Nothing epitomizes the Holidays quite like a Christmas Sleigh Ride. We sing about it in Christmas songs. We find the iconic scene depicted on Christmas cards. We dream of sliding along through the snow with bells jingling and a happy horse leading the way . . .
Can we on the Central Coast experience a white Christmas with sleigh bells?
Yes . . . well at the very least, sleigh bells.
A Christmas Sleigh Ride
Freezing cold weather is a rare occurrence with our temperate coastal climate, however, it does occur occasionally. One of these rare cold fronts came through San Luis Obispo the week before Christmas some years ago. It was so cold people weren’t spending much time outside especially at night.
Stationed as the carriage driver at the Quality Inn Suites Friday night of that week, I spent most of the evening waiting in the lobby. A warm fire provided the creature comfort needed to brave the cold outside. The only ride scheduled that evening was a surprise Christmas Party appearance for kids in the local neighborhood.
“Shasta”, one of my most trusted carriage horses, and I pulled up as a surprise for the children, and surprised they were! A stream of about twelve excited children squealed with delight as they greeted us. Shining eyes and faces met us; their bodies jumping up and down with excitement. The cold weather didn’t damper their enthusiasm.
Sleigh bells rang out as Shasta gently pulled two groups through the neighborhood to marvel at the Christmas lights adorning many of the neighborhood homes. Lights just seem crisper and brighter against a cold, clear night sky. On each trip, two children fit in the seat next to me as the rest sat face-to-face on the vis-a-vis carriage seats snuggling in warm blankets. The party continued to roll along with the kids singing Christmas Carols as we slowly passed each home.
On one trip I enjoyed two young boys sitting next to me in the driver’s seat. Shasta was pulling us up a slight hill as we were singing Jingle-Bells, inserting “Shasta” into the song instead of “Bobtail”. The hill provided a beautiful view of the San Luis Obispo city lights. The Christmas Tree of lights sitting on top of Madonna Mountain looked like it was suspended in the sky. Gazing towards the boys, the scene was breathtaking. I treasured the silhouette of a young boy’s face, back-lit by glowing city lights, framed by an overhanging tree branch and the Madonna Mountain Christmas tree hanging in the clear night sky.
Maybe it wasn’t “dashing through the snow”, but this particular memory has stuck with me through the years. When I think of Christmas and Holiday Spirit, it’s difficult not to think back to the excitement of those kids being pulled through a local neighborhood in a carriage; the closest most of them would ever come to actually taking a sleigh ride. This time of year is all about emotions and feelings, spirit, joy and giving, and on that cold night many years ago, I truly felt these things.
This is the entire story from a soon to be published book: Carriage Capers – Magic Moments Leave Marks on our Hearts. Stories of a Horse Carriage Driver in San Luis Obispo County by Sharon J. Jantzen