I've mentioned that I write a column for the Valley Courier in Cincinnati about living in the desert. The following is the article I wrote last year, and I just though it would be of interest to those who live in snow country to see what the differences are. AN ARIZONA CHRISTMAS: By Don Day Did you ever wonder how an Arizona Christmas differs from one in Ohio? Let’s start with the obvious. In the Arizona desert there is no snow. I have to admit, having spent the first two decades of my life in New Jersey; Christmas in the desert took some getting use to. I remember the first time I saw the streets decorated for the holidays; the sun glistened from the garland making them as bright as when they were lit at night. Shopping in my shirtsleeves did seem rather strange too. No kids sledding down hills, no snowball fights; I must admit, I did miss that a bit. But then I realized that even with snow, the desert was as flat as a pancake and there would be no way to sled anyway. Well yeah, we could have snowball fights, but then again, most snowballs we threw as kids were really slush balls, yuck. It started to come back to me. Gloves frozen solid, clothes soaked down to your underwear; you’ve all been there and you know what that’s like. It quickly ceases to be fun. I also recalled that a freshly fallen snow makes a pretty picture until you find yourself walking to the nearest store because you can’t get the car out of the driveway or until the snowplow comes and you have no choice but to shovel away what’s left. OK, I’m hooked; no snow is a good choice after all. Still, if there is any time of the year I wish that I could have that all back it’s Christmas. It does snow in many parts of our state. Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Prescott and even the Navajo Indian Reservation spend much of the winter similar to what it’s like in Ohio. One exciting thing to do is to take the Grand Canyon Railroad to see Santa. There is usually plenty of snow on the ground when the kids arrive at the “North Pole”. Another fun trip is to go up to the snow country and get a Christmas tree. If your family is lucky, you will be able to buy a permit that allows you to go to a specified area in the forest and cut a tree. And some of the finest skiing areas in the country are in northern part of our state. Occasionally we will even have a light dusting of snow in what we call the high desert, just north of the Phoenix metro area. It doesn’t last long, but it is a beautiful sight to see. Snow-covered cacti grace the albums of many a photographer. A lot of houses here have their yards decorated; some are very elaborate and even include animated scenes. Because we don’t have the snow and cold to contend with it is possible to spend hour upon hour stringing thousands of lights all over the yard, house and trees without once having fingers turning blue or anyone slipping off a roof. You can spot those houses blocks away by the glow above them. This takes a unique type of dedication, but the result is spectacular and sends the power company jumping with glee. I’m impressed, but I don’t think their neighbors are; what with the blinding glow from a front yard that uses more kilowatts than a Las Vegas casino and the noise from the steady stream of traffic passing by, I doubt that anyone gets much rest. Most people are more conservative though, simply opting to string a few lights around a cactus and some icicle lights around the eves of the house. A lit reindeer in the yard and a Santa on the roof will round out the display. It does seem strange that Santa and his sled can stop there without a soft landing on snow; so if the decorators are resourceful, they will spread sheets of cotton around so as not to make Santa look out of place. Still, there are things that do not change from place to place around this time of the year; stores are crowded with shopper, parking lots are full and it takes at least two people to carry in the Sunday newspaper. One thing you’ll have to admit though, it is a lot easier to negotiate your way around when people are not wearing heavy coats and snow boots. No matter, if there is a mall, there is a Santa surrounded by his elves and lots of decorations. I doubt that you could tell any difference on the children’s faces or in their hearts. Santa is universal and no one seems to care at that moment if they are in the middle of the desert or if there was a raging blizzard outside. We have a large tree that is decorated shortly after Thanksgiving and it stays up until New Years Day. It’s artificial since no real tree could possibly last that long in our dry climate. It’s a tradeoff for us, but we enjoy having the tree up longer this way. Nonetheless, tree lots around town still do a bustling business since if you put a live tree up early you’re bound to be back for a second one a few weeks later. Our family comes to our house for Christmas dinner and to exchange gifts. We think about how we are truly blessed with abundance, and to remember those who are not so fortunate. We try to stay focused on why there is a Christmas in the first place and do our best to not substitute some TV jingle for Silent Night. There’s a few of the younger ones that are crying because they fell or broke a toy, and some of the dads are crying because the assembly instructions are printed in Japanese, or they can’t find the batteries. One neat thing for the kids, if Santa blesses them with a bike or a radio controlled car, they don’t have to wait to go outside and try them out. All in all, by the end of the day everyone is tired, full of Christmas dinner and goodies, and ready to call it a day. I guess Christmas isn’t that different between here and where you are after all. I wish you all the best during this Christmas season and for the coming year and I thank you for taking the time to read what I’ve said this past year about living in the Arizona desert. ... Remember this always: there can be peace on earth and good will towards men if we all work at it. Don’t let anyone take that goal away from us or try to convince anyone that there is a better way.