving to Wisconsin almost four years ago and I am done with snow. I am tired of the Driveway of Death and of being cold all winter long unless I am wearing all of my clothes.

I have told my husband that if he drops dead, I am throwing away all of his crap in the basement without even looking at it - anything that's been in a box for seven years is not something a person needs, giving away the cats and moving back to Texas.

Doc, I'm just a bit North of you and Christmas morning is usually cool enough for a bathrobe and slippers and the afternoon is warm enough for a bike ride. It's perfect. We get a dusting of snow once or twice a year. It's pretty because it's an inch or two and then melts by the next day. I love California in December.

No fireplace in our home to hang a stocking. We stuff the stockings a put them under the tree.
Alan, I'd forgotten the sad story of the takeover of the real Bethlehem.
Yes, Class, it's safe to dislike "A Christmas Carol" at TLC -- one of the most contrived stories ever. I also like Dickens, except for that piece of slop.
"Nutcraker" is pretty sappy, too, but think of what all those bad young ballerinas have done to it and rejoice.

I like to visit snow. All white and sparkly on the ground where it belongs or those cute little flakes drifting down from the sky.
I do not like it as frozen rain coming straight at you. Nor do I drive in snow. I drive in palm trees.
Merriest of merries we do decorate with lights and sing carols and hang up stockings just like you northerners. We just don't own winter coats.

In St. Louis there could be a white Christmas . . . or it could be warm and sunny. We always wished for snow but if not, riding bicycles was fun, too. I did spend ten winters in Minneapolis, where snow was present from Thanksgiving until May . . .
These days I'm becoming less willing to brave ice and snow, staying home warm and dry instead -- is that an increase of wisdom or . . .?

Elaine, I love the photos! Lights on the palm trees -- very ingenious!

Elaine, I love you outing the so-called traditional stuff. You radical!

I say, anything goes. I happen to love the George C. Scott CHRISTMAS CAROL, but to each his own and whatever wacky stuff any of us to do celebrate, to those who say "but it's just not Christmas to do it that way" I say, "bah, humbug."

Okay, back to switching the Autumn china to the Christmas china.

St. Louis has had White Halloweens recently and Christmases that were cold but no snow. But STL weather is always a surprise.
Thank you, Harley. It's tough to be a Tiny Tim hater this time of year. I'm glad I confessed and learned I'm not alone.

St Louis weather...wait 10 minutes. It will change!

You are so right, Pam.

I have to watch the Muppet Christmas Carol every year. And It's a Wonderful Life. It's fun to indulge in sappy, manipulative films at least once a year. I like the Bill Murray version in Scrooged too. Now that I live in snow country, I could do without a white Christmas. It snows, it melts, it freezes,it snows, it melts, it freezes . . . it is a big mess.

Class Factotum, my girlfriend is being held hostage by her husband in Alaska (Wasilla, in fact). He knows that the moment his body is cold (have to wait until summer to dig) she is back down in Portland OR or there abouts.

I had two winters (and actually quite mild ones) in Vermont. This West coast gal was not born for that stuff.

Brrr to the women who are hostages for love. Not sure I love any man enough to live in Alaska or Vermont.

A friend from Hawaii, suffering through her first Minnesota winter, said the hardest thing for her was the indoor confinement, not being able to just run out for tennis or whatever. She was planning to endure one more winter and if it was still as bad, she was heading home, with or without her husband. I never understood companies that transferred people to Minnesota in the middle of the winter . . .

Snow is ugly. Snow is dangerous. I hate snow.

Snow on Chrstmas has nothing whatsoever to do with the Christianity that I profess. Thanks, Elaine, for reminding people that the REAL Christmas, no matter what time of year Jesus was actually born, could not have been a white one! Some of my fellow New Englanders seem to think that the Bethlehem of Jesus looked like Bethlehem CT in December. Every year I myself pray for a dry Christmas so that my relatives and I do not put ourselves in danger trying to get together to celebrate, since none of us live in the same city.

Because I'm not supposed to shovel snow EVER ,or even remove it from my car, I dread winter. I know first hand that kids are NOT dying to earn a few bucks shoveling snow. The next person who tells me that "all you need to do is get a kid" is going to receive a detailed description of ALL the efforts I have made to find someone to remove snow for me in the years since I was told that I sholud not remove snow myself. I do not want to pay the twenty five dollar fine per day that my condo assn charges for unremoved snow. I have resigned myself to the fact that snow related injury is aways just one storm away.
(The assn never seems to notice all the second floor residents who dump their snow onto the decks of their first floor neighbors. Has anyone guessed that I live on the first floor?)

Oh, I had better stop now!(How many days until spring?)

Here's to a happy , safe, non white Christmas and winter, too!

I love Christmas music and I play it all year.

I hate Christmas and have since I was a little kid. Living in Southern California greatly facilitates my ability to ignore it. Let's hear it for palm trees with the tiny little white lights.

