Friday 21 December 2018

Christmas in Florida 1960s by Teresa McRae #History #Christmas #Florida @tshep1957

Christmas in Florida 1960s

By Teresa McRae

The average temperature of southern Florida in December, can be counted on to be somewhere between seventy- and eighty-degrees Fahrenheit most of the time. This fact alone, can make a child feel confused when watching such sixties Christmas specials as Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, or my favorite, How the Grinch stole Christmas. Yes, we were bombarded, as all kids everywhere were, with television shows that featured snow, winter coats, fireplaces, and more snow. Christmas was everywhere. We were dragged to the big department stores downtown, in our shorts and sandals, to watch our parents buy gifts, look at the decorations, and listen to the Christmas Carolers. Even in school, we were coloring pictures of Santa, elves, and Christmas trees.

I was a young child in the sixties. Born in 1957, I was the perfect age to be enticed to obsession with the entire idea of the Christmas fantasy. I loved the idea of the family sitting around the table, eating a giant turkey, while a fire blazed in the fireplace; the towering green fir tree just to edge of the scene, with its colorful ornaments and angel on top. I still can sigh when I see it today.

The colors in the sixties, especially at Christmas, were neon red, yellow, blue, and green, or my favorite combination, pink and orange, which coincidently was the color scheme of the bedroom I shared with my younger sister. These colors were everywhere, from artificial Christmas trees to wrapping paper, that could double as a night-light, it was so bright. Indeed, many chose the white or pink aluminum trees, and often decorated them with a Florida theme, using sea shells, sand-dollars, palm fronds, and sometimes moss from the Spanish Moss trees that grew in the area. Or one could simply put the large bulb lights on an indoor palm, and hang the ornaments from the light wires. Today, the decorated palm is a Florida tradition, but in the sixties, it was still a novelty.

Another difference was that not many people wore, much less owned sweaters. The winter coat was for the rich that traveled north in the winter, or the tourists who had come from there to bake in the Florida sun. Natives were rarely seen in anything knitted, unless they were elderly, or happened to own one sweater they wanted to pull out of the back of their closet to show off on the one day the temperature might have dipped into the 60-degree range. In general, it rarely got that cold, but buildings had started to be air-conditioned, so it was feasible to be comfortable in a sweater.

Something my family never did, but was popular with many, was the family Christmas picture on the beach, tucked between the pages of a Christmas card that read Wish you were here. On a trip to the beach, one could see the family, all in a row, with their shorts on, bare feet in the sand, grinning for the photographer. They knew it would eat away at the relatives stuck in the snow and ice up north. Another favorite for us kids, was making sand angels on the beach. It was the same as snow angels, except we Florida kids could do it all year. Indeed, the beach was open all year. The large influx of tourists in December meant that the beaches were crowded with men, women and children in various shades of bleached white to lobster red from sunburn. I lived a short walk from the beach. Watching the tourists get burned by the sun, was a fun pastime for us permanently tanned kids.

At some point during the month of December, we took the obligatory drive to see the homes that tried to outdo each other with a garish overdone light display. We waited in the long slow-moving line of cars for a brief minute of gazing at lights that left spots in your eyes for some time afterward. I did love the winter wonderlands. I tried to imagine myself living in the scenes. I liked to make up stories about what was happening in these depictions of winter. The best houses always made the nightly news, as it still does. Just a constant reminder of how blessed we were to live in the warm sun of the sunshine state, or make a child wish they could spend a Christmas in the snow and cold, just once.

Up and down both coasts of Florida, a popular Christmas attraction was the boat parade. Much as with the houses, boat owners would outdo each other to see how many lights they could get on their vessels. The parades would include everything from yachts to dinghies, and draw huge crowds. The best decorated boat would often win a prize. There was also the big float parade in downtown Miami. It was televised, so most Floridians watched it at home in black and white, leaving the bleacher seats for tourists. I always felt terrible for the people on the floats dressed in coats, sweaters, scarves and hats in often very warm temperatures.

Fireplaces were not standard architecture for homes in Florida. Many parents fretted over how to explain to their children how Santa was going to find them on Christmas eve. Explanations ranged from leaving the sliding glass doors open to thinking he must arrive on a big boat with his elves towing him to shore. There he left his boat to ride through the streets in his sleigh, leaving gifts for the children that had been good that year. Most of us kids bought the lie.

I remember my childhood Christmases with great fondness, and indeed when I moved North, it really was different. One of the things I miss the most is the Cuban Christmas meal. With the influx of Cubans starting in the fifties, a small community grew around an area called Calle Ocho or eighth street. Today it is a large area made up of families and descendants of the first immigrants, but the meal then as now, is superb, consisting of pork meat marinated overnight in a sauce of oregano, onions, garlic, and sour oranges. This is accompanied by black beans, rice, yucca, salad, and flan, a creamy egg and milk caramelized custard, for desert.

Christmas in Florida was wonderful. It still is. I love to go visit family at this time of year, and we still celebrate the customs of our childhood; beach, shopping, lights and Christmas dinner. Better go buy my plane tickets!

Mamie Garrison:

 A tale of slavery, abolition, history & romance

 (The Garrisons Book 1)

Mamie Garrison is a story of an ordinary woman who goes to extraordinary lengths to do what she knows is right. Everything in her young life has led her to this moment, this decision. She will embark on the greatest adventure of her life.

Approximately one hundred and fifty years later, her ancestor, Bella Garrison, inherits a house from her grandmother and finds Mamie's journals in a trunk in the attic. Bella with the help of her historian boyfriend, Andrew, will follow Mamie's journey through her writings, to find out more about this intrepid woman and what she achieved. 

However, someone is trying to stop them from learning about Mamie. What do they not want Bella to find out? 

And... What is the meaning of the strange events occurring in Bella's house?

*Giveaway is now closed. 
Winners announced in the comments.

Teresa McRae is giving a way three ebook copies of her fabulous book, Mamie Garrison.

To be in with a chance just answer this question...

What year did the Civil war in the US end?

Giveaway Rules

• Leave your answer in the comments at the bottom of this post.
• Giveaway ends at 11:59pm BST on December 31st.
You must be 18 or older to enter.

• Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.

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• All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
•Winners will be announced in the comments.

Teresa McRae

I am 61 and married with one adult child and one beautiful granddaughter. I have always enjoyed the written word and am a voracious reader from my early youth. I am inspired by many authors in the historical fiction genre. I am also a lover of Russian literature, particularly Tolstoy. I find great inspiration for creating characters. There is such a depth to his works. I have written for most of my life in one form or another. I have dabbled in poetry and songwriting, and have more started novels than finished ones. In my free time, I like reading, history, crossword puzzles and travel. I am interested in genealogy and working on my family tree. I live in the Midwest United States with my husband, Chris and my dog Max.

Teresa loves to hear from readers, you can find her: WebsiteTwitter.


  1. What a fabulous insight into Floridain Christmases! Thoroughly enjoyed the article.

  2. The Civil War ended in April of 1865 :)

  3. Thank you to everyone for taking part. The winners are: Mark Noce, Mary Ann Bernal, and Kerry Lynn Galcik. Please drop me an email to claim your prize: . Congratulations!


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