Hansen: Newcomer revives the spirit

It's a chore, Christmas.

There are Christmas in April charities. Christmas in July celebrations. A Thanksgiving Christmas. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Bah, bah, bah.

Is there a real Christmas anymore?

Beleaguered by the onslaught, I found myself not even considering going to next week's Hospitality Night in Laguna Beach.

Until I met my new neighbor.

She came from out of town a few months ago, eager and happy to be in Laguna. I watched with bemusement as she discovered the beaches, shops and neighborhoods.

"Have you ever been to Koffee Klatch?" she asked one day, clutching a chai tea. "It's so cool."

I smiled, trying to remember that feeling.

And then she asked about Christmas in Laguna.

"Are you going to see Santa?" she asked, smiling like a kid.

At first I didn't know what she meant.

What Santa? Where? How?

I was so removed from the spirit of it that I literally could not understand the question.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"In Laguna, Santa is coming," she said.

And then I remembered. "Oh, Hospitality Night, right. I don't know .…," I said, trailing off.

She looked at me like I was Scrooge.

I could tell she was having a Koffee Klatch moment. It was her first Christmas in Laguna, and she was excited.

More than that, it was the expectation that the Laguna version of Christmas, by definition, would be better.

Everything else she had experienced in Laguna had been better, so why not Christmas?

"You should go to the Montage tree lighting," I said, suddenly. "It's pretty amazing."

I talked about the great food and carolers, stuff for kids, addicting hot cocoa and overall beauty of it.

And that's all it took.

I spent the next 15 minutes giving her a rundown of every cool Christmas activity in Laguna.

The shops with a singing Elvis.

The pepper tree lighting.

The charity dinners.

One minute I was a road-weary holiday Grinch, and the next I was a happy spirit guide.

Is this what we've become? So beaten down throughout the year that we need to be motivated by idealistic newcomers in order to find the spark again?

In some ways, it's analogous to the tourists of summer. We find our sunny mojo once the bikinis appear, their wearers asking for directions to the best happy hour.

In winter, they lift our spirits because they are so damn gleeful.

I suppose it's not surprising that we feed off the rhythm and energy of those around us. The key is to control the pace because it's a year-round job.

In winter, the joys are more private. We don't advertise them.

It's our desolate beach where we run with the dog, grateful there are no leashes.

It's our downtown in the morning, early, when there are only long shadows and a slight sense of ownership.

It's our hill, which separates us from the suburban predictability we shun.

Is that snobby and ungrateful to say during the holidays?

No, just a little prideful.

Besides, it's the reason people want to see Christmas in Laguna.

They know it will be different.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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