Carolina: Cruising Past 70: A Different Kind of Christmas Not Very Far from Home: Tucson, Arizona

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Different Kind of Christmas Not Very Far from Home: Tucson, Arizona

Exterior of the Mission

We are going to spend three months in Mazatlan, Mexico, from Dec. 29-April 1 so we thought driving there would be better than taking a plane. We stayed at the Star Pass Golf Suites in Tucson, Arizona, two hours south of Phoenix, to reduce the 17 hours plus time at the border driving time. But this meant we were to spend Christmas in Tucson, not very far from home, and cross the border on the 26th.

We know that the Season is much better spent with family. But, with our children spread out across the world (Melbourne and Calgary for two of my three daughters) and around the US (Alaska, Idaho, and Colorado for Bill’s three children, and the Bay Area, California for my eldest daughter), it is seldom we can have the luxury of doing this. The last time we did that was 2016.

altar of the Mission
Actually, this year was better than most. After Thanksgiving, we had a Palm Springs Reunion for my two daughters in North America. We also flew to Boise and then Denver for Bill’s children. Even my sister Cherry, who has moved to Showlow, (three hours from Phoenix) with her husband Rick, had an early  Christmas dinner with us.

Christmas Eve

We knew it would be a special experience hearing Christmas Eve mass at the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the Mission San Xavier del Bac. Located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson on the Tohono O'odham Nation Indian Reservation, the Mission was founded in 1692 by Padre Kino but was named for Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order) in Europe. The original structure was razed by the Apaches in 1770 and the current one was completed in 1797.

The temperature hovered around the mid-40s (Fahrenheit) and we were packed for the warm Mexican sun. The church didn’t have any heating so Bill and I, dressed in layers with light-weight jackets on top, shivered inside until we found seats at a hidden corner away from the door. About 200 communed with us that night; a Filipino couple was by our side. We felt 300 years closer to the Reason for the Season.

at Denny's

After the mass, we looked for a place to celebrate His birth. It was traditional for us in the Philippines to have Noche Buena on Christmas Eve. But there was absolutely nothing open at 9:15 pm. We remembered the plight of Mary and Joseph and the relief they found at finding the inn. Finally, we found Denny’s, that classic American Diner. I ordered a turkey dinner and Bill ordered breakfast. 

Christmas Day

giant "tennis court" on the Star Pass Trail

Our casita was so comfortable, all 900 sq. ft of it!  Yes, it was huge and we had such a good night of rest. In the morning, we woke up to the tantalizing view of the Tucson hills at a distance. Almost everything is closed on Christmas Day, we thought, and there was the Star Pass Trailhead nearby. After such a meaningful Christmas Eve, we decided to soak in more of His Creation.

view of Tucson from the Star Pass Trail

The Star Pass Trail was a 2.4-mile moderate walk. With a water bottle in hand, Bill guided me through the trail that displayed the desert ecology. There were also many points that offered stunning vistas of a peculiar facility that looked like a giant tennis court, the neighboring vacation facilities around Star Pass Trail, and the mesmerizing city at a distance. We did only about 1.5 miles. It was a good start for me.

Saguaro National Park

a young crested saguaro
Then, even with the partial government shutdown, we drove through the 8-mile Saguaro National Park to look for a rare and precious crested saguaro among the normal ones on the desert floor. It was too bad the Visitors center was closed so no one could direct us. With almost just two miles to go, we spotted one at a distance. The day became, like our meaningful Christmas Eve, a special Christmas Day!

We wanted to see some of the dazzling Christmas light shows in Tucson like the Desert Nights Downtown Lights, the Winter Haven, and the once-in-a-lifetime Season of Lights but it rained on Christmas Night. We stayed inside and kept ourselves warm and cozy by the fireplace. After all, we no longer needed the bright lights to tell us how meaningful this time of the year is.
pinnable image

pinnable image

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