tropical christmas

by Dennis Reeves Cooper…….

The Christmas holidays. A wonderful time of the year, wherever you are. But celebrating Christmas in Key West is, well, sort of surreal– even for those who were born here and those of us who have lived here for years. And for those who are visiting here for the holidays, it has to be really strange to be walking around among all the Christmas decorations in the bars and stores and seeing those big candy canes hanging on the lamp posts all over town (Yes, the City of Key West has a budget for Christmas decorations)– while everybody is wearing shorts. And Christmas trees. Surprisingly, or maybe not surprising, Key Westers buy lots of Christmas trees. In fact, selling Christmas trees is the biggest annual fundraiser for MARC House (Monroe Association for Remarkable Citizens).

And, of course, Santa Claus is just as popular here as he is elsewhere in the country– typically introduced early in the season on his own float in the city’s annual Holiday Parade early in December. This year, city officials asked those sponsoring floats in the parade to refrain from featuring Santa Claus– to avoid confusing children with multiple Santas in the parade. But wouldn’t you think that kids might also wonder why Santa is all bundled up in his fur-lined red suit and hat and big heavy boots– when the temperature is 80-something degrees here? And what about when he arrives at a Christmas event by boat?

But if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, you are going to be disappointed here in the Southernmost City. Christmas in Key West was never, and never will be white. If you have ever experienced a white Christmas, you know how beautiful it is. That’s why so many Christmas cards feature white Christmas photos and art. But the reality is that the “white” is snow. And snow on the ground means that the weather is freezing. And freezing weather is what most people come to Key West to avoid.

Right up front in this little column I used the word “surreal.” That word certainly applies to a Conch Tour Train filled with carolers singing “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh.” Of course, that’s not the only carol that doesn’t fit here: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire; Jack Frost nipping at your nose; Yuletide carols being sung by a choir; And folks dressed up like Eskimos.” Not in Key West, Bubba!

Okay, we admit it. Trying to celebrate a traditional Christmas here in Key West is, at best, a little awkward– except for the annual lighted boat parade. Yes, there are lighted boat parades in other waterfront communities around the country, but the parade here is more enjoyable for spectators as well as participants because of the warm weather. And just for the record, this spectacular event is not government sponsored. The owners of the Schooner Wharf Bar have been organizing the lighted boat parade here for 25 years.

But if you want to talk about a unique holiday event here, you have to talk about the annual Dachshunds Pooch Parade every New Years Eve. Last year, something like 200 wiener dogs participated, many in costume. It’s a short parade, by Key West standards, because of the Dachshunds’ short legs– starting at noon on December 31 at the corner of Fleming at Duval, then down the 500 block of Duval and then down Appelrouth Lane.

A final note: After all the talk about the weather here during the Christmas holidays, the forecasters are predicting that the temperature in New York City on Christmas Day will be close to 70 degrees. Maybe there’s something to this global warming stuff.

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