When does a Humboldt Christmas Begin?

A Humboldt Christmas is not a December only Christmas. It begins early in November when the winds are wild and wet and somewhere the power lines are down but the generator is humming at home,–although you can’t hear it except when the storm hushes–and soft lights are glowing and the fire is so hot the stove pipe purrs.

It begins after a dinner of thick stew so sizzling that the first bite bounces around in a little one’s rose bud mouth like ball in an old-fashioned arcade game. It begins when the little one has wrestled one last time with Dad and one too many times with big brother.

It begins when Mom bustles boys big and little into bed. Then she sinks down into the big comfy armchair that is so enormous that it can seat up to 6 small children (and frequently does when the moppets’ friends are over). It begins when she snuggles into that chair cuddling a cup of hot chocolate (and if she’s really lucky the milk will come from Grampa’s new cow with the cream still thick on the top).

Then the oldest red haired moppet will cry out that it’s not fair that she gets hot chocolate and he gets bed. And Mom will say, “Shh, I’m getting in the mood for Christmas.”

And, of course, that silences him–for 5 minutes. Finally, he asks with awe hushed voice, “How many more days till Christmas?” And Mom tells him and littlest red-haired moppet asks… .Well, suffice it to say Mom’s hot chocolate gets cold before the last whisper slide into dreams.

Even when little moppets grow into deep voiced young men and a new little red headed moppet asks questions, Christmas still curls up beside the fire on a wet November night and stays humming happily until the final wayfaring family members have packed their bags and reluctantly shook off the Humboldt mud in late December.

Adapted from a Christmas letter many years ago



  • How true. That storm we just had was quick, but powerful. I love those kind of days. We were in the mood for Christmas this weekend, I noticed.

  • I haven’t got the Christmas music out yet but faintly I hear, “Though the weather outside is frightful, inside its so delightful… .”

  • The air smells crisp and clean outside….
    The wall heater hisses away in the dining room…
    The rain storms come rolling through the Golden Gate and across the Bay…
    What a nice, comfortable, protected feeling inside my hovel at Christmas time…
    I don’t like it when my basement floods, though…that’s a serious bummer!

  • We used to live in Albany in Berkeley Family Housing. No basements but those old army barracks were bleak. I couldn’t wait for Christmas vacation so we could drive north to Humboldt.

    The rest of the year I loved a lot of Berkeley especially the bookstores on Telegraph and the restaurants. And the Bay was beautiful.

  • I used to live in the Albany Village too…albeit, when I was barely a 1-year old. I vaugely remember those barracks too, originally built for the shipbuilders in Richmond during WWII. I also have more recent memories of them while driving by on San Pablo Avenue, but recently, they’ve all been torn down. New townhome/condo-style student housing has been going up in the Village, so it’s changing a lot right now.

    That’s funny that you lived there too…

  • HO HO HO! I do believe I am about ready to get into Christmas mode! I admit I have already done some of my shopping (can’t tell you what because a certain daughter of mine reads these comments!), but still have some to do, and I like to shop when the stores are full of Christmas decorations.

    What? It isn’t even Thanksgiving yet, you say? Well, in Humboldt County that makes no difference!

  • Both my oldest were little guys at the village. The houses were bleak but the community was warm and diverse. Odd how you lived there also.

    I’ve already pulled up the Christmas pics from last year and wondered at the magic of taking the same cousins pic every year–We’ve never been all there but we keep trying. Last years’ photo looks like snow has started to fall.

  • I received my first Christmas card TODAY!!! and even though it was from a charity reminding me that they would love a generous donation this year, I was still taken back with the thought that Christmas is just around the corner.
    I love Christmas but I also love Thanksgiving. I am keeping Christmas at arm’s length, at least until the TG turkey is in the oven.

  • Ah, Thanksgiving is the opening prayer for Christmas.

  • Your blog made my tummy tickle with childhood anticipation. Ah, Christmases of nearly 30 years ago, when it seemed like 30 years between them, instead of the 30 days it seems today. The good news is Papi received his “big” present awhile ago. Bad news is I still haven’t received ideas from a certain redheaded black belt nor from a favorite aunt (though the aunt told me she was still thinking about it.) :o)

  • The dreaded house is calling for its Christmas cleaning. But, I’m even kind of excited about cleaning. I love when everything is shining and the smell of fresh cut fir competes with cookies for my attention.

  • thanksgiving will be spent in vegas for jane and I. i always panic at christmas, i do not really like shopping, and never get to stores….christmas eve is my favorite time….maybe i can get my dog to shop for me this year….he has good taste. but , he is not fond of strangers…..just strange people….

  • Bullet and I are alike then;>

  • Maybe it’s time to hand over to credit card (or the cash?) to Jane. If she doesn’t LOVE to shop, maybe she’s a little more tolerant of it than either Uncle Hale or Bullet. :o)

  • Christmas in a cheap apartment in Tokyo begins with the creepy statue of “The Colonel” in front of KFC being dressed in a Santa Suit. Then, on the way to buy miso, rice, bananas, and possibly more cockroach traps at the store, you might see ads for Christmas cakes around now. In Japan, Christmas cake, traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, is simply a sponge cake, frosted with whipped cream, decorated with strawberries, and usually topped with Christmas chocolates or other seasonal fruit. It is the minimum gift a guy must provide his girl on this holiday which resembles what Americans know as Valentines Day.

  • Christmas in Japan doesn’t have quite that magical glow.

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