Tag Archives: christmas

Merry Christmas from the Top 5

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! To those in Central Florida who have struggled during 2010, may your burden be lightened in 2011. To those of us who are fortunate, let’s include in our New Year’s resolutions a pledge to do a bit extra for our neighbors in need. (If you need a suggestion of how to share, take a look at this list supplied by our readers.)

As for us here at the Top 5, we are thankful for a healthy, happy season, and we are especially thankful for you, our readers. Although we’re hoping for a mild winter, we’re dreaming of a White Christmas today! (Anyone up for snow skiing?)

 

Top 5 editor Bess Auer and family.

 

 

 

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Filed under family, Seasonal

40 Years of Florida Christmases

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!)

Christmas, 1975

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.

Christmas 1976

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?

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Filed under disney, Just for Me, Sea World, Seasonal, Shuttle, Uniquely Florida

Merry Christmas-Florida Style

I just received an email from my good friend who lives in New York City, where it’s currently 25 degrees out (feels like 12 degrees with the wind chill).  Suddenly, I felt like I needed to take off my sweater. 69 degrees isn’t so cold is it? 

My friend’s email snarfily hinted that I must be sad that I never see a white Christmas and surely the “melting temperatures” couldn’t possibly bring on a Christmas feel.  [Note: “Hmmmm…” I think as I open my sliding glass doors to air out my house.]

With the exception of a few Christmases spent skiing in Colorado, I have never known a white Christmas, and so such is not necessary to bring sugar plums to dance in my head. All that is needed is a few seasonal mall decorations, holiday music, and Christmas lights hung with care. [Note: I could do without the blow up Santa sleighs and snowmen. I have yet to see one of those actually add to the decor.]

So, I started thinking back to my holiday memories, almost exclusive to Central Florida. We Floridians have a strange shared existence here in the Sunshine State. We proudly go fishing at night, string lights on palm trees and paint pictures of flamingos in Santa hats.  We ravage overly-decorated malls despite hearing horrid renditions of Christmas carols, we both love and despise Disney depending on our mood and reasoning, and we hide from the sun while giggling at our European tourists baking to a lobster red.  We encourage tolerance for all religions yet complain when it says “Push 1 for English.”  We hold heated discussions over monorails, Light Rails, Tim Tebow and Bobby Bowden. We Floridians are an odd bunch, no? 

But regardless of our varied beliefs, backgrounds, and collegiate affiliations, there are some wintertime happenings that fortunately unite us. Here are some of my Florida memories; perhaps you, too, have experienced some of them:

  • Tanning at New Smyrna Beach on Christmas Day [Note: This was before sun was bad for you.]
  • Driving behind Whole Foods in Winter Park to see the neighborhood filled with amazing Christmas lights
  • Drinking hot cocoa at Mickey’s Merry Christmas Party
  • Having orange wars in the front yard with nearly frozen fruit [Note: Ouch!]
  • Immediately trying out new Christmas gifts such as roller skates, bikes, etc. in the driveway dressed in shorts and a t-shirt
  • Listening to the gorgeous Bach Festival Choir while strolling among Tiffany stained glass windows
  • Freezing while sliding down an ice slide at ICE!
  • Watching the Tangerine Bowl (Citrus Bowl) Parade in its seasonal and collegiate spirit
  • Dressing in winter cap, scarf, and sweater to take a “seasonal” photo to send relatives…and then sweating!
  • Putting water into a ziplock and cleverly calling it melted snow [Note: Yeah, it was funnier when I was young.]
  • Donating to Toys-for-Tots while singing, “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay…”
  • Sticking reindeer antlers on my dogs…and then my cats
  • Laughing at rubber reindeer poop [Note: Still funny even now that I’m older.]
  • Pretending the soapy snow flakes drifting down at Celebration were real snow flakes
  • Listening to 24-7 Christmas music on 107.7
  • Sitting high up in a tree looking for a lighted nose and sleigh until my mom made me come in
  • Wondering how Santa was actually getting into my house since we had no chimney. [Note: I was very creative with my solutions, one of which included a very well-trained squirrel!]

What are some of your holiday memories? I hope you have some wonderful ones.  And, the Central Florida Top 5 wishes you and your family a fabulous holiday season. Please enjoy this video that highlights Christmas in Florida. [Note: I am sending it to my NY friend…ha!]

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Filed under family, History, Only at a Theme Park, Seasonal, Uniquely Florida