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It's the holiday season, and at this time of year, one thought always courses through my head where'd all the heat go? I went from tanning to hypothermic in about a minute and a half, as the mercury was the only thing to fall faster than the stock market. What's up with that?

Fortunately, the holidays are also a time for hot chocolate, logs on the fire, snuggling up with a special someone, new puppy, teddy bear, or whatever floats your boat. It's a time of togetherness and celebration. So while you figure out how to minimize Aunt Edna's stay in your guest room, here are a few ideas for ways to celebrate the season.

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Garrison Keillor once said: "A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together." A glance at the VisitKern.com calendar confirms it: Kern County loves Christmas like Sara Palin loves Neiman Marcus. From east to west, there's a plethora (triple-score Scrabble word) of yuletide activities slated throughout the month, and not all involve reindeer.

The region has its perennials such as Holiday Lights at CALM or the Lamplight Tours at the Kern County Museum. But as you stretch out farther from the county seat, you certainly won't find a lack of seasonal cheer.

...the mercury was the only thing to fall faster than the stock market. What's up with that?
The season launches December 1 with the Taft Christmas Parade. At one time, this was a Saturday morning event, but Westsiders apparently decided December days weren't cold enough and moved the parade to a Monday night. The result is a chilly but spectacular event known primarily for its lights. Start time is 7 pm, and Center Street is usually packed, so get there early to lock down a good spot.

California City rings in the holidays with a traditional tree lighting ceremony December 6 at city hall. Expect a visit from Santa plus performances by local school and church choirs staring at 6 pm. Look for me near the Girl Scouts' hot chocolate concession.

We've gone east and west; how about something in the middle? That same day, Tehachapi celebrates the holidays with its 8th Annual Christmas Parade. This year's theme is "Christmas in Candyland," and more than 75 floats, equestrian entries, marching groups, and car clubs will roll down F Street starting at 5:30 pm.

A Mountain Christmas sounds like a little-known John Denver song, but Christmas in Kernville is always a gas -- and it doesn't take that much gas to get there. Circle Park is the happening place December 12 and 13. Opening night (think 5 pm) consists of caroling and a live nativity scene, while the annual Christmas Car Parade kicks off day two as Santa arrives in style.

They say (who's this "they" anyway?) Christmas is for kids, so in Ridgecrest, they turn the streets over to them. The annual Children's Christmas Parade is on December 13 starting at 10 am. The intersection of Las Flores and Norma is Ground Zero for this one.

Had enough of marching? Try parking your carcass at The Magical Forest. The top of the parking structure at Bakersfield's Stockdale Towers gets a major transformation courtesy of our friends at BARC. Enjoy a winter wonderland of lights and displays plus Santa's Secret Shoppe, tantalizing food, Grinchmobile and train rides, live entertainment, and over 30 crafters not to mention the jolly old elf himself. The Magic Forest runs nightly December 5-28 from 6-9 pm. If you can't fit the other events into your busy day, this one is a bit more schedule-friendly.

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