Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas in the Desert

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Shiny, round Christmas tree ornaments are balanced on the tips of pointy desert plants.

I hadn’t planned to share a post on Christmas Day. I don’t usually run posts on Tuesdays, and I had a fun story from my childhood to share on Christmas Eve. I thought I had done all I needed to do.

Photo has a dreamy quality and shows shiny Christmas tree ball ornaments on the pointy end of desert plants. A palm tree and mountains are visible in the background.

Then I took a ride through a small Arizona town in the Sonoran Desert and saw how the locals were decorating for the holiday.

A green and yellow desert plant is surrounded by rocks. Shiny green round Christmas tree ornaments have been placed on the pointy ends of the  plant's leaves. The photo is taken from above the plant.

Residents of several homes in the town had decorated desert plants in their front yards by placing brightly colored, shiny, round Christmas tree ornaments on the pointy ends of the plants. The decorations really made the plants look festive, which in turn made the whole yards look festive.

Close up of brightly colored and shiny, round Christmas tree decorations adorning the pointy ends of desert plants. Palm tree is visible in the background.

At least one homeowner decorated the saguaros in the yard.

I love this trio of Saguaro Santas. Since I took this photo, I’ve seen desert dwellers in other towns do this too, and it never fails to amuse me.

Shiny and round red and green Christmas tree ornaments are perched on the pointy ends of desert plants. The photo has a dreamy quality to it.

I hope everyone who reads this post enjoys seeing this approach to holiday decorating in the desert, whether you’ve encountered it before or it’s all brand new.

My favorite of all the decorations was the one put out by Mother Nature.

Closeup of green cactus with white dots. In the middle of the green is a dark red, barrel shaped  part of the plant that will blossom into a flower.

I love the little red barrel amidst all that green. As a reader explained to me, the barrel is the fruit from last summer’s bloom. .

Looking down at a desert plant, two bright and shiny round Christmas tree ornaments rest on the points of the plant,. The reflection of the photographer shows in each of the ornaments.

So Merry Christmas, friends and fans! I hope you have a lovely day blessed with peace and joy.

I took all the photos in this post. Note: I had a lot of fun adjusting the settings on some of these photos to make them POP with holiday cheer!

You Gotta Pay Santa Claus

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christmas, christmas tree, decorationEarlier this year I borrowed a video called What Would Jesus Buy? from the public library. It starred Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, and I got The Man to watch it with me one night after the sun went down.

The movie documents Billy and the Choir’s cross-country road trip during the two weeks prior to Christmas to spread the message of the Church of Stop Shopping. They knew people wouldn’t totally stop shopping, especially not right before Christmas, but they hoped consumers would do some thinking before buying. In addition to the documentary’s titular question of (What would Jesus buy?) there are other questions the Church of Stop Shopping would like consumers to ask before making a purchase. Questions include the following:

Can I afford this?

Do I (or my loved one) need this?

Where was this made?

Can I make my purchase at a locally owned business instead of at a big box store?

blur, bright, candyOne thing I learned watching this documentary is that many adults do everything possible to create the illusion that Santa Claus brings Christmas with no effort or monetary output on the part of the parents. In these families, children grow up believing Santa does all the work involved in making the holiday happen in exchange for a few cookies and a glass of lukewarm milk. This is not an illusion my parents felt it necessary to create.

As a small child, my mother taught me the harsh monetary reality of Christmas. I don’t remember exactly how young I was, but young enough that I couldn’t yet read. The lesson happened shortly after Christmas when I talking about all the presents I’d recently received from Santa. I told my mom it sure was great that Santa dropped off all those toys for free.

Oh no, my mother said while shaking her head. Those presents weren’t free. She went on to tell me that she and my dad had to pay Santa for all the presents he put under our tree on Christmas Eve. She went over to the shelf which held the family checkbook, stamps, pens, invoices for bills to be paid, and checks written but not yet mailed. She rumaged around in the stack of checks written but not sent and selected one to pull out of the pile.

She showed me the check. This is the check I had to write to Santa Claus to pay for the Christmas presents, she told me. box, celebrate, celebration

I’m sure my eyes got big. Santa Claus had to be paid? Of course, I couldn’t read the name on the “pay to the order of ” line, but this was decades before I realized my mother is a habitual and casual liar. If she said the check was for Santa Claus, I believed her.

Some would say it was a harsh lesson, but I think it was a valuable one. Even little kids can begin to learn there’s no free lunch, not even at Christmas time.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-bright-candy-celebration-260470/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/christmas-xmas-christmas-tree-decoration-17795/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/box-celebrate-celebration-christmas-264988/.

