Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Christmas Time in Pensacola

Christmas in Pensacola starts just after Thanksgiving, for most people. I saw a very few decorations go up around Veteran’s Day (11 November) but very few. Most started going up around Thanksgiving. Because we are having some work continuing on our house, I couldn’t do the same decorations I did last year, so I did something new; my goal in the week before I left was to get SOME Christmas up, inside and out.

This year, AdventureMan is here, too, and it makes all the difference. Last year, he left for Kuwait just before Christmas, and I was so sad that it was hard to put a lot of effort into decorating. I did it, mostly because I am too proud not to. (No. I will not let adversity get me down!) But mostly, it takes a lot of energy to fight depression, so this year, I am appreciating just how good it is to have a ‘normal’ Christmas, i.e. my husband is on the same continent as me, in the same country, even the same state, same city, and same residence. It’s all good. 🙂

Our tree this year is smaller – and higher – that other years, and all the ornaments on it are unbreakable. Yes. Happy Baby, now Happy Toddler, will be coming by and I want to protect him – and the tree. Over the years we have collected so many wonderful ornaments that I have a lot to work with, and still manage to have a nice tree; the angel on the top is a traditional angel from Nurnberg, and we bought it the first year we were married. It’s nice to have her high on the top of the tree once more.

Under the tree, covering the table, is a special wool sefsari we bought when we lived in Tunisia, bright red with bands of gold trim. These were everywhere when we lived there, especially in the cold winters, but when we visited, I no longer saw them in any stores. Covering the tree stand, I have one of my smaller Damascus tablecloths; I treasure these coverings, and beads, Pensacola parade beads.

“Beads!” we shouted to Happy Toddler as we put them over his head.

“Beads!” the crowd shouted as the floats went by at the Pensacola Christmas Parade last night.

Last year, even as a Happy Baby, the parade was an enthralling event. What baby wouldn’t love a parade that starts with flashing lights, and motorcycles, and a loudly wailing, lights fashing FIRE TRUCK?? What Happy Toddler wouldn’t love the bands with the throbbing drums, and trumpets, and tubas, and trombones? And the dancing girls, and oh yes – the BEADS! Life is sweet at the Pensacola Christmas Parade.

The parade starts at 5:15 and we get there about 5:14. Here is what I love about Pensacola; you can get there at 5:14 and get a place to park only about 1/2 a block from the parade and be there when the spectacle begins. It is a laid back kind of parade, still a community parade, you see your friends there. It is sort of a Christmas parade, you see some Santas, and some reindeer, and snowmen, and there is usually at least one float with angels, but it is also sort of Mardi Gras, with all the Krewes (local social groups focused on Mardi Gras) on floats with their buds throwing beads, coins, toys and candy out into the waiting, dancing crowd.

Technically, I know this isn’t a great photo because you can’t even really tell what it is, but it is the beginning of the parade, and I love the motion of it all:

As it turned out, we were in a pretty good spot for catching beads, and we loaded down the Happy Toddler, put a few on each of us, and shared the bounty with some of the babies standing behind us. There were some people in front of us who caught a LOT of beads, and as soon as they caught them, they stashed them in a bag; they caught LOTS. Maybe they sell them back or something.

Last week, we took Happy Toddler to Boats on the Bayou, where boats decorated with Christmas lights gather near the bridge and then come parading to the park, and people gathered there sing Christmas Carols. Happy Toddler loves going to the park; the boats were interesting for about five seconds, and then he got to swing and play on the playground, which mattered a whole lot more to him:

It was just a really fun, community thing, and it was pretty, too.

Lunch at the Fish House, always a treat, and their tree is BLUE!

The Pensacola Christmas Parade attracts around 50,000 people every year. Imagine! It is so much fun. What I love about it is that there are so many floats, so many bands, so many civic heroes – you know how I feel about giving back to your community. These people are doing it. On one of the coldest nights of the year, they are on the Krewe floats throwing beads, they are patrolling behind the dog clubs, cleaning up, they are making sure the floats make the turn at Wright and Palafox, they are marching with bare legs in the cold, windy night – and it is so much fun.

Who would think that 50,000 people gathered in one place, competing for beads, would keep it all so civil? There is no place for ‘special people;’ we are all Pensacola citizens, there to enjoy a family evening, and it is just that, it is a great Pensacola evening, one of my favorite of the year.

Best of all was watching the Happy Toddler take it all in. The lights! The sirens! The beads, and the scrambling to catch them! The loud music, the pounding drums! It was all so much fun, and that fun was doubled watching him try to figure it all out. I can hardly wait ’till next year. 🙂

December 11, 2011 - Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Weather | ,


  1. Nice blue tree–the color seems to be purple around here this year. Sorry we couldn’t connect this last week.

    Comment by momcat | December 11, 2011 | Reply

  2. LOL, UW colors are purple and gold, might explain a prevalence of purple? Green, gold and purple show up here for Mardi Gras, wreaths, etc. Seattle was heavy-duty this time, I think you’ll just have to come here for a nice, relaxed quilting visit. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | December 12, 2011 | Reply

  3. I thought of that but the colors were different last year–and I haven’t ever seen any burgundy and grey themes. There is a big charity fundraiser called The Christmas Forest that the Providence hospital auxiliary puts on and they seem to set the trend. The Christmas forest consists of decorated trees that get auctioned off at a $100 a plate dinner but they are shown to the public for the week between Thanksgiving and the first week in Dec. These are wonderful theme trees that come with trips and all kinds of high price stuff and every tree is worthy of a New York showcase window. There are other aspects to it but it is a really neat way to get in the holiday mood. I have over heard large extended families say they have started the season by going to the exhibit for the last 18-20 years. I’ve gone twice and I love it.

    Comment by momcat | December 12, 2011 | Reply

  4. It sounds spectacular! I’d love to see it one day!

    Comment by intlxpatr | December 13, 2011 | Reply

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