The traditional idea of Christmas doesn't really apply to the Coastal South. We have no snow, and therefore no snowmen, thermal underwear, red noses, or real reasons for hot beverages. And, since people originally used their actual footwear for decor, those wool stockings on the mantle are also kind of pointless. So is having a mantle and fireplace, for that matter.
And yet for generations we've ignored all these practical points and forged ahead with Hallmark's idea of what Christmas should look like. When it's 72 degrees outside we paint our windows with "frost" and stand up inflatable snowmen and guys dressed in ski gear in our front yards. We blatantly ignore the weatherman and bury ourselves in totally unnecessary scarves and boots, then proceed to sweat all day long. We ship angular evergreens all the way from freaking Canada so we'll have the "right" kind of tree. We abandon iced coffee.
Y'ALL. Why are we doing this??
Let's just stop and think for a minute. What if the coastal South (the chunk I'm thinking of is east of Texas and south of Jackson, straight across from Shreveport to Savannah) had developed without any influence from the rest of the country? How would our holiday traditions be different? Here's a couple of ideas:
Christmas as we know it functions to break up the bleak gee-will-I-die-from-exposure-this-time? feel of the winter in places like Russia, England, and Fargo, North Dakota. Winter is sucktastic, Christmas helps folks forget that for a while.
Based on this logic, in the isolated Coastal South of my imagination we wouldn't celebrate anything major in December. I would never, ever, ever need a party to make me feel better about the winter here. On the other hand, our summers are sent directly from the devil himself, and we do die from the heat sometimes. So THE annual holiday would actually be more useful on or around July 30. Just think: we could complain about how "we haven't even gotten through Memorial Day and they're already advertising Christmas gifts!" Etc.
Really, y'all? Snow? Ok, ok. We do see "snow" every couple of years. For one day. In late January. But is the dirty film of ice that patches on the ground and melts with the dawn really what the songwriters had in mind? I don't think so. It's rarely even consistently cold by December 25. So nix the snow. Ditto snowmen (unless ironically dressed in bikinis), Santa's fur/wool suit, and reindeer. Just use regular deer. Or alligators. Here we go, "local flavor" Santa: same dude, in khaki shorts, being pulled through my yard by a disgusting amount of possums. Wait. I may have actually seen that guy...
I think it's high time we all accepted two things about living in the Coastal South: first, the summers are going to be 300 degrees hotter than you're anticipating. Every year. And you'll feel like you're breathing underwater. Second, the winter is never going to "look at lot like Christmas." At least not Christmas in Boston. So let that be ok. We don't have to be the Southern version of a Northern Christmas. While we'll certainly keep the stuff that fits, let's work towards finding our own overall rhythm of the holiday.
Here's some ideas to get us started:
|Christmas on the Bayou|
|It's nothing to be on the water in December around here...it's not cold. Can I say that enough?|
|Christmas at Beauvoir|
Christmas at the Jefferson Davis home of Beauvoir displays gorgeously lighted live oaks, the true Coastal South Christmas tree. Can't find them anywhere else!
|Winter Wonderland Christmas- Over 40,000 Christmas lights & decorations encompassing over three acres|
Don't let that guy's suit fool you. He's either got a "fur" coat made of jersey or he's .2 seconds from heatstroke.
Exhibit A under "Silly Things We Think We're Supposed To Do at Christmas"
What do y'all think of my assessment? I swear I'm not trying to be a humbug. I just don't believe that no snow = no go. What other ways can we make Christmas a more local event?