Sunset’s truck-driving, metal-working editor in chief reflects on how holiday traditions change with time and geography—but his love for Mariah Carey is eternal

Sunset Cover with Santa and Redwoods
Sunset cover by W.H. Bull, Dec 1916

I’m a creature of habit when it comes to the holidays. Fine, you want the truth? I’m a sap. Find me another guy who drives a truck, welds stuff, and yet can capably debate the finer points of Kelly Clarkson versus Mariah Carey for best holiday pop singer. Come early November, my Sonos and Spotify clog up with holiday tunes. My Instagram is given over to real-time reviews of all the new Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies (#SapAwards). Don’t even get me started on Christmas cookies. I’m lucky Ugly Sweaters are so forgiving.

Why the confessional? This issue represents my first holiday special for Sunset, one we’ve been looking forward to sharing with you all year. It’s also the first time I’ll be streaming the David Bowie-hosted The Snowman—not against the backdrop of the drifts of my Midwestern childhood, or on a snowy Brooklyn evening, but somewhere in California, maybe near a powdery slope in Tahoe or on a sandy beach in Malibu. The point is that winter in the West is as varied as the landscape and people it contains.

While I stomped through drifts and wore grooves in my folks’ Johnny Mathis albums, you may have been wrapping palm trees with strings of light, or placing your menorah in a beachside bungalow. Traditions run deeper than drifts, stand thicker than gravy. Snow or not, the rituals you create can endure longer than the sustain on Mariah’s solo at the end of “All I Want Is You.” With that in mind, we packed this issue full of catalysts for new traditions. From our High-Desert Holiday cover story to our fresh take on wine in the West to our outsize guide to eating and cooking in the West, you’ll find just about everything you need to celebrate. And if that’s not enough, well, you know where to find me. I’ll bring the cinnamon sticks.

P.S. My money’s on Mariah.