A Somewhat Different Christmas in Sunny San Diego

It was my first ever Christmas in the U.S., on the sunny side. 

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In the run up to Christmas day, there was a buzz in the air and everyone working had been specifically busy to squeeze in everything before the holidays and run all the errands.

I was looking forward to having four days off - and I was lucky I didn’t have to work on the 24th because here it is not natural to have Christmas Eve off.

It sure was a different Christmas away from home but I cannot say that it was less exciting.

Here is a quick summary of what my first Christmas in the U.S. and specifically in San Diego looked like and how it was.

Tuesday, December 22nd

Annelie, Lesley and I went down to Garrison St. for a little bit of a holiday feel. The last time A. took me there it was about two weeks before Christmas and so there were not that many houses that had their decorations out. Two days before Christmas, this street was a winter-light-wonderland - in Southern California, where palm trees in the yard are just as normal as having fir in front of the houses in Germany.

I have to say this really got me in the Christmas mood - if only for a bit. But somehow it’s not right; the palm trees, the mild air (although it does get rather cold in the mornings and evenings). 

A lot of houses on the street were decorated massively and even making my eyes sparkle. It’s a Christmas dream (and waste of energy, but let’s not ruin it.)

This entrance below was my favorite. 

Well, and that view is certainly unbeatable. I guess this is my favorite shot of that night. If only my camera would capture the view more close to reality. 

It’s a winter wonderland.

Wednesday, December 23rd

Annelie and I went to Fashion Valley for a little bit of (window) shopping and people watching. We agreed on not exchanging presents right away, which - regarding the number on my latest bank statement - wasn’t such a bad idea. And yet, I had a little something for her: a yankee candle, with the scent of coconut and vanilla. Hmm. 

Palm trees with chains of lights is something. What a southern feeling. 

Everyone was squeezing their last-minute shopping in and trying to get this one last present for that one relative. I didn’t have to worry about it this year. Mr. T. had already found his very personal present back at home and the rest of my family were sent rather cheesy Christmas cards. But, you know, I like it that way. Sending cards I mean. I am old-fashioned sometimes. 

Thursday, Christmas Eve, December 24th

And then it was here; Christmas Eve was right on the doorstep. I went for a little detour to Ocean Beach that morning, with my newly fixed bike, and, being very amused, was staring at the palm trees and the Christmas decoration in the streets. It looked odd. It just wouldn’t match - in my understanding. It made me grin.  

If I had completely lost track of time, of the season, of the months, of the day, I might have thought it was summer. Or maybe late spring? Something like that, but not December and Christmas time. Nope. I just didn’t feel it, which was, however, okay, because I was a little afraid at first that the holidays would make me miss home. The weather certainly added to everything but not to my personal Christmas mood. Good! I didn’t miss it at all. It’s funny how much of a difference weather can make when it comes to a festive atmosphere, specifically for a holiday like Christmas that, I guess, the majority of people associates with snow and freezing cold temperatures. Too bad, I certainly had to think differently here. 

After having taken it easy for a few hours, I put on my pearl necklace and was forcing me into Christmas Eve mood. It was…partially working. The reason why, from 3 pm on that day, it was feeling like Christmas was because my mom had sent a huge package already a couple weeks ago and I finally got to open it - along with other cards and pressies that were sent to me by friends and family. 

It did make me a wee bit emotional, let’s say, for about half an hour because being more than 9000 km away from home - where I’d usually spend Christmas with my granny, my parents and brother as well as my uncle, aunt and two little cousins - slightly hit me. It for sure wasn’t homesickness, it was just a little bit of “awww, I wish I could give them a hug and eat chocolate on the couch with them while seeing the little ones run wild with their new toys.” 

However, I feel so much at ease here at Annelie’s, that I was just looking forward to my American Christmas. 

It’s so nice to know that, although far apart, one is so close with certain beloved peeps. 

After having had my “unwrapping pressies and missing home if only for a few minutes” moment, I was ready for Mexican food! The apple pie you see was naturally our dessert. Not really Mexican, but oh so good.

Joe’s son with girlfriend were coming over and we were all ready for a low-key Christmas Eve. 

