A Christmas Tree for Lent

Wicked winds roared through San Diego on this Ash Wednesday, which is also President George Washington’s birthday (in 1732 by the Gregorian calendar). Sustained, from the West 32 to 40 kilometers per hour (20 to 25 mph) and reaching 72 kph (45 mph) or more.

When the gusts were greatest, my wife and I chose to walk around Westfield Mission Valley rather than endure blowing debris and risk being pelted (injured or killed) by falling/flying palm fronds. We started at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, which was absolutely deserted. I mean, day-after-apocalypse abandoned.

I joked with Annie that we had better practice good situational awareness. “You wouldn’t want to be robbed in the store because there is nobody around”. We know that Bed, Bath, and Beyond is having loads of financial, logistical, and organizational problems and assumed that had something to do with the absolute lack of customers. But turns out, probably because of the weather, the whole mall was quiet.

That is, with two exceptions. A line had formed outside the Foreign Exchange booth, which disturbed me because I rarely see anyone there ever. I wondered: What do they know that I don’t? Most, but not all, of the people were apparent Asian heritage. I got to wondering about China, Russia, and unnervingly real possibility of an escalating global conflict. Are they preparing for something imminent that I should be, too?

We continued on to Target, where a reasonably bustling crowd could have exceeded the number of shoppers everywhere else in the San Diego outdoor mall combined.

Returning our story to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Annie and I passed a clearance table on the second floor close to the elevator and down escalator. My interest turned to the lonely Christmas tree, which was so discarded that no price tag could be found. What’s the discount? Not that we were in the market for one.

I saw strange synchronicity in the moment—meeting of two traditional religious events. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. Easter commemorates His death and resurrection; Ash Wednesday begins the march to Easter Sunday. As Christianity.com explains:

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is always 46 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is a 40-day season (not counting Sundays) marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.

While obliviously related, these two holidays don’t typically intersect in the way that I saw them today: A lonely Christmas tree languishing on the first day of the Easter season.

I used Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra to capture the Featured Image and companion. Vitals: f/1.7, ISO 200, 1/120 sec, 23mm (film equivalent); 11:44 a.m. PST. The other is the same but one minute earlier.