It’s December and tis’ the season for being busier than ever. Anyone with school-aged kids will agree that this time of year is a whirlwind of extra commitments and obligations.The to-do list is a little longer and the brain seems to be taxed a little more in December than other months.Remembering to buy gifts, arrange and attend parties, contribute to holiday potlucks, teachers’ gifts,choral performances, sports banquets,conferences and tipping all those wonderful, supportive people in our lives who help us keep all the proverbial balls in the air. Last year we put out a small table of snacks and drinks for the mail carriers, UPS and Amazon delivery folks who have to put up with our hysterically barking dogs every other day of the year and even more so this month. Extra deliveries mean extra crazy dogs at the door but hopefully the mini oranges, granola bars and sparkling water bottles help ease their annoyance a bit (for the delivery guys, not the dogs!).
One December tradition that never gets overlooked is our annual trek to the world famous Candy Cane Lane.Ever since our boys were babies, we have made an annual pilgrimage down to El Segundo to witness in person the thousand-watt glory and Vegas-like spectacle that is an entire neighborhood dressed up in head-to toe Christmas lights. We begin our trek (and trust me, it’s a commitment to drive anywhere past the airport this time of year. Traffic is usually at a standstill for no other reason than it’s December) with a stop at Dinah’s restaurant in Culver City. We meetup with our good friends and start the evening off right with a casual gift exchange over the best fried chicken dinner on the West side (Honey Kettle runs a close second but Dinah’s has that kitchy appeal that we enjoy. They also have one of those claw toy vending machines that the boys loved when they were younger). From Dinah’s,it’s on to the main event. We always get a little turned around trying to find CCL. Navigating before satellite navigation was even more challenging.Now we generally are able to stumble upon it yet typically after the inevitable questions of: “Are you sure it’s this far?I don’t remember driving this far last year.” Parking is usually a challenge but in the spirit of neighborhood civility, no one gets too crazy or road-ragey here.
The throngs of strolling, bundled up locals appear blocks before the actual Lane. Since the destination has gained in popularity, other nearby streets have tried to match the splendor of the original and decorate all their houses,too. So, even if you park a ways away,you can still see plenty of lights as you make your way to the actual hub of the community. (Helpful hint: use the bathroom at Dinah’s before you make the trip!)
Candy Cane Lane is located on Acacia Avenue and for a few weeks every year in December, the street gets closed off to cars while every house up,down and around the cul-de-sac gets in to the holiday spirit by outdoing each other with a more ornate light display than the guy next door. It’s free of charge but there are bins collecting canned food for voluntary donations.The crazy light displays aren’t just limited to the actual houses. Often the front yards will be transformed into fairy tale snow scenes; rooftops will be adorned with Santa’s red sled; enormous model train sets and inflatable reindeer will decorate driveways. There are even outdoor,big, blow up screens showing favorite classic holiday movies. If you think the décor is limited to just Christmas,though, think again. There is always that one house fully decked out in blue and white lights, presumably a nod to Hanukkah. But definitely don’t go expecting equal time for each December holiday. With a long line of kids waiting to chat and take a picture with Santa, ambient music blasting Jingle Bells and families snapping photos by the giant Christmas tree,you’re definitely not going to be basking in the beauty that is Kwanza or Hanukkah. This activity is a pure and utter departure from the current climate of impeachment hearings,reds vs. blues, angry politics, global warming woes, busy supermarkets,overspending on-line shopping, end of-school headaches and even tricky real estate deals.
And no matter how old the boys get or how cynical we may be, there’s something really nice about this tradition. After an evening emerged in the tacky, idyllic world of a joyful holiday light show, it feels as though everyone is nice to each other and all is right in the world, even if only for an hour or so.If that’s not worth battling traffic and driving to El Segundo following a tasty fried chicken dinner, what is?
Happy holidays, neighbors. Hope it’s a great month!