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After Work: It's 84 Degrees. Christmas Is Right Around The Corner

It's Christmas time in Florida. Lights are twinkling in the palm trees.

Palm trees?

"Most of our Christmas traditions, such as decorated evergreen trees, yule logs, reindeer, sleighs, snow and other grist for greeting cards, came from Europe,'' says Dona Gibbs. "Come to think about it, palm trees are part of the flora of the Biblical land where the event we’re celebrating took place....''

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“Dashing through the snow,
In a one horse open sleigh,
Over the fields we go,
Laughing all the way…”

Carolers greeted the guests to the annual Christmas tree lighting. There was a whiff of fresh greenery. The guests, many sporting a touch of red and green, chatted, compared holiday plans. Outside the windows lights twinkled in the palm trees.

Wait a minute. Palm trees?

That’s right. Christmas lights in palm trees. That’s one of the ways we celebrate the winter holidays in South Florida. It’s an adaptation that may be initially jarring but actually makes a lot of sense. Seems to me that we could with some more rethinking of our holiday traditions here.

Most of our Christmas traditions, such as decorated evergreen trees, yule logs, reindeer, sleighs, snow and other grist for greeting cards, came from Europe. Come to think about it, palm trees are part of the flora of the Biblical land where the event we’re celebrating took place.

I’m from a more northerly part of the United States where the temperatures are chilly and a snowfall for Christmas could be in the forecast. A fire is lit, warm drinks are offered, and there’s a Christmas roast in the oven. And it’s all very weather- appropriate.

Here in South Florida, we light the fire, drink the warm drinks and chow down on the Christmas roast even though the temperatures are in the 80s.

A trip to one of Florida’s gigantic malls is a real holiday eye-opener. I ventured into one recently. It’s one of these sprawling sites, anchored by four enormous chain stores, two of which are owned by the same behemoth company, and carry almost identical merchandise.

One of these department stores, however, is remembered fondly as “Florida’s favorite hometown department store.” I guess it has a lot of nostalgic loyalty going for it – kind of like true Floridians’ feelings for the ‘Gators or the Seminoles, the university sports teams.

If the mall itself is huge, then the parking lot can only be described as humongous. Acres and acres. There are signs to give shoppers a clue about where they left their white Honda civic. And woes betide those who don’t take note.

Inevitably, when I’ve finally struggled my way out of the mall maze, there’s the second challenge of finding the car.

“I lost my wife last year,” I often overhear. Although I know that death has taken away a beloved spouse, the image of some befuddled woman standing in a mall parking lot always flashes through my mind.

Anyway I digress. The mall is filled with holiday spirit of the commercial kind. Giant snowflakes are suspended from the soaring ceilings. A cookware shop is ladling hot cider. There are Christmas trees at every turn.

Santa Claus had just emerged from the giant Christmas Ball that houses his Santa throne. He’s dressed in full red Santa suit with the traditional fur trim. And he’s mopping his sweaty brow.

Winter is approaching. In South Florida that means that temperatures might drop to the high fifties at night. For me, that means a light jacket at most. For real Floridians, it must mean heavy chunky sweaters and tall boots because that’s what was on display. Fact is, I’ve already noticed teenage girls sporting their new boots. 'Tis the season for fleece lining, no matter that it’s 84 degrees.

Now I understand that December 25 is smack dab in the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere. Australians and New Zealanders would find my quibbles ridiculous.

“What’s she going on about?” they’re mumbling. Of course there are red-suited Santas and Christmas roasts. It’s tradition. And our teenage daughters all want fleece-lined boots. It’s fashion.

A Brazilian friend from Rio de Janeiro told me that as a child she always celebrated Christmas morning on the beach, snacking on fresh grilled shrimp and jumping in the waves.

Now that sounds weather appropriate.

“And the grown-ups always had cripiranhas.”

“What’s that,” I asked.

“You’ve never had one?” her eyes widened. “They’re made with cachaca (a high-octane alcohol liquor distilled from sugar cane) and lots of limes.

Perhaps that’s a tradition we should adopt.

We’ve got the ingredients: sun, sea, sand and limes. And we do grow a lot of sugar cane.



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