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Some traditions worth reliving, others worth creating Richard Pena | Sat, Dec 18 2010 12:00 PM

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," is one of those quintessential tunes that we often hear at this time of the year.

And though it is merely a song, it seems that with each passing day, it becomes more than that. The Christmas decorations, complete with their attractive multi-colored lights are, more and more, dotting the streets and avenues of our neighborhoods. The shoppers, simply belying the signs of depression, are out in droves, perhaps not spending as much as in good times, but, nevertheless, doing their part in making merchants and the recipient of gifts a bit happier. The kettle ringers are out in their Santa regalia, happily greeting each giver with cheerful "Ho,ho, hos." So the aforementioned is more than a song: it's that time of year.

One would think that in the case of someone like me, that is, someone who has been around the block a few times, I would be rather blasŽ about the season, would take a sort of a "been there, done that" attitude and have gone on to something else. But, happily, that is not the case. I, of course, don't get giddy, like the little kid dreaming about Santa Claus or something of that nature, but I, nevertheless, anticipate those things that come with the Christmas Season and savor them.

I firmly believe in tradition. I have written about this in the past and still strongly recall other times, in other circumstances, that were of an agreeable nature and that merited repeating.

An example would be the Christmas shopping adventures that I used to have with my kids when they were of the wondering age. I recall that we would pick a Saturday, sometime before Christmas, have them dress in their finery, say goodbye to the mother, and away we would go downtown on our adventure. Since this was in the pre-mall days it had to be downtown. And downtown, at that time of year was a magic place.

The area in the vicinity of Broadway and Fifth Avenue was, more or less, the hub of downtown San Diego. This was the site of the large department stores, Marston's, Walker-Scott and a large Woolworth and Kress. The decorators outdid themselves each year. Each of the department stores had large display windows demonstrating their wares and products that were in the store. At Christmas time they were decked out in something pertaining to the season, maybe an animated Santa Claus, with sound effects, of course, or perhaps a wintry scene depicting a landscape of some other place since we had no snow. Each year each of the stores tried to outdo each other by exhibiting original scenes and each year all of the windows met with the youngster's approval.

Our first stop in the department stores was the toy department that was generally in the basement. Our favorite - or I should say my favorite - was Walker-Scott. They had an exhibit of Lionel Trains that held the viewer spellbound. There were various trains that traversed an expanse of country side, amid mountains, tunnels and into a make-believe town. The children were mesmerized, glued to the activities that were difficult to tear them away from and on to the task at hand, that is, do some shopping.

That was in an age that was long ago. It is memories that we recall and savor them as we did then. We should, however, not lose sight that, in reality, we are making new traditions, maybe each year. The other evening, for example, we attended the annual dinner and get-together of the Merrie Ukes, the ukulele group, at the Bonita home of Sue and Bill Foley. This is the second year that they have hosted this affair. There was pleasant company, a fine dinner and then the culminating jam session.

When a musical group gets together, regardless of the reason, they invariably bring their instruments and the result is the jam session that entertains the rest of us.

As I listened to these accomplished musicians and singers the other evening I thought of the many past traditions that I have experienced in my lifetime during this season. And I have to agree with the newspaper editor who once wrote the poignant observation, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

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