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The Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes 

This strange and wonderful cover design celebrates the traditional Italian American Feast of the Seven Fishes in a decidedly non traditional way. It was created by TNT’s designer extraordinaire Urs Baur with the help of AI. Urs shares his thoughts on the process and on this strange and powerful new invention in a special column on page 14, while TNT contributor Jill Cotu shares her family’s traditional fish recipes on page 9—new and old coming together to celebrate an ancient holiday in 2023. The whole TNT family wishes all of our readers a happy, joyful, safe holiday! Concept and design by Urs Baur powered by AI

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.  And to see, we have only to look. 

—Fra Giovanni Giocondo, 1513

Fra Giovanni was an architect, an antiquarian, a classical scholar, philosopher and priest, born in Verona, around 1433. His circle of patrons and friends included Lorenzo de Medici and King Louis XII of France. He is the attributed author of the letter the quote above is taken from, written on Christmas Eve,1513–510 years ago. It was a time of extraordinary artistic achievement in the West, but also a period of relentless war and brutal conflict. 

Peace on earth, goodwill to men is the time-hallowed sentiment of the Christmas season. In this troubled time of war in the Middle East and uncertainty at home, that message still resonates, no matter how much—or how little—of the season’s festivities one may participate in.

The last candles of Hanukkah were lighted an extinguished on December 6. Christmas is just 10 days away. The year 2023, with all of its challenges,, is almost over. Wouldn’t it be nice if these could be days of joy and rest instead of a frantic race to the end of the year?

Residents of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are burdened this holiday season with the threat of wildfire. The Santa Ana winds, red flag warnings and constant threat of SCE power shut-offs add an unwelcome frisson of anxiety to an already stressful time of year. 

Smoke from the South Fire near Somis in Ventura County raised the anxiety level over the weekend. The wind-driven blaze grew to nearly three thousand acres before the wind died and fire crews were able to contain it. It was another reminder—not that we needed one—that this holiday season is still also wildfire season, and there is a precedent for destructive winter fires: the Sherwood Newton Fire in 1956 broke out on Christmas Day and burned 26,000 acres, including a hundred homes; the 1958 Topanga fire ignited on New Year’s Eve and burned 18,000 acres and 75 homes.

Colors of the Season. The leaves of this Chinese pistache tree (Pistacia chinensis) glow with autumn scarlet against the more muted gold of the Santa Monica Mountains. Conditions appear to have been just right to transform this popular but usually inconspicuous garden plant and street tree into luminous flame-colored beauty this winter. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

It may not feel like it, but the predicted El Niño continues to gain strength in the Pacific. An atmospheric river is already forming to the south. Rain is in the forecast by Christmas—just in time to complicate travel, but welcome all the same. That tropical air mass means it isn’t likely to be a white Christmas, except perhaps in the Sierras, but Topangans can enjoy a snowy evening much closer to home on December 17, 4-7 p.m.,  at Pine Tree Circle. This annual Canyon tradition will feature plenty of fresh snow, refreshments, music, and an opportunity to catch up on holiday shopping at the local shops or simply enjoy a festive break in the company of friends and neighbors.

Topanga residents received an early Christmas gift from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority: news that a 38.2-acre parcel of land parallel to Topanga Canyon Blvd., is now permanent open space. It’s a small piece of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area patchwork, but an important one that will help preserve Topanga’s character and continue to provide habitat for our wild neighbors and recreation for residents and 

Here at Topanga New Times we are reflecting on some of our own family traditions. They are our gift to you, dear reader. Contributor Jill Cotu shares her family’s Italian American Christmas Eve “Feast of Fishes”; complete with recipes. Books & Such columnist Jimmy P. Morgan beguiles the winter evenings with a new favorite author; and your editor travels into the past to revisit the Malibu Christmas Tree Plantation—it’s a forgotten chapter of local history and a cherished childhood memory. 

The Winter Solstice arrives on December 21, the shortest day, the turning point of the year, when the days begin to lengthen again. It is the most ancient winter holiday, and its message of light and hope runs through many cultures and many traditions, including Christmas—“radiance and glory in the darkness.”

The TNT family is celebrating the holidays with gratitude in our hearts for our amazing readers, contributors, and advertisers. We wish all of you a peaceful, joyful holiday. 

Stay safe, be well. Peace on Earth, goodwill to all!

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