You know the stereotypical image: It’s cold and snowy outside, but inside everyone is sitting around a glowing fire sipping hot cocoa in slippers and PJs — or eggnog in slacks and blazers. It’s the kind of Christmas everyone seems to want, and it is wonderful. I’ve enjoyed a few myself.

But you know what’s also nice at Christmas? Sitting on a sunny front porch in 80-degree weather sipping a chilled Manhattan and munching on Ritz crackers and pimento cheese. In fact, I think if Jesus decided to come back for his birthday, he’d much rather...

You know the stereotypical image: It’s cold and snowy outside, but inside everyone is sitting around a glowing fire sipping hot cocoa in slippers and PJs — or eggnog in slacks and blazers. It’s the kind of Christmas everyone seems to want, and it is wonderful. I’ve enjoyed a few myself.

But you know what’s also nice at Christmas? Sitting on a sunny front porch in 80-degree weather sipping a chilled Manhattan and munching on Ritz crackers and pimento cheese. In fact, I think if Jesus decided to come back for his birthday, he’d much rather spend it in South Carolina than in North Dakota.

After all, he could go fishing like my son and I did the other day. We jumped in the jon boat and did a bit of mid-morning casting. (We didn’t have much luck and could have used a little divine intervention.) I know you can do ice fishing up north, but something tells me Jesus would prefer to be on a boat, feeling the warm breeze in his hair and watching the lake steam off its morning coolness.

Afterwards, he could slip on a pair of Chacos and take a stroll around the neighborhood. (It’s hard for me to imagine that he’d prefer snows pants and boots.) He might even catch a whiff of that “pleasing aroma” from a neighbor’s brisket smoking in the backyard. In the evening, he could sit around the fire pit and count the stars.

Joseph Bottum has written eloquently about northern Christmases in his essay collection The Christmas Plains. He remembers hunting for a Christmas tree in the Black Hills with his wife and daughter, Christmas reading, working odd jobs over the Christmas break, and those childhood Christmas mornings:

I can call up moment after moment of precise memory from the Christmases of my childhood, like frozen frames of recollection: A sparrow, its feathers so fluffed for warmth it looked like a fat monk in a robe and tonsure, peering out from the ice-wrapped lilac hedge while I sat at the living room window, waiting for my parents to wake. The sideways tilt of my father’s head as he looked down in concentration, cutting out the sections of a grapefruit for Christmas breakfast. The heft of the new Swiss Army knife from my uncle.

There is a sense in which Christmas is the same wherever you live. The details are different, but the feeling is universal.

But there is also a strangeness about Christmas in the South because of the modern association of the holiday with northern winters. There is something disjointed about plastic figurines in winter coats in the hot afternoon sun, about listening to songs with sleighs and Jack Frost while driving around in a t-shirt, windows down. It feels a little bit off to wear a Christmas sweater with Bermudas, to stink of mosquito repellent while caroling, or to turn on the AC during Christmas dinner.

But that strangeness, too, is part of what makes Christmas Christmas. After all, what’s stranger than God becoming man and being welcomed into this world by a teenage mother in a stable in some backwoods town in Israel?