Wednesday, 18 December 2013
Christmas in the Arizonan Desert
December 18 2013, one week before St Nick slips down chimneys all over this beautiful city and here I am preparing to celebrate the festivities in the Arizonan Desert. Holidaying with the daughter and long standing friends, it is a busy but enjoyable and moving time of the year especially here in this very dear place that is close to my heart. The sun rises about 7.30am and sets about 5.30pm with vermillion and amethyst brush strokes painted across the horizon, it’s an exquisite sight with Camelback Mountain silhouetted against this beautiful backdrop.
As dawn evolves the Arizonan sun and blue skies flood the day, together with a cool desert chill morning and evening filling the atmosphere and where, surprisingly, light jackets are required even though the temperature is still 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A road runner runs here and a quail scurries there; a hummingbird hovers and darts to my left and a desert robin sits proudly high atop a saguaro surveying the festive landscape. Venturing out I enjoy observing the merriment and hustle and bustle of families preparing for their personal celebrations…fall or one day only (yes one day only) here in the US. No Boxing Day here. Though our American friends pretend to celebrate BD day, even though they do not really know what it is all about; they like to observe it for us two Brits, Mrs Teacup and daughter. Sadly, on Boxing Day the working population usually return to their corporate desks.
The Malls are frantic with families buying food, decorations, gifts, wrapping paper and ribbon. Monstrous evergreen Christmas trees are sold on street corners in the “Tree Patches” all over town and families load their car roofs and make their way home to overload such tree with sparkly decorations and lights of every shape size and colour you can imagine. Shop windows are beautifully and tastefully overdone; prices are low, or lower than usual, with bargains to be had on every corner of the Phoenix grid system where businesses hope to rake in their last sales before the New Year is rung in with Should Old Acquaintance be Forgotten. Coffee shops sell Christmas shaped cookies and pastries, snowy frothy winter lattes and cappuccinos and Christmas flavoured tea with cinnamon and seasonal spices, all very yummy and moreish. Families look festive (and silly in some cases) wearing reindeer ears or jingle bell antennae as they go about their Christmas business; even some of the cars and trucks are sparkled up for the Season of Good Will and wear “ears” or “sparkles” or “lights” of some description or another.
Every other house and garden twinkle with coloured lights of every colour of the rainbow; gardens are a glow and covered in decorations. Competition is high to see who can put the most lights up or who can do the most outrageous display; electricity bills must be high too! Neighbours outwitting neighbours in the Christmas spirit in some streets. Cactuses, bushes, trees and plants are all elaborately adorned and flashing. The downtown trolley bus will take you on a tour of the grandest displays if you so desire. House parties are in full swing on each street corner with Cadillac’s, Hummers and Station Wagons parked kerb side and I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas blaring. Restaurants have Christmas everything; decorated ice creams and puds; napkins and table centres; waitresses and waiters are bedecked with tinsel and flashing earrings, Santa hats and festive antennae. Christmas flavoured ice teas, Christmas smelling candles; in fact everything you ever wanted can be Christmas coloured, flavoured or decorated right down to the Kleenex box , kitchen towel…..and even the loo rolls!
There are places to go and things to see; Lights at the Zoo, Luminaries at the Botanical Gardens with Chihully, Christmas Markets by the Waterfront, Christmas Craft Making Parties, the Nutcracker at the theatre, carols at the Philharmonic, Swan Lake at the ballet, Native American Storytelling and children’s theatre of some description all over town. No traditional Pantomime; they do not understand Pantomime! The Public Art is festivitied up with holly and ivy wreaths, bows and baubles. Everything that can be decorated is decorated.
Churches of every denomination are in full swing and sparkle up with crosses and stars, mangers and nativity scenes to praise, be thankful and welcome the Kings of Kings birth on the 25th. Carollers sing The Holly and the Ivy and Hark the Herald Angles in quiet corners of shopping malls with donations going to charities. Schools celebrate with parties and concerts for proud mums and dads to shed a happy tear in honour of their children’s successful year at school. Charities sell paper angels in a variety of prominent spots, in order that children less fortunate can receive a gift over the Christmas period. Soup kitchens and youth hostels serve up free meals and food bags so most do not go hungry.
Its fun, a blast, cool, awesome and certainly different and I love every minute. You cannot get much more Christmassy and outrageous than spending the Christmas Holiday Season in the Arizonan Desert alongside the Saguaros, Jumping Chollas, Cactus Wrens, Hummingbirds, Road Runners, Quails, Poinsettia’s, Cowboys and Native Americans. What a fantastic juxtaposition this whole adventure and season always is here in my heartland.
Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all.