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Keep Christmas alive after selling family home

Some traditions change, some stay the same

When our four kids were younger, Santa Claus always arrived earlier than expected. We set up the tree a few days after Thanksgiving, decorated it with lights and sentimental ornaments collected from special places we visited, and then prepared for Santa's visit about a week before Dec. 25. The reason for the early celebration was that both sets of grandparents lived about a mile apart in the Westside of Los Angeles and we used the last week of the year to get out of the cold, visit the folks, and connect with other siblings in the area. Three of the four kids looked forward to getting presents early and then heading for the sunshine; we were grateful not to lug the loot aboard the plane and spread it out under grandma's tree on Christmas morning. The first several serious Santa years (and the explanation for the early appearance) were cushioned somewhat by an actual visit from the "big fella," the result of a successful bid at the local babysitting co-op fundraise...