Winter without the snow

Make figure 8's this winter at the Irvine Spectrum ice rink.

Photo by Nicholas Mazmanian
Make figure 8’s this winter at the Irvine Spectrum ice rink.

Sticking out your tongue to catch snowflakes in 40-degree weather, sipping on hot chocolate by the fireplace, and bundling up in 10 layers is the protocol for wintertime.

But when it’s December and you’re walking in 80-degree weather with sweat dripping off your forehead, it doesn’t seem like much of a winter wonderland.

Orange County locals and Chapman students try to find ways to get the full winter experience-without the snow. Planned holiday events and activities in Orange County provide Southern Californians with not only entertainment, but also a chance to spend time with their loved ones. From November to January, students and locals can enjoy California’s winter season by attending these events.

“It’s a beautiful thing to have our communities united and together and coming out to celebrate. … It brings out the warmth and best in each individual,” said Rabbi Reuven Mintz of the Chabad Jewish Center in Newport Beach.

On Dec. 21, the Chabad Jewish Center will host its seventh menorah lighting ceremony at Fashion Island in Newport Beach to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah. Starting at 3 p.m. in the Bloomingdale’s courtyard, members of all religions are welcome to attend the event. The day will consist of balloon making, dancing, dreidel games and live music by a children’s choir and a local band, Las Judeos Locos, translated to “The Crazy Jews.”

An honoree, who has not yet been determined, will speak at the event and light the first candle. Previous honorees have included individuals such as Leon Leyson, the youngest survivor of Schindler’s List, and Joey Bishop, comedian and member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.

“It’s a great way to come out in public and rejoice in the miracle of light as a universal message, not just for Jews, but for all,” said Mintz.

Junior Jonathan Katz, president of Hillel, a Jewish club at Chapman, feels that it is fun to see Jews from all over the city come together. But by having a public ceremony, it gives the public a wrong impression of Hanukkah, he said.

“It makes Hanukkah seem like it’s as important of a holiday to Judaism as Christmas is to Christianity,” said Katz. “Hanukkah is a festival, not really a holiday, and is one of the smallest holidays in Judaism.”

Katz did, however, attend outdoor Hanukkah celebrations with his family when he was younger and always thought that they were fun, he said.

“I think at its core, the holiday season, no matter what religion you practice, is a time to spend with your family,” said Katz. “Having an outing with just your family is a great way to do it.”

Another event available to Orange County locals is “The Nutcracker” ballet at the Barclay Theatre in Irvine, Calif. The ballet will be performed from Dec. 12 to Dec. 24. Adults can purchase tickets for $38, while seniors and children can buy them for $33. According to Josh Roberts, employee at the Barclay Theatre, tickets should be purchased at least a week in advance. “The Nutcracker” performance typically draws in between 700 to 750 guests, he said.

“All the time we’ll have people tell us this is the only way they’re going to get to spend an evening with their family [during the holidays] because they’re so busy,” said Roberts. “It’s a great way to bring families together, even for people living in the same house.”

The performance is choreographed and directed by Salwa Rizkalla, Festival Ballet Theatre’s Director, with a cast of over 180 children and professional dancers from Southern California.

For the non-theater goers, Orange County offers other popular winter activities and events, such as ice skating. The Irvine Spectrum Center offers the only outdoor ice skating rink in Orange County, which is available from Nov. 1 to Jan. 19. It will not be open on Christmas Day, but will be open until 6:15 p.m. on Christmas Eve. This is the sixth year that the Spectrum has had its ice skating rink.

Ice skaters have the option of getting right off the ice to grab a bite to eat at various restaurants, such as California Pizza Kitchen, The Cheesecake Factory or Dave & Buster’s.

Families and Chapman students also have the option of going on a Newport Beach Christmas boat parade cruise this winter. The cruises are provided by Newport Landing and will last from Dec. 17 to Dec. 21. Cruises will be offered twice nightly at 5:45 p.m. and at 8 p.m.

The parade will start at 6:30 p.m. every night, beginning at Collins Island, and will last about two and a half hours. Each boat holds up to 114 people and costs from $25 to $30 per person.

Boats in the parade will feature decorations ranging from lights to Santa Claus figures to dancers. Holiday skits are also sometimes performed on the boats.

“It’s one of those things that everybody should experience just once,” said Steffanie Oldmen, employee at Newport Landing.

Boats and homes in the harbor participate in various decorating competitions, such as most original and best incorporation of the year’s theme. This year’s theme is “100 Years of Christmas Cheer,” celebrating the parade’s 100th year anniversary.

“I think it’s a nice event for families to get together and spread holiday cheer,” said Oldmen. “Most of the time, kids love lights and music, and there’s a lot of that for them.”

Junior Jennay Golden has been going to the boat parade with her family for as long as she can remember. As a child, seeing Christmas lights and boats at the same time was one of the best experiences, she said.

“It’s cool to go now that we’re grown because we see little kids going nuts over it and remember when we used to be the same way,” said Golden.

According to Golden, holiday gatherings can be overwhelming since both sides of her family are large. Going to the boat parade is something that only her immediate family does, she said.

“It’s much more mellow,” said Golden. “We can focus on enjoying each other, rather than catching up with the rest of the extended family.”

Aside from the winter events offered in Southern California, locals and Chapman students find simple holiday activities to provide entertainment. Such activities may include baking holiday treats, decorating the Christmas tree, lighting the menorah, going holiday shopping or attending holiday parties.

Each activity allows for the participation of the entire family. At a small cost, families can spend quality time with their loved ones, while also having a good time.

A tradition of junior Ashley West is going shopping with her mom the day after Thanksgiving. The night before, they will browse through all the newspaper advertisements and make lists of good buys and things they want to buy the next day, she said. According to West, this shopping trip jumpstarts her winter season.

“Even though we wake up at the crack of dawn to get to our first store, it is most likely because we want to see how crazy everyone else gets over holiday shopping,” said West.

Although Southern California does not offer snow and below freezing weather, its citizens find alternative ways to enjoy and celebrate the holiday season with family and friends.

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