I’ve lived in Los Angeles just over 18 years so I’m finally getting used to celebrating Christmas dressed in short sleeves and surrounded by palm trees. While living here, we’ve had the occasional cold and snowy Christmas in Idaho with Hubby’s family or in Connecticut with my sister and her family, but more often than not, we’ve been in warm and green Los Angeles.
Now that we’re a family, we’ve got a good little thing going with a family advent calendar that helps us prepare for the holiday and get in the Christmas spirit. Every day the boys open a box and pull out a slip of paper with an activity for the day. Slowly but surely, a picture reveals itself as they replace the box backwards. Some activities are totally related to Christmas, like decorating the Christmas tree, reading Christmas stories by the fireplace, visiting Santa, and watching a Christmas movie. Others are just activities to help us feel like it’s winter, like making paper snowflakes to hang in the windows, enjoying hot chocolate with all the fixings (marshmallows and candy canes), and making s’mores by the fireplace. And then there are the activities that are just special family times, such as having breakfast for dinner, having a picnic dinner in the family room (after the tree is decorated), and having a family game night with special treats (this year with chocolates and “seigmenn med nisseluer” (jelly men with Santa hats) thanks to my aunt!).
Most of the activities repeat themselves from year to year, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to plan the activities since both boys are now in school full day. There are after-school clubs, sports activities, and homework to consider. This year I really wanted to plan an ice skating day (either at ICE in Santa Monica or at the Beverly Hills Holiday Ice Rink) and a baking day (cinnamon rolls with Daddy or krumkaker with me), but we simply did not have a day with a long enough chunk of time available. We did, however, add two new activities to the calendar which were great fun.
The first new addition was “Breakfast with Santa” at the Music Center downtown. We actually got a little dressed up, which doesn’t happen too often around here. The adults were welcomed with a choice of champagne or mimosa, and the kids were thrilled with direct access to a hot chocolate bar with unlimited marshmallows and sprinkles. There was even an elf there to help with serving so Mom and Dad didn’t need to accompany. Other highlights for the kids were a “Santa’s Workshop” area where they decorated cookies after getting supplies from a candy bar and hanging out with Santa. Not only did Santa visit all the families at their tables, but he also welcomed them in his sitting area. Highlights for Mom and Dad were that the kids could help themselves to the buffet foods and were entertained by elves so we could just sit back and relax. Both Sonny and Doobie are eager to have breakfast with Santa again next year, and Mom and Dad will happily oblige.
The second new activity was a visit to Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo (just south of LAX airport) to see holiday lights and decorations galore. The residents have been “bringing holiday joy since 1949”. We parked a couple of blocks away and walked to this one-block stretch that was closed to cars. Every house on the block was decorated from front-of-lawn to rooftop. Music was playing for all to hear and a couple of houses were showing Christmas movies. The North Pole Airport was there and also a house showcasing several running trains. Santa was even at the end of the street and available for pictures. Lots of visitors were strolling the street. It reminded me of Halloween in a certain neighborhood of Santa Monica where the residents go all out with their decorations. Except here, we were strolling calmly and not rushing to collect candy at every door.
All our advent activities certainly helped us get ready and in the mood for Christmas. This year, however, we did leave town for a white Christmas elsewhere. Christmas Eve we flew up to Idaho and arrived just in time to hang our stockings. We woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland. We had a few gorgeous and fun days of skiing, snowboarding, playing in the snow, and hanging with family. While we’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy Christmas in LA, there’s something special about a white Christmas, too.