Oh Christmas Tree (New Mexico Style)

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I was is Truth or Consequences, NM the week before the town’s monthly Art Hop. Coyote Sue told me Grapes Gallery (407 Main Street) was sponsoring a second annual Christmas tree decorating contest, so I went to work. I decided that since I was in the Land of Enchantment, I’d create a New Mexico-themed tree. Of course, since I’m a collage artist, I wanted to decorate with a collection of small objects and colorful clippings.

My first stop was the CHF thrift store (421 N Broadway) where I found a green plastic serving tray shaped like a Christmas tree and priced at 50 cents. I decided the tray would be the tree I decorated. I had an old New Mexico road map which I cut down to fit in the plastic tray. Once it was cut to the proper size and shape, I glued it to the tray.

I knew early on what I wanted for the top of my tree. I had a pair of cowboy boots made of metal, a trinket that came in a $10 bag of costume jewelry I’d picked up in Bisbee, AZ in the spring. I found an image of a star I’d cut out and glued the star to cardstock to give it some heft. After cutting the cardstock just slightly bigger than the star, I glued the boots over the star to make a tree topper suitable for a New Mexico Christmas.

Ball chain from broken necklaces became my tinsel. I used copper rose paint on some of the chain, but didn’t wait for it to dry before I glued it to the tree. Oops! I made a bit of a mess, but overcame the setback by gluing other small chains over the smeared paint. I love successfully disguising a mistake!

I decorated the tree with images cut from old catalogs and magazines. I’d been saving images related to New Mexico for quite a while, but I found several useful sources of images for free while in T or C. Decorating the tree was the part of this project I enjoyed the most.

Once the decorating was done, I had to mount the tree on a base. I’d also bought a baket at the CHF thrift store for 50 cents for just that purpose. I flipped the baket over, cut a hole in it, then covered what was now the top with red felt I’d been carrying around for three years! (Sometimes being a packrat comes in handy.) Once I shoved the trunk of the tree into the hole in the base, it was challenging to get everything to stay in place, but I managed to make it work using more felt and rubber bands. (The package of rubber bands was the only thing I bought new for the project. I still have lots of rubber bands for future projects.)

When the tree was securely standing in the base, I took a long look at the project and realized what was missing: presents! A Christmas tree without presents is no fun at all!

I knew I’d seen some decorations made to look like shiny girt wrapped presents at one of the thrift stores in town, so I went out on a search. There was nothing I could use at the thrift store at the Senior Center, so I found myself at the CHF shop again. The shiny gift decorations were gone, but I dug around in boxes and bins and found some little boxes and a grab bag with some odd decorative items.

I took my tree and my glue and my new thrift store finds to Coyote Sue’s place, Sun Gallery (407-1/2 N Broadway) where we sat at the work table and chatted while I arranged and attached the finishing touches to the tree. Coyote Sue went behind the counter and found some small toys she offered up to my project. I took the plastic wagon and the ceramic teddy bear.

The bear was wearing a cardiagan and holding an apple. This bear needs a sombrero, I mused aloud. Coyote Sue disappeared behind the counter again and came back holding a tiny straw hat. I placed the hat on the bear’s head. It looked better, but not quite right. It could use a serape too, I observed. This time Coyote Sue went all the way back into the stockroom. When she returned, she presented me with a fabric remnant I was able to cut into a passable serape. I was pleased with the New Mexian bear dressed to pay homage to its roots.

When all the presents were piled under the tree, I walked it over to Grapes Gallery.

The next night was Art Hop, and voting for the tree contest was open from 6pm until 8:30. When I arrived at Grapes Gallery, I found there were only four entries in the contest. I knew a small turnout would increase my chances of winning.

Coyote Sue and Coyote Steve were with me when the winners were announced. I won 3rd place. Yippie! My prize was a $25 gift certificate from Vic’s Broadwaynewmexico (409 N Broadway Street). Before I left town the next day, I got to go on a shopping spree, which was a lot of fun.

Also fun was putting together a Christmas tree honoring the state that I love.

My New Mexico Christmas Tree is for sale. Contact me if you’d like to buy it so you can aslo celebrate New Mexico every year during the winter holiday season.

I took the photos in this post.

 

Elf

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It was the end of a long hot day of trying to sell hemp jewelry and shiny rocks on the side of the highway. (Total sales for the day: $36.) I was eating dinner and reading a copy of the David Sedaris collection Holidays on Ice I’d picked out of a free pile behind a thrift store.

The first story in the collection is “SantaLand Diaries,” a memoir of the pre-Christmas season Sedaris worked as an elf in NYC’s Macy’s store. Early in the essay, Sedaris recalls how he imagined his life in the Big Apple. Of course, his life didn’t go the way of his imagination, and he writes,

But instead I am applying for a job as an elf. Even worse than applying is the very real possibility that I will not be hired, that I couldn’t even find work as an elf. That’s when you know you’re a failure.

