Santa in Shorts
The daily euphoria of sunshine and consistent temperatures in the 80s can lull you into a trance leaving you unaware of what month it is. This has been especially true for the last six weeks we have been in Florida. Until this weekend when we had a severe storm ride in on an actual cold front, neither Eileen or I can remember any significant rain or a cloudy day in six weeks.
Christmas has always been an important time of year in our family. The house was always fully decorated inside and out and the Christmas morning ritual of gifts and breakfast was greatly anticipated by all. Christmas music filled the house from the time we decorated on the weekend after Thanksgiving until almost New Year’s Day.
Although we have had subtle reminders that it is the Christmas season, it has been difficult to get into the spirit. A wreath hung from a palm tree just doesn’t seem to make you want to break out into carols. Even the noble attempts by many of our park neighbors to display subtle, and in some cases not so subtle, seasonal displays fall short when it is in the 70s after dark.
We even visited the Edison and Ford Summer Estates (subject for another post) where the focus at this time of year is how the Christmas season was celebrated by those famous families at their estates in Fort Myers. Despite the lights strung throughout the property and the decorated Christmas trees displayed in the parlors of both estates, true yule tide spirit was still lacking for us.
The Parlor at the Edison Summer Estate
Our Christmas spirit was salvaged by a turn in the weather accompanied by a couple of local annual holiday events. Friday night saw a cold front pushing down into the South bringing winter temperatures to much of Florida and severe storms in Southwest Florida. For a few long hours in the early morning hours on Saturday driving rain, severe winds and shocking thunder and lightning made me wonder if we should abandon ship and head for the safety of the nearby laundry room. The result was a grey, windy and cold Saturday. Suddenly, in that context, the Christmas decorations seemed to make a little more sense. Clearly, for those who have spent the majority of their lives in wintry environs, the holiday is synonymous with the weather.
The storm and change in weather put us on the road to holiday recovery. The remainder of the cure was provided by our neighbors, and new friends from Ohio, Dave and Sue. They told us about the Bonita Boat Parade and invited us to join them in enjoying this local celebration. Dressed warmly in our long-sleeve shirts and sweatshirts we made our way to the Imperial River late Saturday afternoon. The long walkways and docks along the river were packed with people, most of whom were transplants like us. After a long wait for darkness, and a few false alarms, the parade got under way.
Boats of all sizes, shapes and decorative themes made their way up the Imperial River to an enthusiastic response from the crowd. The individuals having the most fun were the many people on the boats who obviously had begun the party well before the rest of us.
This event is a good illustration of using the special nature of your climate and community to celebrate the holiday in a way that adds the local flavor. The fact that we were somewhat cold standing there watching in our sweatshirts lent an extra holiday feeling for me. It turned a fun and interesting event into one with Christmas spirit.
The weekend, and holiday spirit, did not end with the boat parade. On Sunday we joined Dave and Sue again to attend the Christmas concert presented by the Bonita Springs Concert Band and held at the bandshell in River Park. The park and the bandshell were beautifully decorated for the holidays. Hundreds of people showed up with their folding chairs, coolers and wearing their best Fall attire including hats and gloves in some cases. The temperature was in the low 60s with a breeze. This is cause for layering the clothing in Southwest Florida. I am sure we will get there at some point.
The Bandshell in River Park in Bonita Springs
The Audience Bundled Up in Holiday Spirit
I was more than pleasantly surprised by the band. The eighty-eight-person band included skilled professional musicians who successfully presented very lively and complex arrangements of many holiday favorites. It was anything but a simple rehash of the standard holiday fare. The combination of the good music, an audience coming together to celebrate, and the cool weather helped us inch a little closer to a full embrace of the season.
A Sampling of the Program
We will still have to wait until we get back to Connecticut later this week to really get the complete holiday feeling. The combination of the snow and our family, especially the three grandsons, waiting for us when we arrive, will ensure that.