Christmas in Key West

IMG_0161Many years ago when my son was a teenager, we were visiting my parents and were out bicycle riding one afternoon a few days before Christmas. It had been raining and somehow that added poignancy to my Christmas story. We were heading down South Street to the Southernmost Point and stopped as some commotion was going on there. Someone had put up a ragtag Christmas tree and there were several men playing Christmas carols badly. They had probably had very little practice time, but they were doing a creditable job. The Conch Tour Train had stopped and the people. on the train had got off and were dancing in the street. It was quite a joyous scene. Olde Sol in the west was about to sink into the ocean. As the tip of the sun dipped into the water, the band started IMG_0174playing “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright.” Everyone got very quiet and watched as the sun sank slowly into the ocean until out of sight. Then the band and Conch Train quietly left as evening descended and the lights came on. I turned to my son and said I don’t expect you’ll ever see anything like that ever again.

IMG_0165One Christmas when very young, my father took my brother and me to buy a tree. We went down the street to the little Cuban Store a few blocks away. Now, my father, always careful with his money, told us that we were going to find the worst tree on the lot and take it home and make it beautiful. Of course, the worst tree was also the least expensive, my father not about to spend good money on something he was going to throw away in a few weeks. I remember it cost $2.50. This was in the early 50’s. We took the tree home and Dad cut some branches off the bottom and tied them into the bare spots, trimmed the top a little, put the star on and the lights after we had untangled them. They were always a mess. The bubble lights were my favorite. We decorated the tree with IMG_0173round and bell shaped ornaments and put silver tinsel on it. When we finished, it was beautiful. In those days when a bulb burned out, the whole string went out and you had to try a new bulb in each socket until you found the burned out one. Very tedious, but my Mom turned on the tree each morning as we awoke and made sure it was brightly lit.

IMG_0169Today in Key West, there is a children’s Christmas Parade in early December, and a bicycle ride in mid December. The kids and a number of adults decorate their bikes with lights and ride around the island. They went right past our house the other night. A police car with Santa, led the parade. Peter went out and waved to them and most waved back. There must have been hundreds of bikes. They met at Bayview Park and went to Mallory Square and back to the park. They took a route that was easy to get around if you were in a car and in a hurry.

IMG_0181As a child growing up in Key West, I had never seen snow and we had no chimney, but Santa came each year in his sleigh with eight tiny reindeer. I remember waking up as a child and seeing my parents bringing toys into the house. My mother saw me and told me they were helping Santa, but I mustn’t see him or he would go away, so I should go back to bed and go to sleep. The innocence of five year olds must be kept for as long as possible.

There are some pictures of this year’s city lights interspersed in this post (notice how many snowmen there are in a city that hasn’t ever seen frost).

2 thoughts on “Christmas in Key West”

  1. Timely, Joanne. Thanks for the photos, too. My sister and bro in law are arriving at Sparky’s tomorrow to get to know Ruby & Onyx, who they will be dogsitting while she’s away, so they will experience a Key West Christmas. My sister Sarah is an artist. I hope yall get to meet. We’ll be in Key West in Feb., for Ft. Zac’s Civil War Days. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas!

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