Roundup: Christmas Time
Three Seasonal Stories from our readers
Christmas means love
And joy to your neighbor
Christmas means love
And to help one another
And oh, there's so many definitions as to what Christmas is
But to me Christmas means love
— song and lyrics by Joan Osborne, played on KRCB-FM by Doug Jayne shortly after noon on Friday and which I enjoyed while sitting in Sebastopol’s holiday traffic
Three Seasonal Stories
We have three wonderful entries for our first Seasonal Stories. We are grateful to receive them and share them.
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Christmas in Yurtville by Debra Michelle Wand.
A Gift of Only Two Sachets by Anna Margaret Kealoha.
Christmas Down Main Street by Sean Webb.
Read them and vote for your favorite below.
#1 Christmas in Yurtville
‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the yurt
Nothing was stirring
Not even the dirt.
Bamboo socks were hung by the stove so warm,
In hopes that they’d be dry
Before Christmas morn.
The home schooled children were nestled snug in their cots
With visions of garden elves and
Christmas tree lots.
Mama wore her handmade sweater and cap
While Papa whittled a piece of wood in his lap.
When out on the knoll they heard a big clatter
Like pots and pans, something was the matter.
Everyone ran out of the yurt so quick
To see the living Christmas tree
That was decorated by St. Nick.
There was sparkles and glitz,
From bottom to top,
Just like the ritz!
Santa had given the best gift ever
A living tree for the holiday fest,
The unspoiled children danced around the tree with glee
For this was their only gift you see.
It was plenty to have
A tree so fair
Standing proudly and whose life had been spared.
Debra Michelle Wand is a local photographer, writer, jewelry designer and nature lover living in Occidental, CA.
#2 A Gift of Only Two Sachets
In Christmases past, I've been known to go a bit overboard. Indeed, you will not walk past or into my home without seeing myriads of snowy glowing white lights, Black and White Santas (because I have many family members that are more colorful than I), angels, elves, Creches scenes and decorations everywhere, including ones for Hanukkah because many of my family members are Jewish. Plus, the smell of pine and from scented candles fills the air and if your timing is right, you'll get cocoa made from melted chocolate bars brimming with fresh whipped cream served in Santa mugs.
When it comes to gift giving, we're talking about adult children that for forty five years got their homemade felt Christmas stockings filled to the brim, yet I have yet to scale back on giving Mounds of Presents, all wrapped with only the best wrapping paper I collect year-round at garage sales and thrift shops. It's been suggested by some that I just give them cash or one expensive present, but that's not my style.
Instead they can expect things like Cashmere vests, Italian hand painted Deruta mugs, imported soaps, and books by Rabindranath Tagore, my favorite poet. I will put one of my carefully curated eighteen Christmas or Hanukkah Spotify playlists on jingle blast and have a few marathon baking and cooking sessions. This year, "Santa" will still be giving out Cherry-Walnut cookies, Ambrosial Balls brimming with cream, rum, and bittersweet chocolate, Stuffed Apricots filled with almond paste, Stuffed Dates crammed with toasted walnuts and grated orange peel, Goat Cheese and Fig bread, and Spicy Sweet Banana Chutney.
At my age, I don't expect or want anything back. The first half of my life I collected things and now all I want to do is get rid of the clutter. I have everything I want except a plane ticket to Bali.
Yet long ago, one California Christmas about twenty-five years ago, I was a single mom with four kids and working full time, but I still managed to pull off my vision of a Christmas Miracle. Yet, when it came time for me to receive, my two gifts were small incense sachets my older children had made at school. You'd think I'd be grateful for these homemade gifts, but instead all my indignant feelings bubbled out of the cauldron inside me and my tirade of bitter Scrooge-like remarks caused our joyful celebration to come to a tentative skidding halt like a truck trying to brake on black ice.
Not all Christmases are Merry and Bright and some are memorable for all the wrong reasons. Think "Fairytale in New York" by the late, great, excessive bard Shane MacGowan of the punk Irish group the Pogues who once said, "Cram as much pleasure into life, and rail against the pain you have to suffer as a result."
