At the start of the season I had mixed feelings about the holidays; looking forward to the idea of it all but lacking the energy to make it happen.  Maybe it is the persistent economic doldrums or some sort of cosmic dip in energy but it felt like a good year to keep things simple – buy less, eat less, stay home more.  But, as the weeks have passed, I’ve been drawn out of my humbug shell by the steady stream of festive fun that is found in my own backyard. 

Santa’s arrival kicked off the season.  The smiling faces of little kids waiting for a glimpse of the tugboat, squeezing their cheeks through the fence or standing on their tippy toes to peer out over the top. A ding-ding of the drawbridge and the tugboat came into view.  Our son whispered “Santa Claus!” from his perch on my husband’s shoulders.  Santa and Mrs. Claus were greeted with warm enthusiasm as they paraded through the parking lot in a sea of smiling little faces.  It was a jolly morning.

The Light-Up a Life tree lighting ceremony drew a large crowd as the stately trio of trees was illuminated for the season.  Warmly-dressed people stood quietly, candles burning, as they listened to the joyous carolers; a small gasp of wonder from our son at the beautiful sight. It was a heart-warming evening.

The lighted boat parade packed the waterfront with a mass of merry people.  We watched the procession of boats from the top of the parking garage; our slightly obstructed view was offset by the panoramic view of downtown, the lights on our house twinkling in the distance. People cheered from all corners of the turning basin as the festively festooned boats blinked and boogied their way down the river. It was a cheerful night. 

At Garlock’s Christmas Tree Farm in Sebastopol we hiked and hunted to find our perfectly imperfect Christmas tree; sifting our way through the too tall, the too small, and the crazily crooked before finding one that was just right.  Santa made a visit there too.  Our son ran with open arms to tell him what he wanted for Christmas. A bouncy horse-drawn carriage ride around the farm was a fun finish to our visit.  It was a joyful day. 

With hot cider in hand we made our own driving tour of Petaluma’s many decorated homes.  We stopped to take a closer look at a few, joining others in a communion of spirit as we marveled at the elaborate displays of holiday cheer.  It was a very merry evening.

As the year draws to a close I am so grateful to be living in such a vibrant community and in such a blessed part of the world.  Thank you Petaluma and Sonoma County for the relentless spirit that has punctuated my holiday season with many beautiful memories and is propelling me happily towards the new year. 

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and many wonderful adventures in 2011!