Thanksgiving in Idyllwild: A mountain island, tranquil and apart, celebrates family and friends

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Temperatures in the morning are in the 20s. Snow whitens the ridgelines. Fireplaces send smoke swirling into the bracingly clear and star-studded night sky.

The approaching winter, with an El Niño predicted to be one of the strongest ever, gently moves Idyllwild residents into the warmth of their homes and kitchens.

Thanksgiving on the Hill is a very special season — a celebration of all things quintessentially small-town, suggestive of a Norman Rockwell alpine painting. Given the gracious and open-hearted nature of the village, Thanksgiving is a reminder of how it is an Idyllwild tradition to share.

Pilgrims celebrated their harvest and feasted with their tribal neighbors who brought game they had killed to share. It was the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

There have been many American Thanksgivings celebrated during trying times in the world, as this one will be. It is a time when oceans, or mountaintops, cannot shield us from the needs and suffering of others and of what American Thanksgiving means — sharing what we have with others and helping those who have little.

Idyllwild celebrates from Thanksgiving Thursday through Saturday, highlighted by the Harvest Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. This is the 55th year of the Tree Lighting that takes place at 4:15 Saturday, Nov. 28. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the village center features booths from many local nonprofits and food from local associations. Santa arrives during the Tree Lighting ceremony. This year, there are special hopes that the coming rains will restore the centerpiece of the Saturday festivities, the town square’s grand sequoia, to robust health.

The American Legion Post 800 provides, as it does annually, a free Thanksgiving meal from noon to 3 p.m., open to all. Legion dinner organizer Danny Richardson asks attendees to bring dessert.

Local restaurants feature enticing Thanksgiving spreads. And, importantly, Idyllwild residents prepare Thanksgiving meals in the comfort of their homes to share with friends and family.

Check local listings for times of events and restaurant offerings. The Idyllwild Harvest Festival, sponsored and presented by the Rotary Club of Idyllwild, is currently scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28. Given Town Hall’s recent closure because of asbestos, the location for the Harvest Festival will be in the Idyllwild School gym.

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