A Florida Christmas

Dec 14 2017, 12:01 am in ,


     I grew up in Florida a long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far, far away.  My mother’s Spanish immigrant family celebrated Christmas with a party on Christmas Eve at my aunt’s home, because she had the biggest house.  

                                         The menu was Paella, a wonderful combination of seafood, pork, chicken, and peas, with yellow rice. 





    Pan con Aioli. Wonderful bread with garlic spread.







     There were always plenty of desserts to keep the kids wound up. Flan, Torrone, cakes, and cookies. 



After dinner, and a lot of nagging from the children, we would open gifts. We drew names and had to wait patiently like good children—which I wasn’t— while each person opened their gift. Oh_my_God it was a painfully slow process.

Every year, an older cousin had a gag gift for my Abuelita, my grandmother. He always had imaginative ways to present it. One year it was a ridiculously large box with what I thought had to be a hundred more boxes inside—it was probably ten—we could barely contain ourselves while Abuelita slooowly opened each box looking for her gift.  

Then came the next tradition. A dear auntie would smoke a stogie and knock back three fingers of bourbon. 

 Christmas Eve wasn’t complete until she did and she did it until she was 85. I cannot smell cigar smoke without thinking of her. I cannot have a drink of bourbon without thinking of her. When I do think of her I see her quite clearly. She is smiling and the laughter and sounds of the party fill my head and the warm feeling of Christmas’ past blankets me.


We would walk the block to our house, generally through a thick fog, put out milk and cookies for Santa and leave the door unlocked because we didn’t have a fireplace. Us kids weren’t too sure how Santa arrived to the island where we lived. Was his sled pulled by dolphins or magical gators?






          After seeing gators in the swamp my money was on them.      




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Merry Christmas


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