Ho Ho Hoooooly crap, it's hot out here... The weather is unseasonably hot for Florida at this time of year, with temperatures rarely leaving the 80's during the day. It's never particularly cold here, at least compared to British winters, but the heat is noticeable - as is the humidity. All of this seems particularly at odds with my expectations for what Christmas should be, somehow reducing what is one of my favourite times of year although not so much that the season is completely inconspicuous.
You have to give the Floridians their dues, despite record temperatures and blazing sunshine, houses are strung with lights, lawns are absolutely packed with Christmas themed paraphernalia and everybody wishes you a Merry Christmas when you speak to them. The lawns are worth pausing to mention in more detail - the custom here seems to involve cramming the space outside your house with as many inflatable snowmen, illuminated reindeers and hollow plastic nativities as you can without forcing yourself to remortgage your house to pay the electricity bills. There's a staggering amount of commitment required to make a convincing display and some of the houses can look pretty impressive by night - although it's always a little sad to see a deflated a rubber Santa lying forlornly across the grass.
That being said, the day itself hasn't really felt like Christmas this year. Typically Christmas has a very special place in our family's calendar and it's something we take quite seriously - our Dartmoor home is decorated to extraordinary degrees, roaring log fires are banked up, stockings are stuffed and Christmas Dinner is the most important meal cooked in our house for the whole year - these are the hallmarks of the season for me and mine, clear and well defined particulars make Christmas, well, Christmas.
It was always going to be hard for Florida to match up to these time-worn expectations, so I'm not sure our family even tried. My parents informed me that they had already bought their gifts from me (I'm not sure I've even worked out what that means yet) and that we had no special plans for the day itself. That proved entirely true, as we awoke on Christmas morning to not a single present - a unique occurrence in my thirty odd years on the planet. In all honesty, my parents had already gifted me some lovely things the moment I arrived, but the point still stands. After a quick breakfast, we lounged in the sun and barbecued steaks and lobster on the pool deck, drinking champagne and then craft American beer. This was followed by a drive out to a nearby beach, which was packed with people grilling burgers and topping up their tans. A quiet night in followed and that was that.
It might sound like we missed something this year, like our 2016 will be lacking the typically festive start that usually precedes the new year. But it doesn't feel like that, it's just that there hasn't been a Christmas for us this year. I think the key is that we didn't try to recreate the familiar in a different location - we have just all collectively decided not to engage with what usually makes the day so special. Whilst that may seem to be an approach more of humbug than of holidays, it's actually ended up making this year a different kind of special and all the more interesting for it.
Hopefully all of you have had your own special festive break and I'll take this opportunity to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas - my next post will probably be once Nick's arrived and we get on the road.