Walking in a winter waspy land


As Christmas nears, I have had the great joy of looking at this season through the eyes of a Southern friend. Chicago-born and raised, Candy has a great gift for describing the distinct differences between celebrating this holiday in the sunny South, as compared to her earlier days in Illinois and Pennsylvania.
When she and her family first transferred to Florida six Christmases ago, they somehow imagined tree hunting wouldn’t be so very different – and were utterly surprised as to how wrong they were!
Instead of hay wagons in the cold air, they faced hot weather and sand filled with fire ants and snakes. Recalling fond memories of ending their Christmas tree-hunting trips resting in a barn, sharing hot cocoa and homemade donuts with other successful searchers as trees were tied to the roofs of cars in the frosty air, they were determined to continue their tradition of visiting a tree farm, choosing a tree and cutting it down themselves.
The hunt for a tree-hunt. Their first stop in Florida’s tree farm country proved there were many differences to be observed. Cold drinks were offered, rather than a hot mug of cocoa. Signs were posted, warning tree shoppers of snakes, wasps and fire ants – and there were lots and lots of fire ants!
They went in search of another tree farm, glad to be back in the air-conditioned car. At the next stop, the first thing they spotted was a palm tree and orange tree at the entrance to the tree farm, and they became truly worried. Wasps again greeted them, buzzing among the pines, and these weren’t the familiar Scotch pines and balsam, but trees with strange names.
It was time to go home, hot and tired and frustrated, and rethink this tree hunting adventure.
Eventually, they purchased a cut tree from a local hardware store. Since there was no keeping the tree in a chilly garage until they got around to putting it up as they had been able to do up North, the family had to make sure to get it set in the house in water as soon as possible.
Parades and decorations. Holiday parades are even extremely different in the South. Here in chilly Ohio, we have bundled-up folks who can barely lift their arms to wave because they have been forced to wear so many layers of clothing. In Candy’s town, parades include young ladies in swim suits and children dressed in shorts, sandals and tank tops.
Santa might join in the parade, though instead of riding on a sleigh, he will more likely be carrying a surf board, wearing a Hawaiian shirt complete with pink flamingos and riding a golf cart!
Christmas decorations include palm trees with colored lights. It is all part of the Southern landscape, along with people out stringing lights dressed in shorts and summer shirts. Decorations are not likely to be lost under piles of white stuff, and mail box decorations don’t have to withstand the wrath of salt and snow plows. Everyone’s decorations come down Jan. 1 since the weather is perfect for all sorts of outdoor jobs.
The activities of Christmas Day might include taking a swim, enjoying a picnic, roller-blading and golfing.
Still the same. As the years roll by, the cold weather and heavy snows no longer seem so necessary to me. Christmas is going to be a holy day, whatever the weather. And while I could live without the snow, I must say I’m grateful to not have to fight wasps, snakes or fire ants!
Wishing you a blessed Christmas, no matter what the climate, from my home to yours.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.