THE HOLIDAYS... may be about trees and candy canes and lights and ornaments, but visit an ocean-close cottage or island hotel and you're bound to see a change-up on the theme. In the place of a tree you might find a sand sculpture, and the candy canes aren't shaped like candy canes but starfish. There are ways to do up the sparkliest season, in short, if the Pacific is your number one passion (as it is for many people). Beyond decorating with a wave-whimsical theme, and asking for donations to be made to your favorite clean-up charity (in lieu of openable gifts), there are sweet soirees that happen near the ocean's edge. The annual party at The Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz is about both the wondrous denizens of the deep blue and the yuletide, too. It is, in short, the dream event for people who rank both happenings high, and that spirited feeling is only apt to climb higher when Ms. Blue is finally lit. Oh, have you become acquainted with Ms. Blue, the massive blue whale skeleton that sits out in front of the institution? You will if you attend the Jingle Shells Art and Craft Festival, which bubbles up, with bliss, on Sunday, Dec. 13.
"LOCAL ARTS AND CRAFTS PEOPLE..." will be on hand "to tempt you with their ocean- and nature-inspired gifts." Live music, wanderings about the exhibition hall, and cups of hot cider round out the chilly cheer. ("Chilly cheer" being a good and expected thing, since the center is snug with a certain huge neighbor whose name begins with "P" and ends in "-acific Ocean.") And the capper of it all? The lighting of Ms. Blue, the stately symbol of the center. The whale skeleton will have a different lit-up look in 2015, than in years gone by. Be ready for something that's "similar but better," says a representative. However the wee bulbs glow, it is a nifty sight, and quite offbeat in the holiday decor department. A whale is a noble creature, one who lights up the hearts and minds of many a landlubber, so for a skeleton to receive such a beautiful glow seems like a natural progression. For a more natural take on the holidays in general, and some neato sea-sweet seasonal stuff, go Seymour in Santa Cruz.