’Twas four months before Christmas, and all through the town, holiday cheer was nonexistent, which made me feel down. Suddenly, out by the office dumpster, there arose such a clatter that staff writer Justin Horwath and I arose to see what was the matter. Then what to our wondering eyes should appear, but a fake Christmas tree—seven feet tall—with lights, a star, ornaments and all.
OK, enough with the rhyme. We brought the tree inside and propped it by Joey Peters’ desk in hopes of spreading some unseasonable holiday joy. He didn’t notice it for a full hour—regardless of the fact that he had to climb over it to get to his desk (and that the lights were lit). Disgruntled, the news ace (and our resident Grinch) proceeded to relocate the jolly bush. Like the Virgin Mary and Joseph, there seemed to be no room at the editorial inn for the faux perennial.
It then ended up in music writer Alex De Vore’s already Hoarders-worthy station, sandwiched between a file cabinet and his desk chair.
“It’s terrible,” De Vore moaned under his Marlboro Red-laced breath, as the polyvinyl chloride branches intimately encroached on him like that pedo-fighting tree dude from the To Catch a Predator shows. Each movement was an excuse for the tree to shed some red tinsel on him like a feral, Technicolor Angora.
“If there was such a thing as tree rape, I would wish it upon it,” the newly branded tree-hugger continued.
Distraught, I turned to the one person in town who understood my unwavering joy for anything and everything Xmas: Rick Griego—who, along with his wife Janice, owns The Shop, a year-round Christmas store.
Walking into the establishment, a hint of apple cinnamon quickly invades your nostrils, evoking happy memories from Christmases past.
“It’s Gladé from Targét,” Mr. Griego points out in a fake French accent.
Surrounded by items like a Mariachi Santa Claus, a dangly holiday space alien and a Dickens Village-inspired Halloween town (complete with a zombie whack-a-mole station), the East Palace Avenue shopkeeper says that getting in the holiday spirit is easy, even during the scorching summer months.
“It’s actually very calming in a sense,” says Griego, who’s helmed the store for 35 years, adding that, being a lifelong Santa Fean, there’s a certain magic in experiencing all four seasons. “There’s a momentum that builds up, because they all lead up to Christmas.”
“You don’t lose it. Every month, you get anxious for it,” he says of his perennial holiday cheer, adding that some of his more gung-ho patrons keep their trees up all year, changing up the ornaments for Valentine’s Day, St. Patty’s, etc.
The best parts of Christmas in the City Different are “the community involvement and just the setting,” he says, smiling. “It’s very warm, homey and traditional. It’s truly unique in all the world.”
What else would you expect in a city with Santa in its name?