Ouch. That hurt.

I had applied for a job as an elf some years ago. Like David Sedaris, I applied to be a Macy’s elf. Unlike Sedaris, I did not apply for elfhood in NYC.  I was in the Pacific Northwest, where I’d recently moved to live with my boyfriend in an apartment his parents had paid a deposit and a month of rent on. The boyfriend didn’t seem to be concerned about finding work (I suppose he’d had a long history of mooching off his parents), but I was scrambling to find a job, any job.

First I called Manpower, the temp service I’d worked through for three years in the medium sized Midwestern town from whence I’d come. The Manpower employment specialist (or whatever they call themselves) who took my call seemed absolutely bored. I asked him if I should go into the office to meet with someone. No need for that, he assured me. There weren’t really any jobs anyway. (No jobs? I wondered. In a major U.S. city? No temp work at all?) He said I could email my resume if I wanted to. They’d keep it on file, but there were currently no jobs.

I dutifully emailed my resume to Manpower. I never heard another word from the Manpower office.

I dutifully spent hours looking at the online employment ads. I dutifully sent off my resume any time I found a position I was even marginally qualified for.

I discovered the bowling alley near my apartment was hiring but didn’t want anyone with visible tattoos. Since when was a bowling alley so concerned about the image of its employees? I could cover my tattoos (so I dutifully sent off my resume), but it seemed like every second person in the city had visible tattoos. Maybe I’d get hired by virtue of my undecorated skin. But no. No one from the bowling alley ever contacted me for an interview.

I discovered the regional chain of convenience stores was hiring, but planned to do a credit check on all applicants. I’d never heard of a potential employer doing a credit check on a job applicant. How could a person with poor credit pay the bills if s/he couldn’t get a job because of poor credit? The no visible tattoos bowling alley tipped me off that the job market was tight, but the credit check for folks applying to work not for a bank or an accounting firm or the freaking CIA  but for a convenience store really convinced me the job market was in the employer’s favor.

I continued to read the want ads, complete online applications, send out my resume, but my phone didn’t ring and my inbox was empty. I started to grow panicky.

Then I saw it: Macy’s was hiring elves. I’d read “SantaLand Diaries,” and thought, If David Sedaris can do it, I can do it to! In fact, I was qualified for the job.

Qualification #1 I am short. I’m under 5’5”. Sedaris recognized the importance of (lack of) height to a career as an elf. Despite being pretty sure he failed his drug test,

still they hired me because I am short, five feet five inches. Almost everyone they hired is short.

If Macy’s was looking for short, they were looking for me!

Qualification #2 I’ve worked with kids. I spent my first two summers out of high school working at a camp for kids with disabilities. Sure, that had been 20 years ago, but I’d done some babysitting since then. I didn’t think kids could have changed too much, even in 20 years.

Qualification #3 I knew a thing or two about taking photos. I’d worked as the assistant to the photographer my first summer at the camp for kids with disabilities. The second summer I’d been promoted to head photographer. I was sure I could handle whatever camera system Macy’s used to take souvenir photos of kids with Santa.

Qualification #4 I’d worked in high volume, high stress retail situations before. I’d been the cashier on multiple occasions during Mardi Gras and Jazz fest at a t-shirt shop on Bourbon Street. I doubted screaming, shrieking, bawling, pissing children and their bossy, rich parents could be any worse than drunk tourists.

I dutifully answered the questions on Macy’s online elf application. I took the application very seriously. I attached my resume. I did my best. It was only a seasonal job, but it could get me through until the next employment opportunity came along.

Macy’s never contacted me, not a phone call, not an email. Nothing. Of course, not hiring me was a good move on Macy’s part because during the first week of December, my boyfriend convinced me we should ditch the apartment and travel the world on foot and via Greyhound.

Still, I was devastated. I didn’t even make the first cut for a temp job as an elf, a job I was actually qualified for.

I’d felt like a failure then, and here was David Sedaris, eight years later confirming that indeed, I’d been right.

Santa Claus, AZ

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I’d passed Santa Claus, Arizona three times and didn’t even realize it was there.

It wasn’t until I looked at an Arizona road map, searching for a spot to spend a night on a trip between Las Vegas and Phoenix, that I saw the unusual place name. A town named Santa Claus? I wondered. In Arizona? What the hell?

Turns out there’s not much of a town there. As an Atlas Obscura article says, it’s really just a “Saint Nicholas-themed ghost town in the Mojave.”

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This photo shows the remains of Santa’s Land Office, but unfortunately, the jolly old elf’s face is gone, and he’s only identifiable by a bit of remaining beard.

