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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

Celebrating Christmas in Orlando – Part 6

Of course, one of the most important traditions at Christmas, especially for children, is that of Father Christmas. Those travelling to Orlando with children young enough to still believe in this festive character, need have no fears of being unable to visit him whilst in Florida. With its melting pot of cultures it is hardly surprising that St Nicholaus, Santa Claus or Father Christmas is an important figure in the celebration of Christmas in the USA.

Whilst it was the Dutch, who knew St Nicholas as Sintaklaas, who brought this traditional figure with them when they emigrated to the United States in the 17th century, it was Washington Irving, better known for his stories about Rip Van Winkle and Sleepy Hollow, who, way back in 1809, inserted a dream sequence into his book, A History of New York, in which St Nicholas soared over treetops in a flying wagon (without reindeer! ). This had a profound influence on the way American’s perceived and celebrated Christmas, and others would later dress St Nicholas up as Santa Claus. It was not until later in the 19th century that he was given the name, Santa Claus, and dressed in a red suit, with reindeer and a sleigh.

If your children want to visit Father Christmas then you can find him in a richly decorated and magical grotto in the central atrium of the wonderful Mall at Millenia, north of International Drive. Don’t miss a trip to this great shopping mall at Christmas. The huge central area is taken over by Santa’s grotto, with a huge Christmas treee, and there, children can visit him and tell him what they would like for Christmas. There are plenty of photo opportunities, too.

Of course, Santa can be found at the Disney Marketplace from around November 19th – December 24th, and to add to the magic there are usually school choirs and bands for you to enjoy whilst you shop at the Disney themed stores. Santa can also be seen at the wonderful ‘ICE! Extravaganza’ at Gaylord Palms Resort, just off the 192 at Marker 8. It is part of the amazing ice show which you can buy tickets for, from around November 20th – December 24th – well worth visiting!

Just near here is Old Town, where they have an annual Cookie Cruise. This fun event offers holiday-decorated cars and a visit from Santa Claus, as well as complimentary coffee and cookies. It takes place on the nights of the 24th and 25th of December each year.

But if you have children who are worried about how Santa will find them, then you can reassure them by going to the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) website where they will be able to track the progress of Santa and his reindeer. Apparently, they have been tracking Santa since 1955, when a child in Colorado dialled an incorrect number for a Santa call-in line given out by the Sears department store. By mistake the child spoke to someone at the Continental Air Defense Command (NORADs predecessor). When the child asked about Santa’s flight it was Colonel Shoup who was on duty that night, and he told his staff to give all children who called in a ‘current location’ for Santa Claus. This began an annual tradition, in which volunteers each handle about 40 telephone calls per hour. Most calls and emails are made on Christmas Eve, and over 12, 000 emails and 70, 000 phone calls are received from more than 200 countries and territories.

Isn’t that just amazing?
Rita Fraser

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Page added on: 18 January 2013
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