Baby, It’s Hot Outside….
Ah, the holiday season. Fir trees scent the air. Sweaters and scarves guard against the chill of the snow-covered landscape. Carolers–
What? <reads note passed by the hubby> Oh. Well, then. <clears throat>
Ah, the holiday season. Breezes flavored with ocean tang. Flip flop and shorts-clad revelers stroll the dazzling expanses of sand and coral beaches. Jimmy Buffet croons carols accompanied by steel drums and Rhianna. Trees are decorated with shells, and mermaids, and occasionally little liquor bottles.
You see, everything is a bit different once one departs the mainland. The Keys are home to a collection of Conchs, tourists, immigrants, scallywags and pirates. Combine the various cultures, traditions, and vices, and then infuse them all with an island vibe–that’s life in the Keys.
Instead of a winter wonderland, the Keys have winter beaches, which is to say the temperatures occasionally plummet into the low 80s. Brrrr.
Underwater, the United States’ only coral reef runs along the Atlantic side of the islands. Here too, are reminders of the holiday. Dotted with Christmas tree coral and teeming with angelfish, the reef is home to a statue of Christ. Off the coast of Key Largo, the dive site is visited year-round, but it is especially popular at Christmas.
Holiday treats in the Keys taste of spices from our island neighbors and are fragrant with Jamaican allspice, nutmeg from Grenada, Caribbean ginger, and Mexican vanilla. Island rums spike eggnog. Whole pigs slow-cook for hours over spits before gracing the dinner table. Factor in all the regional specialties from across the nation, and truly, there is something that will appeal to every taste.
Still, Currier and Ives never featured an image of the Keys on any of their holiday prints and I sometimes wax nostalgic — despite never once actually roasting a chestnut on an open fire. I spent years in frosty climes. I still have my sweaters and scarves, just in case. Miami had a brush of snow, once, in 1977. It could happen again. In the meantime, I’ve got my flip-flops and my sense of wonder.
Holidays are a time of reflection, a celebration of family, friends, good food, and good times. People in the Keys embrace that, even if their execution is a tad unconventional. It is, after all, where the weird go pro.
No matter what, when, or where you celebrate, may your holidays be warm.