For as long as I could remember I loved Christmas. Mind you I grew up in New England where Christmas was often a winter wonderland where skiing and sledding and making snowmen until dark were commonplace. Christmas in the north meant hot mulled cider, caroling in snowsuits and gathering around a warm fire with friends and family.
Christmas changed for me in the winter of 2013, gone was the snow shoveling and windshield scraping and in its place was golden beach sand and tall palm trees. I experienced a childhood curiosity of what Christmas would be like if I lived in a southern climate. As you can imagine I was a stranger in a foreign land, with new customs and cuisine around every corner. I began to explore my newfound home looking for signs of familiarity. I saw no snow-covered hills or rolling farmlands, no old barns or tall evergreens that had become such commonplace in my memories.
Surely I insisted Christmas must have snow, it must have cold winter nights and warm sweaters. It must have snowflakes and sleigh bells and warm hot cocoa. I thought to myself what kind of Christmas this could be without that ever-present coating of white and the smell in the air of woodstoves.
It was then that I looked deeper and saw new friendly faces and colorful places. I remember seeing my first Christmas lights and Santa’s sleigh being pulled by dolphins not reindeer. I saw a manatee mailbox decked out in a Santa hat, and heard Christmas music on the radio. I learned that spirit of Christmas is alive and well in south as well and had nothing to do with the climate.
As that first December arrived I witnessed the city of Punta Gorda transform from a tropical paradise to a warm Christmas village, the city was full of color, lights and smiling faces. Palm trees became candy canes and a locals gathered around the city’s Christmas tree singing carols, I even caught a glimpse of Old St. Nick himself. Stores filled with shoppers and my childhood Christmas favorites came on TV and excitement was in the air.
As I awoke on that special day I realized that the magic of Christmas had not escaped me as I have found it once again…
All of these images are available in my store: