Idyllwild's Christmas tree is aglow. Photo by Cid Castillo

Living in Southern California at Christmas, unless one is a native Southern Californian, usually feels a little out of sync during the holiday season. Christmas, palm trees and temperatures in the 70s just don’t make it. And with songs like “White Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland” filling the airwaves and images of snow, reindeer and warmly wrapped Christmas shoppers blanketing television screens, you want to be somewhere that looks like a Currier and Ives Christmas. And that would be Idyllwild.

At Christmas, Idyllwild turns on its holiday twinkle, with colored lights on the downtown Christmas trees and with shops, restaurants and homes brilliant in their nighttime sparkle. People who live here feel it’s a perfect place to spend Christmas. Those from down below come here to experience what all the holiday songs are celebrating. And, in many parts of the village the week before Christmas, there is still snow on the ground from recent snowfalls.

For last minute givers, the Spark of Love Toy Drive hosted by CAL FIRE and Riverside County Fire (RCFD) offers an opportunity to bring happiness to some local kids in need. The Idyllwild Fire Department is participating in the drive, which ends at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23. “If you give to a local [collection] box, it almost guarantees that toys will go to local children,” said RCFD Firefighter Mark Spehar. Toys can be left at RCFD stations 23 (Pine Cove), 53 (Garner Valley) and at Idyllwild Fire. The agencies request donations of new, unwrapped toys, sports equipment and gift cards.

Local restaurants often offer something special during Christmas. The Creek House is hosting a Christmas Eve Wine Tasting with selections from Wiens Family Cellars with live music from 3 to 5 p.m. Contributions from that event will be going to the Desert Friends of the Developmentally Disabled according to owner Lanny Hardy. From 4 to 7 p.m. Lenny Hansell and Anthony Patler provide musical entertainment.

Café Aroma, a local gathering spot, is closed Christmas Eve and reopens for Christmas dinner at 5 p.m. on Christmas Day. Jo’An’s Bar and Restaurant closes at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve and is closed on Christmas Day. The Gastrognome is open until 7:30 on Christmas Eve and from 1 to 7 p.m. on Christmas Day. Mile High Café is open from 10 to 3 on Christmas Day for a holiday brunch. (See restaurant open/closing box for a more complete schedule, above.)

The Rustic is screening the second in the Robert Downey Jr’s and Jude Law’s Sherlock Holmes series, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” and local venues feature entertainment.

But for many, as snow and cold weather blanket Idyllwild, it is a time for family, friends, fireplaces blazing and cozy celebration.

The Town Crier wishes all our readers a singularly wonderful Holiday Season!

Christmas church services

Offering an opportunity to pause for reflection and worship during the hustle of the holiday season, most of Idyllwild’s churches host special Christmas Eve and Christmas services. Several feature special activities and entertainment, such as candle lighting, spiritual and seasonal music and a children’s Christmas play.

Here is a list of the churches and Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24, and Christmas Day, Sunday, Dec. 25, events.

See the Church Directory on page x for the address of the churches.

Chapel in the Pines

  • Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, 5 p.m. (held at former Morning Sky School campus)
  • Christmas Day, 10 a.m.

Community Presbyterian

  • Christmas Eve Service, 7 p.m.
  • Christmas Day with caroling, 9:30 a.m

Idyllwild Bible Church

  • Christmas Eve Candlelight Celebration, 4:30 and 6 p.m.
  • Christmas Night Service, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Queen of Angels Catholic

  • Christmas Eve Caroling, and Candle Lighting and Mass, 4 p.m.
  • Christmas Day Mass, 8 and 10 a.m.

St. Hugh’s Episcopal

  • Christmas Eve Caroling 6:30 p.m.
  • Christmas Day no service

Spiritual Living Center

  • Christmas Eve Candle Lighting Service, 6:30 p.m. (holiday music by Phyllis Curington-Brown, Elaine Balkman Latimer, Barbara Rayliss and Bill Sheppard).
  • Christmas Morning Meditation, 10 a.m.
  • Peace Prayer gathering (part of a worldwide event), 4 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 31.

Holiday closings

Hill businesses and institutions that will be closed Monday, Dec. 26, to observe Christmas:

BBVA Compass
Fern Valley Water District
(also Friday, Dec. 23 and Tuesday, Dec. 27)
Hemet Unified School
Idyllwild Library
Idyllwild Water District
(also Friday, Dec. 23)
Pine Cove Water District
Riverside County offices
Town Crier
(also Friday afternoon, Dec. 23)

These will be open:
Area post offices
Country Farms
Fairway Market
(closed Saturday, Dec. 24)
Gary’s Deli
Idyllwild Health Center
Idyllwild Pharmacy
(closed Sunday, Dec. 25)
Idyllwild Transfer Station
(closed Sunday, Dec. 25)
Mountain Harvest Market
Mountain Top Liquor
Pine Cove Market
Village Market
(also open Sunday, Dec. 25 until 9 p.m.)

Hill restaurant holiday hours

Hill restaurants what will be open for Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24, and Christmas Day, Sunday, Dec. 25:

Arriba Mexican Restaurant
8 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days

Café Aroma
7 a.m. to 3:30 pm. Christmas Eve
5 to 10 p.m. Christmas Day

The Creek House
3 to 7 p.m. Christmas Eve

11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Christmas Eve
1 to 7 p.m. Christmas Day

Gary’s Deli
10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Christmas Eve
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Christmas Day

Goodtimes Pub & Grill
9 a.m to 7 p.m. Christmas Eve

Hidden Village Chinese
11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Both days

Idyll Awhile Wine Shoppe
12 to 5 p.m. Christmas Eve

Jo An’s Restaurant & Bar
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Christmas Eve

Lumber Mill Bar & Grill
11 to 1 a.m. Christmas Eve
11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Christmas Day

Mile High Café
7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Christmas Eve
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Christmas Day

Nature’s Wisdom
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Christmas Eve

Oma’s Restaurant & Bakery
7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Christmas Eve

Red Kettle
6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Christmas Eve