Sunday, December 3, 2017

Southwestern Holidays

Tumbleweed Christmas Tree, Chandler, AZ

I've lived in the Southwestern US the majority of my life. You cry a little bit through summer and fall because it's, well, miserable weather. But, if you hold out, December opens up to be mild low 70s and 40s and 30s at night and you remember what is to love about this inhospitable place. Holidays here are different too. Some traditions are unusual and quirky which, for this geek, are just fine. Let me share some of the charm that is Southwestern Holiday Season.

It's a popular tradition in the Southwest to make tamales at Christmas time. If you are lucky to have a neighbor from south of the border, who knows their serious home recipes for them, you are blessed. I used to freeze the ones a neighbor made so I could enjoy them for months. In the Southwest we are very blessed to have a Latino population that brought their unique twist to the season and allowed us to adopt a bit of their beautiful culture.

Families gather together in an assembly line to make these magical wonders. Here is a great traditional recipe (LINK).


With the onslaught of snowbirds from Canada, Michigan and elsewhere, the southwest fills up with eager newbies wanting to try our local tastes. One of my favorite tastes from the desert is prickly pear fruit that grows on cactus. 

They take this amazing fruit and turn it into soda, jelly candies, jams, and cocktails - the preferred holiday drink!

The Prickly Pear Cactus Margarita is an all-time favorite! Here's a recipe (LINK). The taste is rather like mixing kiwi, strawberry and pear into a sweet nectar. 


When my family moved to Arizona when I was 15, the big advantage to me was the pool. And, we began a tradition that many others do, as well. We heated the swimming pool from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day. With nights in the 30s and days in the 70s, we were swimming around the clock as much as we could. This is not an unusual tradition. Some folks sled. We jump into hot water and float around in the steam with a blue sky overhead. 


We light our cactus, palm trees, and utilize our gravel washes with blue lights to look like running streams. The practice of lighting cactus is very popular and the effects are stunning. 

Interesting ingredients

Stuffed chiles
prickly pear fruit
corn husks
cheddar jalapeno cornbread
roasted peppers
Mexican hot chocolate (spices and cayenne)
corn pudding
citrus (it's ripe in winter)
Christmas morning huevos rancheros 

These are just some of the things you might come across in a Southwestern Holiday Meal. 

The ornaments take on a Native American tone that is utterly magical.

The Great Phoenix Area knows how to put on amazing lights shows from The Zoo Lights spectacular to Glendale Glitters. There may not be snow, but there is plenty of sparkle. 

If you want to visit a most spiritually empowering and gorgeous location for Christmas, consider Sedona, Arizona or Santa Fe, New Mexico.

No matter where you are from, a Christmas in the Southwest is a serene, gracious, healthy and uplifting time. Everyone should experience it at least once, but my bet is you'd come back again and again....

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