It’s that time of year again. Sleigh bells ring, and I’m listening. However, as a transplant from much colder climes, I’ll admit I find it a little odd hearing them against our backdrop of palm trees and pink stucco.

Winter Wonderland?

Am I the only one who finds it a bit tricky to get into the holiday spirit in this climate? Fellow newbies and snowbirds, I think you know what I mean. Can eggnog still be enjoyable if it’s sipped poolside on the lanai? Does the bell-ringing Salvation Army Santa know he’s breaking dress code wearing flip-flops and shorts? Would Bing Crosby be horrified to learn his carols are routinely performed by tiki bar cover bands? Even after living in Venice for almost two years, these questions still haunt me.

When I start having these doubts, I begin to recall some not-so-fun events that transpired up North. Like the morning I yanked open my front door too forcefully, only to have the snow-covered wreath adorning it launch from its nail to greet me face-first. Or the Thanksgiving my ancient apartment radiator went on the fritz, treating my eight dinner guests to an unwanted steam bath. And how could I forget the ice scraper mitten a certain someone always seemed to think was the perfect holiday gift? And then I conclude winter holidays in the sun are not so bad.

Shop ’Til Someone (Preferably Not You) Drops

Where I come from, holiday shopping is a contact sport. Standing in line in 20-degree temperatures on Black Friday waiting for the stores to open at 5:00 a.m. not only marks the onset of The Season, but also serves as an exercise in natural selection. Just surviving the onerous trek across the ice-covered parking lot is a test of one’s mettle. Contending with the mêlée inside is a whole other story.

And I was part of the fray for many years, sometimes even an instigator. C’mon—I know I’m not the only one who, at some point in their past, would not have thought twice about snatching the store’s sole remaining Tickle Me Elmo from the

hands of an unsuspecting 3-year-old. All those years of Catholic school guilt eventually made me relent, but it was a close call, folks.

But I’ve noticed something has happened since I moved here. Perhaps the Florida sun has melted that part of my brain, but the cutthroat holiday spirit I’ve embraced most of my adult life is waning. Finding the perfect gift at the perfect price just doesn’t seem that important anymore. This year on Black Friday, I’ll be lucky to see the inside of Walmart by noon. Sure, Timmy, want to cut the line in front me to pay for that nifty beer holster for Dad? Why not use one of my 15-percent-off coupons while you’re at it!

Holiday Baking

During the holidays, there’s nothing quite like the fragrant bouquet of cookies baking in the oven, am I right? How quickly things changed when I moved here. Last year, I had to cancel my annual bake-a-thon due to weather-related conditions. Deciding my friends and neighbors would be just as delighted to receive a tin of Chips Ahoy!, I headed off to Caspersen Beach to engage in another form of baking. Who wants to be inside when the weather outside is anything but frightful, and the fire…well, most of us don’t have fireplaces anyway, right?

Don’t get me wrong.

I haven’t gone totally native yet. There are still some traditions that must be upheld. Rest assured, there will be no palm tree festooned with lights in lieu of the traditional pine tree in my living room this year. And eventually, I will find that all-Bing, all-the-time radio station people keep telling me about. I will also be doing some entertaining at home—though I’m a little worried about my ability to produce a traditional holiday dinner when it’s 80 degrees outside. I wonder how Uncle Ivan will feel about conch fritters and margaritas. Probably pretty good while he’s floating in the pool.

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