Christmas starts early on the south side of Chula Vista. The lights start going up on houses a week or so before Thanksgiving.  Here on my block, my next door neighbor is always the first to put out decorations - lights, Christmas figures, and anything else you can think of that celebrates the holiday. Their Halloween decorations are a legend on the block, but Christmas, it gets even better. Some of the display is home-made, cut from plywood, painted and covered with lights.  Although we aren’t on “Candy Cane Lane”, it’s a display that puts our block on the traditional holiday cruise for folks in the neighborhood. 
Complimenting my neighbor’s place is just about every other house on the street. Colored lights, twinkling or not, bright white lit icicle lights, snowmen and reindeer lighting up lawns, Santa and his reindeer on rooftops,  trees decorated and peeking out of windows, all reminding passersby that Christmas is coming soon. 
It isn’t just the physical environment that signals the holiday. People are cranking up their fireplaces, so when you walk down the street, Christmas is even in the air. Neighbors are baking cookies and holiday treats, sending their children with plates of goodies out to friends and neighbors, spreading tasty goodies and holiday spirit. Even local taco shops do their part, posting carts out front with tamales of every flavor - everyone’s favorite thing to unwrap this time of year. 
For me, the tastes and smells are what conjures up the Spirit of Christmas Past, reminding me of Christmas seasons 35 years ago when we would walk through the neighborhood singing carols. At many houses, people would step out and offer us cocoa and treats. By the time we had ran through our repertoire, we were too full of brownies, cookies and candies to walk any further.  Most years that would mean piling into a car and heading up Hilltop Street to Kearney Street to see the over-the-top decorations that were always a Chula Vista staple at the holidays. Just like today, cars would line up, wreaths or antlers posted on their front grills, Santa hats perched rakishly on heads, and cruise the brightly lit route. 
Last night the towering tree in downtown Chula Vista was lit. People packed Third Avenue in record numbers, spotting friends and neighbors in the crowd. Children with smiles as bright as the lights on the tree, oohing and aahing, taking in all the sights and sounds of December in Chula Vista and reminding us all that Christmas is on it‘s way. That’s Christmas on the south side - ever joyful, ever bright.

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