December 20th, 2011

Here in California, we love the holidays as much as they do anyplace else. Our streets are glittering with lights, our ovens are filled with cookies and we’re bustling from party to party, just like the rest of the country. Sometimes, though, the details get a bit screwy here in the golden state. I guess because all the traditional seasonal activity isn’t necessary in these parts. It means something really different, for example, to light up the cold, dark, otherwise depressing winter days in Chicago, than it does to string lights on a palm tree. To carry a warm bag of freshly roasted chestnuts while walking around the freezing streets of New York City is a comfort that we just can’t relate to with flip-flops on our feet. Still, we too deserve a little romance!

This is the spirit that brings us the likes of snowfall inside downtown San Francisco’s Hyatt Regency. That’s right, no less than three times a day, through December 31st, it’ll snow inside the Hyatt. A white Christmas, after all, seems very important from everything that we’ve seen on TV. Except that in this case, if you want respite from the harsh elements, you’ve got to go outside!

In another twist on the same logic, downtown San Jose offers outdoor ice-skating for the holidays. It’s best not to think about how much energy it’s taking them to keep that water frozen and instead just enjoy skating in a T-shirt, under a clear blue sky, around a little grove of palm trees. With lights on them.

My favorites, though, are the ones that we’ve actually just bent to suit our needs, and the Surfing Santas are my favorite example of that. Every year, just after Thanksgiving, a cadre of Santa Clauses surfs into Santa Cruz. This makes sense; this belongs to us. And, truly, the icy Pacific is one of the few places in this state where the bulk of Santa Claus’ suit is actually justified. Everywhere else, you just end up feeling bad for the poor sweaty guy who’s stuck pretending he’s in Minnesota.

If you’re here with us this holiday, take a tour. There’re lots more little gems that I haven’t mentioned. Scantily clad Mrs. Clauses, iced mulled wine. You get the idea. Christmas in California!

December 19th, 2011

The holidays have become so controversial. Have you noticed? There’s a war on Christmas and it seems that each of us has got to choose a side. Yuck! I don’t know about you all, but it makes me miss my childhood. Everything seemed so simple then. The holidays were a time for extended family, special food, special clothes and twinkly lights all over the place, plus a hint of the possibility of magic. Maybe it was called Hanukkah in your house, or Kwanzaa, or Festivus. It doesn’t matter what name you use, we’re all celebrating the winter solstice, and we all stole it from the pagans. Now, though, the whole season has been politicized and commercialized and it’s hard to know if it’s our duty as Americans to spend lots of money in the next weeks and give businesses the holiday revenues they so desperately need, or if we should rise above capitalist pressures and act as if nothing special at all were happening at this time of year.

Well, we here at this hotel want only to be in love with the holidays. We come from so many different cultural, religious and economic places, and for each of us this is a special time of year, even if we’ll choose to express it in different ways. You, our guests, only complicate the variety. And it’s so great! We’re so grateful to live in a time and a place where we can be surrounded by such a diversity of experience. To be working in a hotel that receives guests from around the world, in the Bay Area, in the 21st century, gives all of us a special privilege. We are all wealthier and stronger for the ways that we meet each other here and, on the occasion of this holiday season, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge it. We’ve said it before and here it is again: This hotel is a community and we are so pleased that you are a part of it. Happy Holidays!