It’s that time of year: the local Starbucks is playing Pandora’s Michael Bublé radio station on repeat, Tastemade is coming out with cookie decorating hacks that will inevitably leave you feeling incompetent and a third “A Christmas Prince” movie has just been released. Ah yes, the most wonderful time of the year. It truly is.
As someone who grew up in Massachusetts, no amount of pumpkin spice can alleviate the winter blues I feel from October through December. I long for the bright orange, red and yellow leaves that paint the sidewalks of my childhood. I miss going through the box of winter clothes and pulling out my favorite scarves. Earmuffs, ski masks, gloves and long johns did more than just keep me warm: they signified the changing of the seasons, something that just doesn’t happen in California.
I can burn my Bath & Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel candle all I want, but even the most festive scents can’t replace the true coziness of frigid temperatures and crackling fireplaces. Despite the moderate temperatures and the lack of snow, with the right attitude, winter in Santa Barbara can be made bearable.
Despite my lament, even I, a winter purist, can acknowledge some of the perks of spending the winter months on the west side. So for anyone else who has known the joys of an East Coast winter and is feeling a bit apprehensive about the prospect of a California holiday, here’s a quick guide to help you cope:
- While snow is what really makes winter beautiful, it can also be the stuff of nightmares. First of all, shoveling is the absolute worst. It’s genuinely hard work, and sometimes you might find yourself shoveling in the dark and racing against the clock to clear the driveway before the snow freezes. There’s also the dreaded slush, when the snow turns various shades of brown or grey. Even the coveted snow day can turn against you. For instance, one year, for my sixth birthday, there was so much snow that no one could come to my party. So when I find myself biking to class in 75 degree weather in the middle of November, I try to remind myself that not getting to wear a scarf is a small price to pay for not having to deal with these horrors.
- To me, baking is an essential part of winter. When the temperatures outside approached freezing and my parents refused to turn up the thermostat, baking helped warm me up. These days, even if I don’t need to bake to stay warm, a fresh batch of cookies, brownies or apple crisp takes me back to those winter days of yore. If you need a little holiday cheer, throw a cookie decorating party or a gingerbread house-making competition!
- My least favorite part of winter is how early the sun sets. Here in California, we’re still dealing with short days but at least we get sun until close to 5:30 pm. Where I grew up in Massachusetts, the sun sets as early as 4 pm during this time of year. It might not seem like much, but that extra hour certainly makes a difference, and if there’s one thing I can be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s that I have one more hour of sunshine every day.
- In the month of December, keep an eye out for fun and festive events happening nearby. For example, in Santa Barbara, there is an annual Parade of Lights. There will be up to 30 boats this year decorated to the theme of “Deep Space Holidays,” sailing the Santa Barbara coastline. Apparently there will even be 10 tons of snow! There is also the Solvang Julefest, which takes place throughout the entire month of December. There are many other holiday events happening in the area, so if finals week is getting you down, check out some local events for a festive pick-me-up.
- The most important thing to remember during the winter holidays is that it’s about spending time with the ones you love — whether that means family, friends or the neighbor’s dog. It doesn’t matter whether there’s snow on the ground or what the thermostat says, as long as it’s spent with the people we love. Since moving to California when I was 14, I have been lucky enough to only spend one winter break here. Though I still prefer heading east for the holidays, even though it wasn’t the Christmas I was used to, it was still a fun and happy time because I spent it with family.
So, there you have it: these are some of the things that have helped me through the season until I get to return to my icy home for winter break. Of course, there is nothing wrong with California winters (most probably prefer it); I just can’t seem to get used to the palm trees and snow-less landscapes come November. But wherever you are this holiday season, I hope it delivers on the promise of being the most wonderful time of the year.
Anabel Costa wishes everyone a frosty winter and a happy holidays.