Getting ready for the holidays here in Florida means that we plant flowers. Yes, you got that right! We use Christmas lights at night, but during the day time, our yards send a message of color, fun, and festivity.
Wrapping our palm trees and oak trees in twinkle lights tells everyone “this home is ready to rock!”
Added color in the garden sends the message that we’re “decking the halls” and yards with what we do best: grow things. Freshly mulched beds are planted with pink or red impatiens, silver leafed foliage, red begonias’ and geraniums. Even the acacia and catalpa trees are in bloom to welcome the season. In case you’re wondering, mowing lawns year-round and pruning are the norm here.
Those who don’t go north for the holidays are preparing for winter guests. We want to look our best. Our “winter wonderland” is a walk on our white sandy beaches. Wreaths hang on every light post accented with a red ribbon. The streets are bedecked with green boughs and lights.
My husband and I are participating with our church in a “Live Nativity” that mirrors the town of Bethlehem and recreates the story of old. Costume clad volunteers make the telling come alive through improvisation, scripture, and interaction with the people that come to see the event each year.
The tour guide gives each family a bag of money to pay the tax collector at the gates of the city. In return, the children are given change back in the form of gold coins. Their eyes grow in wonder at the end of their journey when they discover they get to keep them.
A beggar also pleads for money in the streets, and some of the children proffer their gold coins to him as a gift.
An angel is seen floating in the air near the fields where “shepherds watch over their flocks by night.” A few campfires are seen as the shepherds warm themselves and cook their meager meals.
In the streets of Bethlehem a few shop keepers hawk their wares or sweep their porches.
The tour group is turned away by an innkeeper who tells them there is no room. They hear that a young couple was also turned away for the same reason. “The woman was riding on a donkey,” the innkeeper says, and points ahead: “they went that way. Perhaps you’ll find some place to stay down that street.”
A full-size stable, manager, and the Holy Family are the highlight of the evening. Mary sings a lullaby to her baby and then places him in the manger.
As the group continues down the street, they are approached by three wise men dressed in splendor that have come to visit “the King.” They ask where they might find the babe so they may give him their gifts.
At journey’s end the guests are invited to enjoy the live music (a band and carollers) performing inside where they will be given something to eat and drink after their long journey. Fellowship is what it’s all about. The sharing of love and the spirit of Christmas makes a lasting impression.
We have not only attended the Live Nativity, but participated in it each year. We never grow tired of seeing the Biblical story come to life. We look forward to hearing the beloved story retold and the carols sung illuminating the reason for the Season.
One of our late sunsets on Sanibel Island. Below, some boats at the Sponge Docks in Clearwater on a cloudy day.