Writer Chris Black – an adopted New Yorker of 12 years – has spent much of 2020 living in LA, and the California climate has him wondering: for those of us used to snow and sub-zero temperatures, can the holiday season be the same in blazing sunshine?
Illustration by Marie Assenat.
I was raised in Atlanta, GA, a Southern metropolis not famous for its weather. We had proper seasons: a muggy summer, a crisp fall, chilly winter, and a mix of rain and sun in the spring. My Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were spent with my family in chinos, oxford cloth button-downs, sweaters, peacoats. Par for the course, nothing extraordinary.
I have lived in New York City for the last 12 years, a city more recognized for weather extremes. The holiday season requires down parkas, ankle grazing overcoats, cashmere sweaters, leather gloves, watch caps, and – in extreme cases – long underwear. It’s not always the most fun, but it feels right. The holiday season has been presented to us in film and television as a time to dress or the cold, and to dress somewhat formally. Throw on a navy blazer for a turkey dinner by a fire; in my family, a tie would be seen as a bit much. We are casual people. You get the idea.
Since July, I have been living temporarily in Los Angeles. A wonderful town that perhaps is best known for its weather. The sun is shining from morning until night, rain is rare, and even a few snowflakes would cause a multi Tesla pileup on the 101 freeway. It doesn’t take long to get fully accustomed to wearing casual clothes all the time. The motivation to get dressed vanishes when it’s 80 degrees in December, and you can see a pool from your window. The incredible consistency has been a fantastic mood lifter at times. But when the decorations started going up on Larchmont and I looked down and saw my exposed legs, I began to think about how Angelenos, even temporary ones, should dress for a Thanksgiving feast or Christmas lunch.
Can you show up in shorts, loafers, and a polo shirt for a holiday meal? Would eggnog taste the same in a t-shirt? Can breathable cotton be a substitute for wool? I don’t think so.
Los Angeles’ casual approach is often mocked, and rightfully so. People are more concerned with their cars than their clothes, but maybe the holidays this year could be an exception. We should all dress up a little bit during this strange time in history, even if the family is gathering on Zoom and the meal is pre-ordered from Erewhon. I am not suggesting you put on tails to gather around the television for the annual viewing of Home Alone, but after a year of sweats and pajamas, a little effort, even in warmer temps, will go a long way.
So I might be roasting like a chestnut in a beautiful colour block brushed lambswool jumper, or a colourful brushed shetland but I will look great in photos, and it will remind me of a simpler and more festive time. It might even help me get into the holiday spirit. I wouldn’t want to find coal in my stocking.