“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

This is a holiday season unlike any other in living memory, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still, in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, “a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time,” despite the challenges, and there are challenges this year. 

Coronavirus rates continue to skyrocket. The post-Thanksgiving surge in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County has raised concerns about the number of ICU beds available. Rates remain relatively low in the Santa Monica Mountains, but continue to rise. As of this week, there have been 230 cases in the Topanga area, with one known fatality. In Malibu the total is 178 cases, with three deaths; in Agoura Hills there have been 398 cases, 7 deaths; in Calabasas, 521 cases,13 deaths; in Pacific Palisades, 301 cases, 4 deaths; and in Woodland Hills, 2,014 cases, 35 deaths. The county is reporting a total of 525,486 cases, a number that is rising rapidly, with more than 10,000 new cases daily—12,731 on the day TNT went to press). There have been 7,864 deaths, and that number is increasing by around 30 a day.

Masks and social distancing remain essential. Officials implore residents to stay home for the holidays, and avoid travel and gatherings of any size with people who are not housemates, but there are still plenty of ways to celebrate the season, and to help others during a year when help is desperately needed by many.

In this issue of TNT, we visit the Topanga Women’s Circle, a nonprofit organization that brings hope and dignity to homeless families, providing them with the things they need at the holidays and all year round.

We take a look at drive through holiday activities that offer a little holiday magic for families missing travel and their usual activities, and meet Topanga artist and soap maker Katie Schwipper, and canyon chocolatier Claire Miller. 

If there was ever a year for shopping local, this is it. Local businesses need the community’s support to survive, and Topanga is blessed with shops and galleries that feature locally made and truly one-of-a-kind gifts. To help our readers explore holiday shopping options we are featuring the second part of our window shopping series. Don’t miss our special video showcase on our website, www.topanganewtimes.com/category/shop-local, and check out our feature on new books by local authors.

The Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, arrives December 21, and brings a rare opportunity to observe a celestial phenomenon, the “Great Conjunction” of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. For the first time in hundreds of years, these two gas giants will appear to merge, creating the appearance of a single, super-bright star. Guest writer Coco Blignaut reflects on this celestial phenomenon and on the Solstice, one of the most ancient and revered holidays of the year.

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, concludes tonight, a reminder of how faith and hope can help light the way through times of darkness.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, dear reader, may it be merry and bright—a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time.

Be well, stay safe, and happy holidays!