Friday, 20 December 2013

Introducing Kristen - Christmas in Arizona!

I am so pleased to introduce you to Kristen, my first guest blogger - enjoy this visit to Christmas over the pond!
K xxx

Hi! I'm Kristen from Whatever is Lovelier, and I'm your guest blogger for the day.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, Karen and I have become blogging friends
on opposite sides of the world. I enjoy seeing all the lovely photos she posts
here on her blog, as well as those on Instagram. Karen always captures
the beauty of Oxfordshire in her photos, which is so very different from where
I live in the United States. She has graciously handed over the reigns today
so that I can share with you my corner of the world and how we celebrate the
holidays here in Chandler, Arizona. I hope you enjoy! Then be sure to head
over to my blog to see Karen's post about Christmas in Oxfordshire.

Arizona is in the southwestern part of the county, and our capital city, Phoenix,
is a desert metropolis and the sixth largest city in America. Drive a few hours
south and you will find yourself in Mexico, or drive a few hours north to find
snow in our high country. Here in the city, we have an average high temperature
of 19 degrees Celsius in the winter! I moved to Chandler, which is a suburb of
Phoenix, a year ago and enjoy living and working in this multicultural city. My
house is minutes from the historic downtown Chandler area, and I visited the
weekend they lit their Christmas tree. You won't find snow here. Instead you
will find rows of stately palm trees, dressed in twinkling lights. We also like to
wrap our cactus in lights. Just be careful you don't prick yourself!

One of the most unique sights you will see in Chandler during the holidays is
the famous Tumbleweed Tree. That's right, the 'tree' you see above isn't really
a tree at all. The Tumbleweed Tree starts as a metal frame that is covered by
some 2,000 tumbleweeds, which are then spray painted white and decorated
with lights and about 65 pounds of glitter! I was fascinated to hear that all the
tumbleweeds were found right here in Chandler. I live in the wild, wild west!

While wandering around the downtown area, I found this western wear shop.
Sabas is the place to go if you are in the market for cowboy boots, hats, plaid
shirts or other assorted country western items. We don't all dress like cowboys
and cowgirls here, but the shop is fun to see decorated for the holidays. I love
the covered wagon in the window!

Here are photos of a few homes in my neighborhood decked out for the holidays. These are typical Arizona ranch style homes, with xeriscape landscaping. Xeriscaping is a way of landscaping that reduces the need for irrigation, essential for us desert dwellers. Most homes have rocks in their front yards instead of grass, accented with cactus and palm trees. I love the palm trees wrapped up in lights!

Luminaries are another common holiday decoration you will find here in Arizona. Luminaries are lanterns made out of paper bags filled with sand and lit with a candle, placed along a home's driveway or pathway to the door. The tradition of luminaries started when Catholic Spaniards introduced them to Mexico as a way to guide the spirit of Christ into their homes on Christmas Eve. In modern times, they are just a simple and lovely way to light up the desert during the holidays. Every winter, our local Desert Botanical Garden hosts a wonderful event called the Las Noches de las Luminaries where the gardens are lit each night with more than 8,000 luminaries.

Every family has their traditional holiday foods, enjoyed each holiday season. In my family, we have a roast Christmas Eve night and my mom makes the magic cookie bars that my sister and I look forward to the rest of the year. One food that almost everyone in Arizona enjoys during the holidays are Christmas tamales. Tamales are another tradition brought to Arizona across the border from mexico. these delicious treats are made of masa, a dough made of corn, which is filled with various toppings and then steamed in a corn husk. Most tamales are filled with either saesoned beef, chicken or pork, then various spicy (and I do mean spicy!) chili peppers are added in, as well as one token olice. Sometimes tamales are even sweet, filled with masa and pineapples. You can find tamales at the grocery store, but the real treat is finding someone who makes them by hand and is willing to share! Tamale recipes are passed down from one generation to the next, and are a very time consuming dish to make. They aren't something made in my family, so each year I go on a hunt to find someone who has made a batch and is willing to sell some. I have even bought them from a man out of the back of his truck! Nothing is better than a long day of holiday shopping then a dinner of tamales!

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about how we celebrate the holidays here in Chandler, Arizona. While there are so many holiday traditions that are universal, like the tree and caroling, it is also fun to look at the ways they are celebrated locally. I know that the readers of my blog will enjoy reading Karen's take on a typical Oxfordshire Christmas. Be sure to head over to my blog to see her post and photos!
And thanks again, Karen, for trading places for the day!


xoxo, Kristen


  1. Chandler looks so pretty - and I absolutely love the idea of the Tumbleweed Tree! Thank you so much for suggesting this fab guest blog idea Kristen, it's been great fun to do. Karen xxx

    1. It was fun indeed! Thank you for letting me share your blog for the day. The Tumbleweed Tree really is so unique, isn't it? And all the tumbleweeds were collected here in Chandler!

  2. Wow what a fascinating read... And beautifully illustrated too. How very interesting! So, so different from here in the UK!

  3. Thank you, Croila! I'm happy to hear you enjoyed reading about my local traditions. I think it is so fun to see how different people celebrate. So many things are the same, but the diffences are so interesting!! Happy holidays, Kristen

  4. Kristen's Mum here, checking out her guest post. How wonderful that she has a blogging friend in the UK. The world is getting smaller, thanks to technology. I'm off to check out the rest of Karen's photos and articles. Merry Christmas, one and all!

  5. Great post! I've never seen the tumbleweed tree and I'm in Arizona. Lovely photographs too! Merry Christmas to all.

  6. Great post Karen. I love the snowless holidays myself…..don't know how I used to do it in the snow.