My readers may remember that I celebrated my 40th birthday this year (back in April) and I made my 40 for 40 promise, which, by the way, I am happy to report has continued on track! Donating to Relay for Life on behalf of fellow tweeter @JenVargas, fulfilling her birthday wish, was #32.
At any rate, as Christmas approaches and I went to set up my tree again this year, I realized that this is my 40th Christmas… so of course I knew I had a blog post in the making!
Florida Christmas in the 1970s
- Opening of Disney World Resort
- Opening of Sea World
- Closing of McCoy Air Force Base
Now, my family actually goes back to the 1800s in Central Florida. In fact, here’s my grandmother fishing a snake out of Howell Creek when she was much much younger!
And, when my mother was a teenager, she wanted a horse, but the City of Winter Park did not allow horses inside the city limits. So, my family moved way out in the country (at the time) and bought some pasture land down a dirt road with beautiful goldenrod growing all over. (This dirt road is now known as Aloma Ave. and that goldenrod pasture is marked by Goldenrod the road!) But this Lazy 3 Ranch, where my mother grew up, is where I grew up too, at the same time as the city was growing up around us in leaps and bounds.
The Lazy 3 Ranch, corner of Aloma Ave. and 436
So, my memories of Christmas at this time were typical of most children: lots of 70s era toys! Dolls and ride-in cars for me, Stretch Armstrong and army men for my brothers, a working Lionel train set for which my father spent weeks building and nailing down a track, and even chickens. Yes, chickens…we did live on some land, after all!
And, of course, Disney toys and theme park visits were very big with our family…we lived in Central Florida! (And, boy, do I remember those booklets of tickets…especially the feared E-Ticket!)
A young Top 5 editor Bess Auer with her beloved "Big Red"
And as soon as we had our toys, we’d rush outside to try them out, riding bikes down the driveway, skateboarding around, climbing trees with GI Joe.
Florida Christmas in the 1980s
- Space Shuttle program launches
- Opening of Epcot
- Domination by Miami football
By the 80s my brothers and I were getting into our teenage years, and Central Florida saw the launch of the first Space Shuttle as well as the opening of Epcot. (I watched the opening live while home sick from school…and classmate Jody Crane skipped school to attend the opening and was featured as the very first guest! He got lifetime tickets or some such wonderful thing!)
At any rate, childhood toys at Christmas gave way to clothes and boom boxes. And still, after unwrapping presents on Christmas day, we’d head outdoors to the yard to have orange and grapefruit wars, or to take my grandmother to Epcot, or even to head to the beach and lay out in the sun for most of the day. Florida Decembers have certain advantages!
Christmas day - grandmother and her beloved dog at the beach in New Smyrna...look how uncrowded!
And then, as the decade ended and I was cheering in college, sometimes Christmas days were spent traveling to bowl games, like the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. (Not a bad place to spend Christmas and New Year’s, by the way!)
Florida Christmas in the 1990s
- Opening of Universal Studios
- Domination by Bowden’s FSU football program
- Closing of the Orlando Naval Training Center
This decade saw me getting married, buying my own home, and setting up my own Christmas tree for the first time. I have never been a fan of traditional, so I bought silk flowers for my tree, which I still use nearly twenty years later!
Our Christmas tree
And then, as the second half of the 90s began, I became a mother, and Christmas suddenly was geared to children once again. Thomas the Tank Engine, Pokemon, and Legos were tops in our house, as Harry Potter paraphernalia soon would become, too.
Florida Christmas in the 2000s
- Ending of the Space Shuttle Program
- Opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Domination by Florida Gator football and basketball programs
- Rise to national prominence by UCF’s football and basketball programs
And so I have reached this latest decade. This one saw the passing of my brother, the continued growth of our children, and even some of the final flights of the Space Shuttles. My son has become the teenager, and iPods have replaced boom boxes, X-Box Kinect has replaced Atari.
My son does not rush out to the front yard to race around on his skateboard or ride his new bike, as my brothers and I did when we were young. Instead he plops on the couch, puts on his headset, and connects with twelve different friends around Florida who all got the same video game to play online. It is a strange new world in which I live, one ruled by indoors, electronics, and air conditioning, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything!
Forty years of Christmases… what do you remember?