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Sunday Favorites: Quirky Christmas Customs Two


The Steinmetzs' family Christmas card in 1936 was different than most. Mr. Steinmetz, a famous photographer, his wife Lois and their daughter Lois Duncan are pictured on the card.

Photo: Florida Memory Project 

In Florida we have a different kind of Christmas. In other states you can just look outside a frosted window, see white snow and know it’s almost time for a visit from Santa, but in Florida we have unusual ways of making sure we have a happy holiday.

You won’t get real snow in Florida. You’ll have to go to events such as Bradenton’s Winter Wonderland, where snowflakes are produced by a machine and Santa arrives via boat wearing a Hawaiian shirt. 

While Christmas scenes in Florida are far from traditional, the holiday has been associated with the subtropical state longer than anywhere else in North America. 

Historians believe that the first Christmas was most likely celebrated near present day Tallahassee during Herando de Soto’s expedition through the state.  

In 1539, a group of priests accompanied the explorer on his excursion, bringing with them a number of vestments to perform Mass. Although there is no physical record of the Christmas ceremony, it’s likely the priests found themselves wishing Jesus a happy birthday between ambushes from the Apalachee natives. Hopefully the tradition boasted morale among the 600-man army.


Santa picks oranges in Sarasota circa 1965.

Photo: Florida Memory Project

In 1837, during the Second Seminole War, a military stockade opened in present day Orange County for the first time on Christmas Day. Although the fort was only open a few weeks, the name Fort Christmas stuck. The fort turned into a village, which kept the name Christmas and continued to celebrate the holiday 365 days a year. 

Today there is a permanent nativity scene at the main intersection in the middle of the town of Christmas and an everlasting fir (because it’s alive) stays decorated all year. In celebration of the holiday, the founders also named the streets thingas that are commonly associated with Christmas too. 

Normally the town operates as a normal Florida destination, but Just before December 25, the town’s post office gets inundated with letters, cards and packages that are re-mailed with the official Christmas, FL postmark.

When pioneers began migrating to Florida, they brought with them their own Christmas customs. Holiday frolics, a community party with music and dancing, provided entertainment for pioneers.


Is it Santa, or just an area hobo looking ot get a tan? 

Photo: Florida Memory Project

Men and women would shed their country work clothes and dine their finest outfits. In the historically accurate fiction novel, A Land Remembered, by Patrick D. Smith, the character Zech had never seen his father in a suit, or his mother in a dress with blue lace until he attended a Christmas frolic. 

As more people began viewing Florida as the retreat from the harsh northern winter, vacationers started a new tradition. They would jump in the water on Christmas day, take a picture and send it to their friends and family up north -just to rub in the fact that the weather was much warmer down here. However, judging from some of their expressions, the water temperature was a little too cold for comfort. 

There are countless other Florida traditions that have progressed over the years. If you would like to read more, follow the link to the story we did on last year’s customs. 

Quirky Christmas Customs Part 1

If you have a quirky Christmas custom you’d like to share, tell us about it by commenting below!


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