Oh, the mythical "get a kid to do it." Heard that one before. Snow removal is expensive, Deb.
Amen, Mary Lynn, to that thought.

Too bad, Deb. we have teenage boys a couple of houses from us who shoveled our driveway without even asking, and without expecting anything in return. And we're perfecly able to do it ourselves. Plus our other neighbor with the snowblower routinely goes around and helps everyone if we have a heavy snow (we're prone to Nor'Easters here). I wish you had neighbors as thoughtful.

My sister, who sill lives in Syracuse (as does most of my family), sent a link the other day to an article listing the 10 snowiest cities:

1) Syracuse
2) Rochester, NY
3) Buffalo

It's those damn great lakes and their lake-effect snow. I think the highest ranked Alaska city was #8.

I think this is it:


Yup, moving 200 or so miles south made all the difference...

Put me in the NO category for A Christmas Carol as well. Except for the Dr. Who version.

Vancouver can have 3 feet of snow for Christmas or rainy and 60F or cold and clear or whatever comes along. Shovelling snow in Vancouver or anywhere in the Pacific Northwest is absolutely backbreaking work, heavy wet snow that laughs at snow blowers. Vancouverites are also very inconsistent with their shovelling, on one block you can have piles of lumpy snow covering the sidewalk and then cleared to the cement sidewalk. I generally stay home for the 3 or 4 days there is snow on the ground, then it melts and world order is returned.

If I ever date again or amazingly enough were to get married and if said man were to say, lets move somewhere cold and snowy, my response would be: "Who are you and why are you in my house".

I have taken out the 2 bins of christmas decorations and not decorated, I have to vacuum and dust first. That may take a few days to happen.

My family is NOT sentimental. My mom has already told us not to visit her or expect Christmas at her house. She is on Vancouver Island and travelling there at Christmas is a gruelling experience. My brother lives a few blocks from her, he is bringing pizza and his dogs over to her place on Christmas. I have a friend coming to my place, we are having turkey tortilla soup and pumpkin pie.

Ho ho ho, good enough for me!

My Christmas baking this year is going to be one batch of peppermint brownies. I shall send some of these to my mom, along with a container of Crown Royal Marshmallows from here:

Isn't that what every mother wants/

Put me on your Christmas list please, Gaylin. And kudos to your Mom, who doesn't demand a Christmas visit when the weather is bad.

Elaine, my mom says she as cooked enough f*%&ing turkeys and no more.
I come from such genteel stock!

I didn't like marshmallows until I tried the salted caramel marshmallows from Cocoa Nymph in dark & spicy drinking chocolate. Yowza!

"transferred people to Minnesota in the middle of the winter..." Also known as, "We would fire you, but if you quit its cheaper."

Looks like a typical St. Louis winter. It was 62 yesterday and we're supposed to have snow starting about midnight. I'm pretty sure it will snow a lot on Tuesday since we have to go to Columbia to meet with a Rep. about a possible Respite Care bill.

I like the Christmas snow that looks pretty on the yard and trees but doesn't stick to the street. It will also probably snow on Friday since I'm giving a party. It seems to do it every year on my party night.

Diana, let the St. Louis weather forecasters know about your parties in advance. It will help them make reliable predictions.
So true, Alan. And happy birthday.

I do love Christmas decorations and used to have my tiny place thoroughly decked out each year. I would keep the decorations up all through the winter. It might have been drab or white outside but my home was filled with color! These darn problems that limit me physically make it painful to do all the decorating that I like to do, so I have had to keep things to a minimum in recent years. For some reason, this makes it more difficult for me to endure the cold winters and the snow. (It doesn't help that my mom died suddenly at Christmastime fourteen years ago. It did a lot for my morale to decorate each year after that at Christmastime and I miss being able to do all the extensive decorating that cheered me up.)

I think that those of us who struggle with northern and New England winters ought to have a TLC Christmas gathering in Florida! It would be a pleasure to go Christmas caroling without fear of frostbite!

Come on down, Deb. I'd love to host a TLC pool party.

Alan, so wise and so cynical . . .
-- one winter my book bag was stolen . . . in Boston, I think, maybe D.C.
. . . I had my wallet in hand at the time, so the only thing of monetary value was my return air ticket. The airline replaced it for a nominal handling charge, with the warning that if anyone used it, I'd have to pay for it . . . as if anyone would willingly go to Minnesota in the winter!

For years I have sent people these cards I find at Target...it shows this wrinkled, sun-kissed skin lady, lounging on a raft in a pool, martini in hand, Christmas Palm tree by the side of the pool, and the inside of the card reads "Oh, Tanned and Bombed, Oh Tanned and Bombed"

I sign it "Merry Christmas from your loved ones in Florida".

Lora, I would love to send that card to my mother!

Aw, I grew up in St. Louis and I miss the seasons. I think I'm really spoiled by the weather in Southern California, and missing the weather in St. Louis is actually a luxury.

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