December is finally upon us, which means it’s the most wonderful time of the year! This season is one of my favorites, and it’s not just on account of the delightful music, delicious food, gift-giving, and being surrounded by loved ones. This season is filled with magic. It is in the air. You can see it in people’s smiles. Just the thought of sitting by a balsam fir scented candle while listening to instrumental Christmas music fills my soul with magic. A lot of times we get wrapped up with buying gifts or busy working each day to have the holiday off, but trust me the magic is still there even if you can’t see it.
Ever since Hurricane Irma hit our island, my parents and I haven’t felt the need to go all out for Christmas like we used to. Before 2017, my parents and I would decorate both of our homes with lights and set up Christmas inflatables in the yard. The inside our house looked like something you’d find off of a Christmas Pinterest board, with garland draped over the piano, a lavish tree, and a tiny Christmas village. When we lost all of our belongings and decorations to Irma, we decided that each December we would take a trip out of state instead of buying new decorations. It was exciting to get to fly and visit new cities, but something just didn’t feel right to us about not spending the holiday in our home. With everything that has happened in 2020, my parents and I finally decided that it was time to get in the Christmas spirit again and spend the holiday at home. So, the last few weeks we’ve been going from store to store, getting decorations and slowly but surely setting them up like we used to. My 5-year-old niece also seems to have been bitten by the Christmas bug, because each time we set up something in the house she’s right there ready to help. Some of her favorite decorations are Christmas lights, so I decided to string them up around my room alongside my shiny and cozy decorations just to see her reaction.
It was early the other morning that my dad and I just finished setting them up. She walked in the door of my room wearing a Santa hat, reindeer dress, and her fingernails painted pink and purple. As my dad plugged in the lights, I glanced over my shoulder at her. Her mouth dropped open with a gasp before she broke into the biggest smile I had ever seen. “Oh, my goodness, it is so pretty!” she whispered while swinging her head back and forth to look at them around her. She grabbed the snowman I had sitting on my dresser and hugged it tightly as she giggled. Her reaction made my heart swell. A child’s joy and laughter during times of uncertainty is enough to fill a house with peace.
In the previous years, the City of Everglades has held Christmas parades, where locals decorated their golf carts, four–wheelers, airboats, and more to parade down 29 and Broadway Street. We also used to have the “Lighting of the Christmas Tree” where families and friends gathered at City Hall to decorate the tree, sing Christmas Carols, and mingle while drinking hot cocoa. I remember decorating the tree each year since I was little. I can still see myself gliding up to the towering, green Christmas tree. It was filled with glowing lights, traditional ornaments, and children’s smiles as each local kid gazed upon the tree beside me.
When I was in elementary at Everglades City School, our music class would put on a Christmas play each year, and I always dreamed of being the lead role. Finally, one year I got the part for the mayor’s wife—one of the lead roles—for our show titled, “Christmas at the O.K. Corral.” While the other children participating in the play spoke in their American accents, I decided it was time
to let my true acting talents shine and speak my lines in an English accent. “Today is Christmas Eve you know!” I exclaimed to my fellow castmates while turning towards the crowd. The cafeteria is where our plays used to be, and so many people showed up each year that many had to stand in the back and against the walls to get a glimpse at our production.
The City of Everglades used to always hold a Santa meet-and-greet where each local child could take a photo with Santa, who was always our beloved Everglades City School bus driver Mr. Jimmy Brewer, and receive a present. Sadly, Mr. Jimmy passed away this year, however, we are forever thankful for everything that he did for the children here every day and each Christmas. Before COVID-19, our city each year during this season was merry and bright, but because of these unnecessary times, the majority of the events have been canceled. With the Christmas events canceled, the locals have decided to have a boat parade to still spread the magic and Christmas cheer. The boat parade will be this Saturday, December 5th, and the boats will meet at the mouth of the Barron River in Everglades City where they will start at sundown. If you would like to be included in the boat parade, you’re more than welcome to drive or bring your boat down and join in on the festivities! Even though 2020 is looking a lot different than the previous years, the locals always seem to come together during hard times to create something wonderful.