Annelie lit the candles in the house, let Christmas music play in the background we all dove into crackers, chips and salsa as a starter - while drinking cranberry and apple cider. 

We then enjoyed tamale - I was told it’s actually a traditional Mexican Christmas dinner, but since we’re so close to the border anyway, I guess it doesn’t make much of a difference whether we ate turkey or our Southern friends’ food. 

I also shared a lot of Xmas goodies my parents sent with the rest. I mean, come on, German chocolate is still the best, huh? 

And so we finished our Mexican feast, feeling stuffed like turkeys ourselves, with a great apple pie and rolled over to the couch to stretch out and watch football: San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders (so I was told but I have yet to familiarize myself with American football - the rules though!!). 

Friday, Christmas Day, December 25th

The most important of Christmas days was dawning. Well, Christmas Day itself. 

It’s when the little kids get up early and run down to the living room, ideally fireplace, in their pajamas to see whether Santa came overnight to fill up their stockings. There’s magic in the air, children’s eyes are sparkling. 

It wasn’t quite like that for me, but still: I got an unexpected present to open. 

An. and J. got me this coffee mug (and I got the wonderful American calendar from my dear Aly). As if they’d known, for I was thinking of a way to get my second caffeine infusion of the day at work, without having to buy a cup for $3.25 (although it’s certainly good coffee) on the way to the office each morning (boy, I’d be broke).

There we go!! A little bit of a patriotic touch, though, but hey, I am stateside. 

A. and I hopped in the car and went for a sunny ride up North to San Clemente, where close friends of hers invited us to spend the day with them, including a lot of food. What’s new?

They are Indian and so welcoming. Within the first seconds upon arrival, I already realized that I was overdressed (and I didn’t even really dress up, just wearing something nice because, you know, it’s Christmas after all).

Everyone was laid-back, there seemed to be a slight, yet organized chaos in the house, the kids (so precious!) were going wild Indian style and there were tons of food either already ready to eat or about to be shoved on the oven.

We ate, we talked, we drank (mimosas + chai, what a mix), we watched Indian dance shows and most of all, were laughing quite a bit. 

I felt more than welcome. Maybe it’s an American thing, maybe an Indian one, and maybe its a fabulous mix of both, but those folks are so warm-hearted. 

There is, however, one lesson I learned: never have a mouthful of something you have not tried before - at least not at an Indian family’s house. You might choke from spiciness or lose your sense of taste. Well, I gave the salad a try. That was a wee bit too much. 

“What do you expect? You’re sitting at the table with Indians!” 

 

True statement. 

When we had apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake after dinner (everyone wanted a slice but our stomachs were pretty much full already), I was amazed when suddenly looking out of the window. 

The sunset from their living-room is one of its kind. Throw in views on the Pacific Ocean and you have a house that is worth a lot.

Saturday, December 26th

Basically, all was back to normal that day. The “second Christmas Day” doesn’t really exist here. Everyone was out and about, doing weekend stuff, getting their shopping in (you know, some of the stores were closed the preceding day - one day out of 365 - and there wasn’t enough food to eat, so grocery shopping on the 26th is technically a must). 

Annelie and I went to a windy La Jolla Cove, saw seals (I’ve never seen them that close) and crushing waves.

A separate post will follow shortly. 

Together with Lesly, we went to Fashion Valley in the afternoon, to the IMAX, to see - may the force be with you - Star Wars. Now, I don’t want to start a heated debate here, but it’s the very first movie of the series that I’ve ever seen (am I the only one?). 

Afterwards, our stomachs were rumbling and they both suggested we go to the Old Tow Mexican Café, a favorite, which also meant, that we had to kill 40 mins before we were seated (when I got hungry, it’s not even funny). Frozen Strawberry Margaritas and Quesadillas with loads of cheese, onions (the red ones!) and avocado made up for it. Gosh, can I have one right now?

And this is how we finished off the holidays San Diego style. 

Sure, it was different, family, Mr. T. and other beloved ones I would have wanted to be with were not here, but I felt completely at ease, for I was keen to experience something new. And I sure did.

There will be another Christmas next year. We’ll see where and how I am gonna spend that one (maybe cliché white Christmas back with friends in New York?). 

Tell me: Where and how did you celebrate Christmas - if at all?