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Desert Diary


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Moonlit sleigh rides across a pristine blanket of glistening white snow, the sibilant hiss of ice skates on frozen ponds, roasting chestnuts on open fires—images of Europe or the northeastern United States, but what do we know of these in the Chihuahuan Desert? We along the border boast of our cultural diversity. But sometimes, culture just doesn't travel well.

The traditional U.S. winter holiday rituals and festivals occurred in harsh, northern climates. But our desert, with its generally mild winters and rare snows, could hardly be more foreign. Culture clash!—not serious, but enough to make us feel that something's not quite right.

Perhaps the saving grace, though, is that we're actually more true to the climate where the Christmas story took place than is snowy New England. The mild winters of Palestine and our desert fit well. But the southern California Mediterranean-type climate, with its mild wet winters and moderately hot summers, is an even better match than either El Paso or Boston.
pen and ink

Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Web Resources

Christmas in Mexico. A variety of links to Mexican Christmas activities and traditions.