Idyllwild’s Christmas tree is covered with snow in 2011. Photo by Cid Castillo

In the higher regions of Idyllwild and Pine Cove, a light dusting of snow still covers the ground just days before Christmas – an unexpected present following last Friday’s heavy rainfall.

As it does especially in the cool winter air, the mountain sparkles with sunlight dappling its pines during brilliantly clear days and smoke from chimneys adds holiday festiveness to the star-filled nights.

This year, Hanukkah begins Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, a symbolic uniting of the two faiths, Jewish and Christian, as different congregations light candles and pray on the same night — a serendipitous symbol of a need and a time to come together in peace.

Idyllwild Christmas is not the typical Southern California experience – more Currier and Ives than Rodeo Drive. And if you want the idyllic “White Christmas” Bing Crosby dreamed of in 1942, you’d be more likely to find it in Idyllwild than Beverly Hills. 

Here there is not the hustle and bustle of shoppers rushing about in a glitzy urban metropolis decorated with consummately expensive taste. Here there is more tranquility, more simplicity, more peace and more time to stop and visit with friends.

Some wonder whatever happened to the Christmas promise of “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men,” as we humans seem increasingly to be choosing disagreement and disruptiveness over concurrence and comity. Come to Idyllwild. You might find a more welcoming experience.

Christmas is first and foremost a religious observance, celebrated by local churches. Most Idyllwild churches hold candlelight Christmas Eve services. Check church websites for specifics. St. Hugh’s holds services at 5:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, Dec. 24; Idyllwild Bible Church holds two, one at 4:30 and one at 6: Queen of Angels Catholic Church celebrates Christmas Eve mass at 4; Community Presbyterian at 7 with candlelight; Crossroads 243 at 4:30 p.m. and Spiritual Living Center at 6:30.

American Legion Post 800 is open Christmas Eve 12 to 5 and Christmas Day also 12 to 5 but with no special luncheons or dinners. The Idyllwild Help Center will be accepting food donations through Christmas Eve Day.

Idyllwild restaurants will be crowded especially with Christmas falling as it does this year on a Sunday. Make reservations to celebrate an old fashioned Christmas in Idyllwild. Visit shops, galleries, restaurants, wine bars and experience music everywhere you go. Pause under the brilliant night sky to see stars that are very hard to see in light-blighted urban areas. 

And take a moment to stand before the Idyllwild Christmas tree, craning your neck to see to the top of the old sequoia, lit this year by 5,200 lights – and once more, feel the awe and beauty of Christmas just as you did when you were a child.