How California! Christmas at the beach

For Huntington Beach resident Dom Maggio, spending a winter night at Bolsa Chica State Beach is the typical way for a Californian to enjoy the holidays.

The 50 of so other people must have felt the same way as they joined Maggio on Friday in celebrating the second annual Christmas at the Beach, hosted by the Huntington State Beach Lifeguards Assn.

State park officials and volunteers passed out free hot dogs and hot cocoa to guests. One lifeguard even dressed up as Santa Claus and took pictures with children as they sat atop a jet ski with a miniature palm tree wrapped in lights behind them.

It was a rather chilly evening near the ocean, with temperatures in the high-50s to low-60s, according to Diego Busatto, state park peace officer and president of the lifeguard organization.

Maggio, 60, however, was indifferent about the temperature because he knows it's colder for his sons who live in New York and Chicago.

"They got ice and snow and everything else, and we're on the beach," he said. "It's kind of cool to rub that in on occasion."

Maggio reclined in his beach chair with a hot dog in hand, waiting with his grandchildren for Busatto to play the film "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which was to be projected on the lifeguard headquarters building.

The cold beach weather, Maggio said, was nothing compared to the humid winters he'd experienced while living in Florida and Texas.

"It's hard to get in the Christmas mood when you're putting up Christmas lights and sweating your buns off and being eaten by mosquitoes," he said. "What's beautiful about being here [in California] is if you want to see snow and ice, you can drive an hour and a half and be in Big Bear so you can say you had a white Christmas. You can't get that anywhere else in the country."

A few feet away from Maggio, folks from Hansen Elementary School in Anaheim stood around a lit fire pit and tried to keep warm.

Teachers Andrea Wheeler and Nathalie Gosselin brought a few students down to Bolsa Chica as part of a raffle prize they won at school for a beach bonfire. The group was surprised to see that there was more going on at the beach than they had anticipated.

Wheeler, 41, of Buena Park, said she has brought her family to the beach during the winter regardless of how cold the air feels.

"We camp at the beach a lot during the winter because kids don't care what temperature is," she said with a laugh. "They'll play in the sand and they'll even play in the water. They don't care."

As the group from Anaheim warmed themselves by the fire, parents and their toddlers were inside the lifeguard headquarters partaking in arts and crafts activities — making hand-shaped reindeers with googly eyes and ornaments made out of popsicle sticks and glitter.

"This is so great for the kids," Darlene Rowe, 37, of Huntington Beach said. "I'm glad we found it. We'll come every year."

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