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Urs Baur created this whimsical cover to deliver Topanga New Times’ good wishes to our readers everywhere. Happy holidays to all, with love from all of us at TNT!

American songwriter Irving Berlin was dreaming of a White Christmas when he penned his famous holiday song in 1942. Here in the Santa Monica Mountains, we are anticipating a green Christmas, one with new winter grass and a weather forecast with the potential for more rain, instead of the wind and elevated fire risk we’ve experienced in recent years during the winter holiday season. For those of us living with the memories of recent fires, wind-related power outages, and emergency evacuations, that peace of mind—no matter how short lived—is a welcome gift.

Rainfall totals in the Santa Monica Mountains varied widely during the recent rain events. Most of Topanga received between 2.5 and 3.5 inches of rain. However, Stunt Ranch measured an astonishing 5.19 inches.

The December Full Cold Moon lived up to its name, rising as the sun set on a cold clear  evening. The moon rises north of true east at midwinter, providing a dramatic backdrop of peaks throughout much of the Santa Monica Mountains, which is how TNT Editor Suzanne Guldimann captured this photograph of the moon apparently balanced atop Saddle Peak. It may look like the backdrop for a sci-fi movie set, but the only trick used was a telephoto lens. Photo
by Suzanne Guldimann

Winter is always a season of great natural beauty in the Santa Monica Mountains, but this year is exceptional. Not only is the fire risk reduced, but the mountains are especially beautiful, with the green fire of new growth contrasting with the gold of the last of the autumn leaves, and with a panorama of clouds that glow with celestial fire instead of the destructive terrestrial kind at dawn and sunset. It’s worth taking time out from the frenetic pace of the holidays to hike a favorite trail—just make sure to wait until the mud dries out enough for walking—or sit on the beach and watch a sunset. Those moments are gifts beyond any price.

We are still waiting for snow in the southern half of the state, but the recent storm brought more than two feet of snow to Mammoth Lakes in Northern California, with more to come this week, fulfilling the holiday wishes of many local skiers. Traffic is going to be a challenge for those headed to the slopes, but it might be a safer bet than surfing—stormwater bacteria warnings are in effect at all of the local surf breaks this week.

Snow and rain are welcome this winter; flu and COVID-19 are not. COVID-19 numbers continue to surge upward in Los Angeles County, and flu is back this season in a particularly virulent form. Los Angeles County isn’t mandating masks, but strongly recommends them. The public health department is warning that both viruses are widespread, highly contagious, and spreading rapidly. Wearing an N95 mask in crowded settings, avoiding high risk activities like large indoor events, and using home COVID-19 tests before coming into contact with elderly or immune-compromised friends and family may help prevent the spread of illness. It’s been a while since we had to mention coronavirus in our editorials, and we wish we didn’t, but we know families in the Topanga community who are experiencing the illness, and we all need to be aware that it is present right here, right now, among us. 

Hanukkah begins on December 18, Christmas arrives in a little more than a week. The Solstice, on December 21, means the days will soon be growing longer, and the end of what has been a strange and stressful year for many is just a couple of weeks away. 

We’re spending a quiet holiday at home this year at TNT. Join us as we entertain the ghost of Christmas past with a look at how Topanga and Malibu homesteaders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries spent the holiday season. We also have part two of our annual local authors/local interest book list, with a diverse variety of new books perfect for a last-minute gift or for winter reading. TNT contributor Claire Chapman shares a favorite family crafting activity that is quite literally nuts, while our TNT historian introduces us to a remarkable African American woman in Books & Such, and invites us along for another Wednesday with JMo in our Storyland section. 

This is a season of lights and festivity, but it can be a challenge for individuals who are suffering loss or depression or who are estranged from their families. This could be a good time to reach out with a message of love and acceptance.

Charles Dickens, the Victorian novelist and social activist who had a major hand in re-envisioning how Christmas is celebrated in our century, had this to say about the holiday season: 

“Christmas is a time in which, of all times in the year, the memory of every remediable sorrow, wrong, and trouble in the world around us, should be active with us, not less than our own experiences, for all good.”

Whether your holidays, dear reader, will be spent at home or abroad, with friends and family or alone, we at TNT hope they will be merry and bright. 

Stay safe, be well, Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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