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It’s Christmas All Year In Florida

If your idea of Christmas is snow, you won’t find any here; as a matter of fact the life expectancy of a snowman in this place is about an hour on a cool day. I’m talking about the town of Christmas, Florida, located on State Road 50, half-way between Cocoa and Orlando. Christmas residents may not have any snow, but they keep the happy holiday spirit all year long. At the main intersection in this small community is a permanent Nativity scene and nearby is a big living Christmas tree that stays decorated all year.

In keeping with the Yule Tide spirit, the streets have such names as Candy Cane, Frosty, Blitzen, Donner, Dasher, Dancer, Cupid, Comet, Antler, Rudolph, Sleigh Bell, Christmas Road, and Highway 50 East…oops, forget that last one.

The town takes its name from a stockade fort of the second Seminole war period that was built in December 1837. According to military records the fort was opened on Christmas day but only occupied a few weeks. I haven’t checked the records, but the fort might hold the record for the shortest occupation of any army post. A full-scale replica of Fort Christmas, which is also a museum, can be visited in the community’s Christmas Park. I have a weird connection to Fort Christmas, as I was the last soldier officially assigned to this fort. No, not in 1837, give me a break! As an army master sergeant, I was detailed by official orders to raise the U. S. flag over the reconstructed fort during its dedication ceremony.

An interesting story about Christmas was told to me by 89 year old J. W. Thomas of Orlando. “When I was in the Navy back in 1943, I was coming home on Christmas furlough and got off the train in Cocoa. I had to hitch hike to Orlando and it was cold and there weren’t many cars on the road back then. This was during the war and gas was rationed and many folks didn’t have much gas anyway. Anyway, I made it about half way to Orlando but got stranded in the middle of nowhere on the highway. It was about midnight and it was cold. The old navy P-jacket that I was wearing wasn’t doing much good at keeping me warm.

Well I heard some dogs barking and could see the lights of a house just off the road a bit. This man comes of the house to see what the dogs were barking at and he sees me and takes me to his house and when his wife saw that I was a sailor she fixed me something to eat and some hot coffee. They fixed me a place to sleep in their front room and the next morning was Christmas Day so they made me a good breakfast I needed to get on the road. I told them I was much obliged for their hospitality and as I went out on the road to catch a car going to Orlando I saw the road sign that said ‘Christmas.’ It was one of the kindest Christmas gifts I’ve ever had, they took care of me that night and that was in Christmas, Florida in 1943.”

Most of the year, the town’s post office operates at a normal pace until just before Christmas when an avalanche of letters, cards, and packages by the thousands are delivered to be re-mailed with the official Christmas postmark. This has been going on since 1930 when postmistress Juanita Tucker began stamping letters with “Glory to God in the Highest—Christmas, Orange County, Florida.” Today, the Christmas post office offers a choice of postmarks from Hanukah to Kwanza to Christmas, nobody gets left out. Of course this has only increased business at the post office. Some letters come in not for the postmark, but are addressed simply to Santa Claus. Maybe folks think that Santa, like so many other northerners, has retired to Florida. You can see a display of these items all year at the post office, but if you plan to do any holiday mailings from Christmas, you’d better get there early.

Weird Florida

 

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