(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Dec. 10, 2000.)
Here in Florida (Official State Motto: ``I voted for WHOM??''), we do not have what you would call a typical Christmas season.
For one thing, it never snows, at least not in Miami. Down here, we don't sing ''I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.'' We sing, ''I'm dreaming of a Christmas that is not so hot and humid that I need a coat hanger to un-bunch my underwear.'' Actually, it's a good thing we don't get snow: People down here already have enough trouble driving. For example, we have an inordinate number of accidents caused by people driving into buildings. And these are not buildings that have been carelessly left in the roadway: These are buildings carefully placed off to the side. Yet people drive into them! I suspect that somewhere in the official Florida driver's manual there's a picture of a building with the words: ``If you see one of these, aim straight for it!''
So if we ever had snow, it would be horrible. There would be cars on roofs, cars in the palm trees, cars in the Gulf Stream. The only safe place for a pedestrian to stand would be on an actual highway.
Since I've lived here, we did have one cold Christmas -- cold for us, anyway -- when the temperature briefly fell into the 30s. But snow did not fall from the sky. What fell from the sky was: lizards. Really. I went outside on Christmas morning, and lying on my lawn, looking stunned, were at least a dozen bright-green lizards that had fallen out of the trees. These were not small lizards. These things were the size of cocker spaniels, and they had TEETH. That is not a normal Christmas-morning sight. There is no Christmas carol that goes:
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
Saw big green lizards all about
So he said, ``I'm leavin'!''
Nevertheless, even in Miami, we do have our Christmas traditions.
Traditions are an important part of Christmas. For example, when I was a boy, my mom and I had a wonderful tradition that went on for nearly 10 years, called: The Fruitcake Slam. I am not making this tradition up.
Every year, some people we knew thoughtfully sent us a fruitcake that was approximately the same density as the Hoover Dam. And every year, my mom -- who was, take my word for it, the funniest person who ever lived -- would declare, in her brightest June Cleaver voice: ``Look, Davey!''
(She called me Davey.) ``The fruitcake has arrived!''
And I'd say: ''Hurrah! I hope we don't accidentally leave it in the kitchen doorway, like last year!'' Then I'd open the kitchen door and place the fruitcake on the sill.
''UH-oh!'' my mom would say. ''It's getting drafty! I had best close the kitchen door!'' And she'd give the door a mighty slam. Usually the first slam would barely dent the fruitcake, so my mom would give it a few more, the two of us cackling like maniacs. This is still one of my fondest Christmas memories.
Anyway, here in South Florida I have a new tradition, called: Try to Find a Christmas Tree That Was Actually Alive Within the Past Five Years. This is very difficult. Christmas trees are grown up north, and as the tree shipments travel south, all the good trees get taken along the way. By the time the trucks reach Miami, all that's left are these brown, scrawny things that appear to be members of the tumbleweed family.
And even those quickly get snapped up. By the week before Christmas, trees are scarce. Last year, on Dec. 23, my wife and I were driving around, desperately looking for a place that still had trees, when we spotted a guy selling some out of a pickup truck in a parking lot. This was not just any parking lot: This was, I swear, the parking lot of a strip club.
These were not choice trees. Each one had maybe five remaining needles, which was also the number of teeth possessed by the guy who was selling them. But at that point, we were glad to get anything. We picked out a tree, paid for it, and stood there for a moment, basking in our success. It was just getting dark, and the temperature was about 85 degrees. Our Christmas tree's naked branches were bathed in the bright pink glow given off by the sign above us that said, simply, ADULT ENTERTAINMENT.
It was a special moment, a Christmas-in-Miami moment. And at that moment-call me sentimental, if you want-I felt a very special kind of feeling. It was my underwear bunching up.
(c) 2008, Dave Barry