Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in Malibu

 Wishing everyone, near and far, peace and joy at Christmas and throughout the New Year.

We have Santa Ana winds this Christmas Day, and the weather feels more like October than December. Whether you have snow or sun when you are reading this post, here are two written descriptions of Christmas in Malibu to celebrate the holiday.

Frederick Hastings Rindge, the man who owned the entire Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit in the late 19th century, wrote an account of Christmas at his Serra Retreat ranch house in his 1898 book Happy Days in Southern California:

It is Christmastide. The bearberry, our substitute for English holly, has been gathered in the hills, and the mantel is prettily trimmed, while a wreath of it hangs over the door. 

There are hurried footsteps in the morning, each hastening to be the first to bid "Merry Christmas" to others. There are interchanges of kind words and gifts, if the Christmas Eve tree has not done its duty the night before. There is the family worship and the singing of old Antioch and Hanover, those two old Christmas hymns so full of glory. Then there is the great Christmastide fire, in the broad and deep fireplace; a real Christmas fire, crackling and roaring in gladness as it offers its tribute of holiday cheer, around which we gather after a happy dinner off a home-fattened turkey, that had unconsciously been preparing himself for us during a fortnight, to keep company with the cranberries from Cape Cod. How proud a man is to dine off what he himself raises!

It has been a great day. There was the basket to fill and carry on horseback to the neighbor whose stores were scant. Then the dear flag of our beloved country to raise on its staff, and the boys saluted it with cheers and several tigers [sic] as it beautified the breeze which unfolded it. In the afternoon was a stroll, or boat-ride, or mountain climb, or agate search, or the delight of the gun.

Ah, Merry Christmas Day! Would that thy joy might be known the world around...

Members of the Rindge family—Frederick H. Rindge, Samuel Rindge, May Knight Rindge and little Rhoda Rindge pose for a photo during the kind of outing described in the quote, above. Patriarch Frederick Hastings Rindge is probably behind the camera. 

And here's an excerpt from writer and UCLA librarian Lawrence Clark Powell's book of Malibu essays, "Ocean in View,"  that describes Christmas in 1956, at Broad Beach:

Christmas Day was dry and clear. I ventured a shell-gathering walk at low tide. My naked body felt the sand like a whip, and at the fiercest, I had to brace myself to keep from being blown away.

Gulls were soaring and swooping, and cormorants rode the wind like jets, headed eastward to their feeding beds. A couple of the curlew-like birds known as marbled godwits took off ahead of me with foolish cries, their outspread wings changing their drab appearance while feeding to the black and white splendor which gives them their name. I took shelter behind a rock, directly behind the ruin halfway up the cliff of one of the "depots" on the Queen's railway. Still to be seen also were a couple of rails and redwood ties.

The wind was still savage when we went to bed at ten, the sky swept clear, aglitter with stars...

Broad Beach is considerably less broad than it was in Powell's day, but the marbled godwits, equipped with specialized beaks idea for spearing sand-dwelling invertebrates, are still seen along the shore at low tide, and are  regular winter residents at Zuma. © 2013 S. Guldimann

Santa Ana winds transform sand into a sort of ground fog at Little Dume on Christmas morning. By lunch time the winds had died down. The peace and tranquility of Powell's Christmas in 1956 was shattered by a destructive wildfire the next day. Malibu residents were out enjoying the beautiful weather today, but with the knowledge that it comes at the cost of heightened fire danger.    © 2013 S. Guldimann

Unlike Powell, I didn't see any cormorants on the wing today, but a host of double-crested cormorants and a few California brown pelicans were gathered on the rocks at Point Dume to weather the winds and prepare for a Christmas dinner of anchovies.   © 2013 S. Guldimann
A lone gull is blown across a windswept Point Dume sky against a backdrop of Downtown Los Angeles and the mountains beyond. Here's to blue skies and smooth sailing for everyone in 2014. © 2013 S. Guldimann

1 comment:

  1. Lovely photos and excellent story! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!