Forget the North Pole, this Florida Town has the Most Christmas Spirit
Just outside of Orlando, the tiny town of Christmas reminds us of the beauty in simplicity.
If you’ve been mailing your letters for Santa to the North Pole, you may have been missing the big guy all these years. It turns out, Santa’s a snowbird.
So where should you actually be addressing your wish lists? Just 30 minutes east of Orlando, to an unassuming town called Christmas, Florida.
This blip on the outskirts of Orlando got its festive moniker back in 1837 when a troop of soldiers stopped there on Christmas Day to build a stockade during the Second Seminole War. With a population just shy of 2,000, you won’t find flashy horse-drawn carriage rides or synthetic snowfall here, just a barber shop, a grocery store, streets paying homage to Santa’s reindeer like Blitzen Avenue and Comet Street, and a little post office churning out Christmas cards from people all over the world.
This year marks Dawn King’s 10th holiday season as the postmaster of the Christmas Post Office, and each year she’s baffled by the number of holiday cards that pass through her branch, just so they can sport the postmark “Christmas, Florida.”
“We have people that will mail their cards that live too far from us,” King says. “We have people that will send them from England, from Ireland, everywhere.”
Some people have turned the trek into a tradition, King says. One couple from South Carolina plans their seasonal vacation around their annual trip to the Christmas Post Office to mail out their cards.
“It’s just a tradition for a lot of families, and I guess I like the fact that there are still traditions out there, as busy as the world has become,” she says. “That just kind of melts my heart.”
It’s not just family Christmas cards that the post office has to juggle, they’re also entrusted with postage sent to Kris Kringle himself. All year long his mailbox stands in the corner of the post office lobby. It’s not uncommon to see kids slipping letters in the box in mid-March, King says. And if their wish list changes? “They’ll put another letter in there,” she chuckles.
I like the fact that there are still traditions out there, as busy as the world has become. That just kind of melts my heart.
— Dawn King
King had no idea what she was getting herself into when she accepted the postmaster job nearly a decade ago. She didn’t know about the thousands of cards that would come through her door, the letters to Santa that would fill the mailbox or that she would play such an integral role in creating holiday magic for people all across the globe. But she promises it’s nothing she can’t handle. In fact, it was one fiercely warmhearted woman who started these homegrown holiday customs in the first place.
Since the Christmas Post Office was established in 1892, a member of the Tucker family was at the helm for 60 years. First Andrew Tucker, then his wife, Lizzie Tucker, in 1916 and finally their daughter-in-law Juanita Tucker took the reins in 1932. In her 42 years as postmaster, Juanita set out to foster a year-round holiday spirit in the town of Christmas. She spearheaded the idea to plant a permanent Christmas tree that still stands today on the corner of Fort Christmas Road and Highway 50. She organized the annual caroling and tree lighting and was even the one who began stamping letters that passed through her office with a green Christmas tree stamp.
Juanita never wanted Christmas to be known for flashy holiday displays or elaborate festivals. “Christmas is a quiet place,” she writes in her 1934 booklet Perpetual Christmas. “There are no moving pictures nor places of amusements, no street cars, trains, nor traffic, no noise nor hubbub to break the monotoned pattern of life. But life is not dull; it is marked by unusual beauty and simplicity.”
Today’s Christmas, Florida doesn’t look much different from the one Juanita recounts in her 1934 writing. Although the post office has since relocated from the little rustic white-framed house with a porch to a more modern building, the crowds of Disney are still miles away and there are no shopping malls to attract hordes of people. And yet, people from around the world continue to find joy and the true spirit of Christmas in the traditions of this simple place.