According to Wikipedia, it all started in the 1930s when

Nina Talbot[8] and her husband moved from Los Angeles, California, to Kingman, Arizona, to operate a motel[5]In 1937, she opened the town of Santa Claus approximately 14 miles (23 km) northwest of img_7878Kingman.[3][5] Her plans for the town included subdividing the 80-acre (32 ha) site into lots that would form a resort town centered on a Santa theme…[5][9] Talbot built a series of buildings using a North Pole, Santa’s workshop theme as part of the Santa Claus…attraction.[9] The attraction was designed to promote the sales of surrounding, subdivided land.[9]

The aforementioned Atlas Obscura article says the town

featured several Christmas-themed buildings and visiting children could meet Santa Claus at any day of the year.

The town did in fact become a popular tourist destination, however no one ever bought land there…Failing to see how she would make her real estate profits, and with the town in decline, Talbot sold Santa Claus in 1949, having failed in her attempt to convince people to move to the desert.img_7888

The town of Santa Claus sounded worthy of a visit, even if the town is now of the ghost variety. I decided I would stop by on my way to Phoenix. I wasn’t expecting much, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There’s no exit for a town called Santa Claus, no sign announcing the place. I only knew what dilapidated building were the remains of the town because I’d gleaned the location from the Roadside America website: Between mile markers 57 and 58, on the west side of Highway 93.

When I got to mile marker 56, I started looking. When I got to mile marker 57, I began to pay close attention. Then I saw some rundown shacks on the side of the highway. There was also a wide gravel parking area just off the shoulder of the road. I slowed the van and pulled into the gravel. Beyond the parking area was a fence topped with barbed wire and adorned with a faded sign ordering “no trespassing.”

img_7882I stayed on my side of the fence and took photos of the one pole still decorated with green and red Christmas swirls, the deteriorating wishing well, the rotting buildings, the graffiti emblazoned over it all. Apparently, there was once a little train (the “Old 1225”) on the property too, but it’s gone now. You can see photos of it and the face of Santa now missing from the land office sign on the Atlas Obscura page about the town, which says,

by the 1970s, [the town] had already begun to fall into disrepair…The last gift shops and amusements went out of business in 1995…

The Wikipedia article about the town of Santa Claus says,

In 2003, the population of Santa Claus was 10, divided among five houses, one of which had a buffalo.[14] By 2004, the town had become difficult to locate…as of 2005, all U.S. mail addressed to Santa Claus is sent to Santa Claus, Indiana.[15]

Well Virginia, I guess there’s not a Santa Clause, at least not in Arizona. img_7879

The good news is that Santa Clause, AZ is for sale. Four acres can be had, and the owners are considering all offers. The bad news? I’m not sure any of those buildings can be salvaged, which means if you buy Santa Claus, all you’re really getting is a parcel of land with a cool name.

I took all of the photos in this post. To see really stunning photos of the remains of Santa Claus, AZ, see the December 2013 article from the Daily Mail titled “Walking in a desert wonderland: Haunting photos of an abandoned Arizona Christmas theme park portray a once popular tourist spot after decades of decline in the Mojave heat.”

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

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The other morning I was driving through downtown just before the sun came up. It was still rather dark out when I passed by the town’s Christmas light display. I should take photos of all that, I thought. Instead of putting it off for another day, I pulled over and took a walk through the tiny winter wonderland.

View from a distance.

View from a distance.

Lights up close.

Lights up close.

Christmas lights on bushes and a rock. (This town obviously does not have much to decorate if they are lighting up rocks.)

Christmas lights on bushes and a rock. (This town obviously does not have much to decorate if they are lighting up rocks.)

Blue lights on fountain.

Blue lights on fountain.

Happy Holidays from Santa Claus.

Happy Holidays from Santa Claus.

Lights on rock and cactus.

Lights on rock and cactus.

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Oh no! It’s a Nativity scene on public property. Quick!  Call the Freedom from Religion Foundation. (According to the group’s website, “The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.” I heard about this group recently because it wants the New Mexico town of Belen to remove a twenty-five-year-old year-round Nativity scene made of metal.

Seriously, although I am not religious and not super into Christmas as a holiday, I don’t feel hurt in any way when I see a Nativity scene on a patch of land owned by the city. In fact, I’d be happy if they brought on every symbol of winter religiosity available. Let’s get a giant menorah out there and maybe candles inside paper lampshades in celebration of Las Posadas and somethings to represent Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival. While we’re at it, let’s add a kinara  for Kwanzaa and a sun to represent the winter solstice. (Information about different winter celebrations from http://www.unitedplanet.org/blog/2013/01/03/from-christmas-to-diwali-winter-holidays-around-the-world.)

I just like looking at the lights. IMG_4077

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Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Feliz Navidad!

Happy Hanukkah!

Shubh Diwali!

Happy Solistice!

Habari Gani?

I took all the photos in this post.