A forest of lights can only mean that it's Christmas in Miami


(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Dec. 7, 2003.)

I love Christmas in Miami.

Oh, sure, it's not like Christmas up north. We don't have Jack Frost nipping at our nose: We have Harvey Heat Rash nipping at our underwear regions. And we never look outside on Christmas morning to discover that the landscape has been magically transformed by a blanket of white, unless a cocaine plane has crashed on our lawn.

But forget the climate. Christmas is not about weather. It's about the holiday spirit, and there is only one true measure of that: the number of colored light bulbs in residential yards.

By that standard, Miami has holiday spirit out the wazoo. We have many homeowners who cross the fine line, in terms of illumination, between "tasteful holiday yard display" and "municipal airport." You know the houses I mean: The ones with a Frosty the Snowman the size of Godzilla; the ones with so many lights in the trees that you need an umbrella to avoid being struck by the falling bodies of electrocuted squirrels.

I realize there are homeowners like that in other communities: I'm just saying that Miami has them, too. But we have something else: We have a holiday attraction called "Santa's Enchanted Forest, " which is hard to describe, although I will try.

Have you ever been to a county or state fair, the kind where the midway is lined with trailers selling, basically, globs of fried grease? Sometimes there's dough in the grease glob; sometimes there's potato; sometimes there's an old issue of National Geographic. It doesn't matter: You're at a fair, so you eat it.

This creates a digestive emergency that causes all the blood in your body to rush to your stomach, thus depriving your brain of oxygen and rendering you so stupid you decide it would be fun to go on a ride with a name like "The Regurg-a-Tator, " wherein you willingly get into an insanely dangerous-looking contraption operated by men whose total educational background consists of reading their own tattoos. Next thing you know, you're being whirled violently around, and the air is filled with a festive mixture of laughter, screams, stomach contents, dentures and the occasional artificial eyeball.

If you've ever experienced this brand of carnival fun, you've probably asked yourself: Where do these things go in the winter? The answer is: to Santa's Enchanted Forest. This is an attraction that springs up in Miami every November next to an expressway. It bills itself as "The World's Largest Christmas Theme Park and Free Carnival, " which is accurate, if you define "free" as "costing money."

Santa's Enchanted Forest is a bizarre mutant cross between a carnival midway and the world's tackiest Christmas yard display. You have the carnival food and rides, but you also have 3 million - yes, MILLION - lights. Interspersed among the carnival attractions and food trailers are displays depicting traditional Christmas themes such as Santa Claus, Rudolph, Blues Clues, the Power Puff Girls, and of course the Nativity. This can be disorienting: You expect to see the Three Wise Men approaching the baby Jesus bearing gifts of corn dogs.

Santa's Enchanted Forest also has (why not?) animal acts, including alligators and elephants. Last year they had an act called "Randall's High-Diving Pigs, " which features pigs that dive into water, just as the Bible tells us that pigs did to celebrate the very first Christmas.

(On the website for Randall's High-Diving Pigs, they have Frequently Asked Questions, including: "Do the pigs like to dive?" The answer given is: "They love to dive! Pigs have no sweat glands, so they need water to keep them cool." That would explain why you so often see pigs diving in the wild.)

We go to Santa's Enchanted Forest every year to soak up the traditional holiday atmosphere - the lights, the smell of decades-old grease simmering in the South Florida humidity, the carols blaring from loudspeakers, the screams of the Regurg-a-Tator riders, the pigs soaring through the night air. There's always a festive crowd, because Miami celebrates Christmas from Thanksgiving through approximately Groundhog Day.

Miami loves to party. We party to celebrate when something good happens, such as winning the World Series, which we do, like clockwork, every six years. When something bad happens, we party to cheer ourselves up. When nothing is happening, we party because we are bored. If Fidel ever dies, Miami will not regain consciousness for decades.

But my point is this: Christmas is fun in Miami. Come join us, if you can. And if you can't, wherever you are, have a Merry Christmas. Or, as we say in Miami: Feliz Navidad! (This is Spanish for "Caution, falling squirrels.")

(c) 2009, Dave Barry
This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.

Read more Dave Barry stories from the Miami Herald

  • A big thumbs up from the body parts beat

    Get out the cocktail wieners and settle back for a pleasant ''read,'' because it's time for our fun feature, ''Body Parts Making the News.''

  • A brush with gardening

    It will probably come as no surprise to you that I got the idea of painting my lawn from an agency of the federal government. When I say "painting my lawn, " I don't mean my whole lawn. I just mean this one circular spot that suddenly, mysteriously turned brown, as though it had been visited by a small UFO or a large dog.

Dave Barry in high school.

    The hair apparent

    I have a letter here from Mrs. Belle Ehrlich, of San Jose, Calif., who feels I should get a new hairdo. To quote her directly: "I enjoy reading most of your columns . . . but your hairdo in your photo sure looks DATED and NOT at all flattering or becoming, to say the least. If you are still sporting that awful hairdo, I suggest you go to a good hair stylist to give you a new and better hairdo. I hope you don't mind my criticism, it's nothing personal -- just a suggestion."

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category