For many, the palm tree symbolizes Southern California. But for any who are from colder climes, seeing outsized Christmas snowflake decorations hanging next to palm trees is not the Currier and Ives Christmas that has become enshrined in the U.S. as the “perfect” Christmas. For this writer, it has always been a stretch to feel that special Christmas spirit when on Christmas Day there is sunshine, warm temperatures, tank tops and shorts and, oh yes, palm trees.

To spend Christmas in alpine Idyllwild, in the blissful absence of palm fronds, is to inhale the delicate scents of pines and cedars, to see our sequoia-resplendent village square brilliantly lit in Christmas colors — that is the Christmas that most of the rest of Southern California dream of.

As Irving Berlin wrote: “The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway, there’s never been such a day, in Beverly Hills L.A. But it’s December the twenty-fourth and I’m longing to be up north. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.”

So, if you’re down in the flatlands, underneath a palm tree, and you are dreaming of the perfect Christmas “just like the ones you used to know,” come to Idyllwild.

The newly fashioned town square, gift of Loie and Dave Butterfield, has three young sequoias, each 30 feet tall and weighing more than 17,000 pounds, donated by the Pine Cove Water District to help complete the village square, christened Idypark, that New England native Dave Butterfield saw as a perfect park for the center of town. The young sequoias join their 100-foot elders, one of which sports more than 6,000 LED Christmas lights.

Around Idypark, local shops and restaurants serve up holiday fare and wares, with a friendly, laid-back mountain ambience.

On Christmas Day, daytime temperatures, although warm in the low 50s, dip to 32 degrees Christmas night with a chance for showers. That could mean a dusting of snow at the higher elevations — a white Christmas.
Christmas events in town include “An Idyllwild Christmas” at 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 23, at Town Hall, with children’s activities, music and refreshments, and a “Family Candlelight Celebration” from 4 to 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 24 Christmas Eve, both hosted by the Idyllwild Assembly of God Church.

St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church holds a Christmas Eve sing along, followed by a special Christmas Eve service. Said St. Hugh’s Vicar Daniel Rondeau, “All are welcome. You don’t have to be Episcopalian to hear the stories and sing the songs of Christmas.”

Community Presbyterian Church on North Circle is also holding a Christmas Eve service, with candlelight, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 24.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23, the Matsiko World Orphan Choir from Uganda in Africa return to McNeil Hall at Idyllwild Pines Camp for a concert. The choir is made up of orphan children from several countries in Africa and offers hope to both the choristers and to those who hear them sing. “Matsiko” means hope in the Luganda language.

Check local churches for Christmas schedules. Many are celebrating the birth of Jesus on Sunday the 23rd at their regular worship times.

Local restaurants, wineries, galleries, wine spots and brew pubs are fbrewpubsdecked out for Christmas and many are featuring live entertainment.

Christmas in Idyllwild is a very special time, in many ways unique to Southern California and, oh yes, there are no palm trees.