Thinking of the upcoming holiday season in December as I write this letter (in October), I reflect on its current state of “madness.” December madness beats “March madness” by light years and has become a national catharsis that transcends in many ways the religious significance of Christmas and Chanukah—not just in our Conejo Valley community, but throughout the U.S.

Deloitte forecasts November and December holiday spending to increase 4 percent from last year to $960 billion (excluding autos and gas). In an area of relative affluence like the Conejo Valley, we will certainly contribute to that total. Gifts, decorations, parties….all just plain having fun. In many ways, the holidays are magic. As a child I would walk into Wanamaker’s Department Store on Market Street in Philadelphia and see the huge Christmas tree, all of the goods just waiting to be bought and the beautiful decorations. WOW!!! Or the ice rink and Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York. The season is a blast, and we deserve it. After all, we’ve been good all year.

More importantly, this time of celebration, Christmas for Christians marking Jesus’ birth and the beginning of Christianity, and Chanukah for Jews commemorating an unlikely victory over oppressive Greek rulers of the Holy Land, provides an annual opportunity to reflect on the joy of family, friends, neighbors and even strangers, particularly those less fortunate than us.

In our family, it’s a delight to see the children light the Chanukah candles as several generations of family watch the candlelight glow on their beautiful faces as we celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. Some of my fondest holiday memories are also of a Christmas party in Pennsylvania when my daughter’s family and friends gathered at the home of the most musical family I’ve ever met. We sang Christmas carols, and earlier that evening, wearing a Santa Claus suit and carrying a bag full of toys, I had knocked on the door. “Oh, Santa’s here,” said my granddaughter Sophie, as she answered the door and let me in. The entire experience was like being in a Frank Capra film. We are a religiously mixed family, by the way, as is quite common these days. Celebrating holiday traditions—whatever your beliefs—with family and friends is what the spirit of the season is all about—coming together in joy and celebration.

All of us at Conejo Valley Lifestyle wish all of you a wonderful holiday season. Most of all, love each other and be kind. Our world needs all the love and kindness we can give.

Happy Holidays!

Ben Malkin, Publisher

On the Cover: Dancer Emiko Flanagan performed as a returning guest alumni in the last Nutcracker as the Snow Queen. She grew up in Westlake Village. Photography by Robert Yeager