Up The Road: To 'Hecticity' And Beyond

Dec 7, 2016

Lately we’ve been exploring the notion of harvest, which the turnings of fall bring to mind. With any luck you’ve managed to follow the advice of garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence. “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.” Amen, sister.

Because, by the time the leaves have turned and fallen to earth, the holidays are upon us. No time for lollygagging now.

And yet you can control, for lack of a better word, let’s call it the “hecticity” of holiday time, by stubbornly going slow. As important as it is to give generously year-round, to invest in one’s community, economically and otherwise, it’s also important to own your own life.  You can go slow. You can enjoy the season. So far as I know, no one is putting a gun to people’s heads, making them shop till they drop.

Which is not to say that shopping is the culprit. It may just be that we can’t slow down enough to enjoy even that.

I can remember a time in Chico when slow shopping was enough. When my brothers and I were very young our parents would bundle us up against the cold winter night and take us downtown. It seemed late to us because it was dark, but it was probably 5:30, no later than 6, because we had strict bedtimes. We would peek into store windows, everything so dazzling at night, but soon enough Mom and Dad would turn us loose in the aisles of Kilpatrick’s Toy Town, just to see which toys drew us. And maybe to find out if we could be tempted by something Santa had in mind. Oh, what a night! Almost as good as all those Christmas eves we pressed noses against fogged-up windows watching for Rudolph’s nose so bright, blinking red in the night sky, gliding in graceful descent toward the Chico Airport, even as all three of us heard the reindeer skittering across our roof, their jingling harness bells as clear as Christmas.

Chico’s downtown Christmas Preview reminds me of the thrill of those childhood outings to Kilpatrick’s Toy Town, which of course is long gone, just because it’s so downhome downtown-y—still, despite the fact that Expedia has named Chico’s central shopping district as one of the nation’s 25 “holiday best.” There, in the window of Made in Chico, your co-worker’s kid doing ballet. And over there, your kids’ long-ago babysitter, playing Christmas carols with bandmates. Not to mention Santa and elves and jingling bells. It’s too late to enjoy Chico’s Christmas Preview for 2016, but remember it next year: it’s always late afternoon and early evening on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Then, early in December, comes Chico’s annual presentation of The Nutcracker ballet, in 2016 very local, starring a fictionalized Angeline Stansbury, child resident of what is now the historic Stansbury Home on Salem Street, which has its own Victorian Christmas every year. As does Bidwell Mansion.

If you do decide to slow down and smell the evergreens, there are many wonderful holiday outings to consider, quite nearby. Nevada City’s annual Victorian Christmas is the country’s one and only, folks here say. Which means you’ll stroll the brisk, wintry streets here, lit by old-timey gas lamps, in the company of authentically dressed minstrels and carolers, then partake of and purchase a grand selection of wares, from handmade dolls and hand-crafted candy to unique jewelry, perfumes, soaps and lotions, and wreaths and garlands. Mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, and horse-drawn carriage ride, anyone? How about that Walking Christmas Tree? It’s all quite magical, especially after a dusting of snow. Dress up and enjoy yourself.

Next door in Grass Valley, don’t miss the annual Cornish Christmas, also something quite special, harking back to the heritage of local mining families, many of whom traded the coal mines of England’s Cornwall for hard-rock gold mines here—more period costumes, the impressive Cornish Carol Choir, cloggers, excellent arts and crafts items, good food—plenty to keep you busy on a frosty Friday night.

Until next time, be of good cheer!