And if the worst thing that happens to me in life is only getting two sachets for Christmas, I should truly be so lucky.
Anna Margaret Kealoha works at: Being jubilant, cheering on the Warriors, playing music, writing, gardening, cooking, sewing, cleaning, yoga, long walks, and traveling. Worked at: teaching for 30 years (I loved my job but I loved my time off more) and building houses.
#3 Christmas Down Main Street
Once upon a time, in the tiny town of Sebastopol, Santa Claus arrived on a train. The Northwestern Pacific Railroad had train tracks right down the center of Main Street. Every day, in the late morning, an engine, freight car and caboose would travel across town on their way to the Barlow Apple Plant at Occidental Road. Toot! Toot! The friendly engineer and conductor would wave to all the children. The train was a particular delight to the pre-school kids at Children’s House, behind the Methodist Church on High School Road. All the kids in the playground, including my own, wouldrun to the back fence to wave, shout “hello”, and hear Toot! Toot!
Christmas was a magical time because the train carried a special passenger –Santa Claus! The Sebastopol Times notified the town of the date and time of his arrival. Children from all over the area waited at the corner of Main Street and McKinley Street, anxiously watching for the train. Toot! Toot! Here he comes!!
Santa Claus would climb down off the caboose steps amidst cheers and applause. He had a bag filled with candy canes for every smiling boy and girl. A throne was waiting for him inside Carlson’s Department Store (now the Silk Moon). A long line formed of excited children, eager to tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
Memories abound of those early Christmas seasons in Sebastopol during the 1970’s and 80’s. Apples reigned supreme. Standard attire for the farmers coming downtown were overalls and straw hats. The town was surrounded by open fields, grassy rolling hills and orchards. Only gophers threatened our large vegetable garden. Once we saw a rabbit. The city Christmas tree was lit in the West America Bank drive-through lot. Our road was considered “way out in the countryside”.
We planted a live Christmas tree every year. They have grown into a forest. Like their sturdy trunks, our children have grown into strong and vibrant adults. Our grandchildren follow in their footsteps, thriving in the Sebastopol Union School District. They enjoy their hometown traditions like seeing the Nutcracker be performed at Analy High School.
The apple orchards have been replaced by grapes. The train tracks turned into walking trails. Sebastopol became a highly desirable place to live, doubling the population. Stands of redwoods and oaks give privacy to large estates. We garden in raised beds enclosed by a deer fence. We need to be alert for foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions. Our road became the unofficial bypass. Where are all the cars coming from and going to?
The live Christmas tree in the town square has grown tall. The spirit of Christmas lives on in our community. The core is amongst the people who have made Sebastopol their cherished home. Toot! Toot!
Sean Webb - I have lived in Sebastopol for forty-seven years on Lynch Road. I was one of the founders of Sebastopol Tomorrow, a member of the Downtown Committee that determined the location of the town square, and I was instrumental in the formation of the Sebastopol Educational Foundation.
Seasonal Stories Poll
Do you have a favorite among the three Seasonal Stories? Help pick the winner who will receive a one-year paid subscription to Sebastopol Times.
Celebrating Winter Solstice
Michael Rinaldini’s Qigong classes came together at Luther Burbank Experiment Farm on Wednesday to celebrate the winter solstice. A Daoist teacher, Michael has taught Qigong for thirty years. According to his website, qigongdragon.com/, Qigong (pronounced “chee-gong”) is a Chinese practice that “works to enhance physical fitness, both externally and internally through the cultivation of Qi-Universal Healing Energy.” His classes meet Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30am at the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center.
“In January 2024, I and other members of the American Dragon Gate Lineage will devote extra time to our Daoist practices like spending more time in silence, or reading from our Daoist scriptures, or spending more time in quiet sitting meditation or qigong,” said Michael. “Winter season is the time of year for deep practices of turning inward to cultivate stillness and connection to nature, universe and divine.”
The Week of December 16-23
A second chance to read this week’s articles that you might have missed.
Happy Holidays to all our readers, especially our 630 paid subscribers whose help keep the lights on at the Sebastopol Times.
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