The Yuletide season is different down here, y'all.

Santa on the Beach
Credit: Keystone-France/Contributor/Getty Images

Southerners are not immune to Hallmark Christmas Movie Syndrome. We, too, dream of snow-tipped pine branches and here-we-go-a-sledding and romantic afternoons spent ice-skating on picturesque frozen ponds with our One True Love. When I was a freshman at Auburn, I had a friend named Trish whose family had moved from Connecticut to Jupiter, Florida. She said her dad still insisted on burning the Yule Log at Christmas—even though it was hot enough to go swimming outside.

In the Upper South, all those snow-covered Christmas dreams can come true. But in the Deep South? Or Florida? Not so much. Sure, we can have a cold snap that makes it plenty chilly in December. I've even seen snow in Alabama—just never at Christmas. The whole snowless situation makes me wonder if Bing Crosby's holiday standard might need a Southern rewrite:

I'm dreaming of a warm Christmas
Without a single flake of snow,

Where the front porch sizzles
Till raindrops drizzle
And temps hit 60 or below . . .

Somehow, we manage to make our own snowless fun down here. You know it's Christmas WAY down South when . . .

  • Somebody breaks out a turkey fryer.
  • Your hometown's parade Santa is sweating up there on that fire truck—but he still keeps tossing those peppermints because Santa is a trouper, bless his heart.
  • You see Christmas lights twinkling from palm trees, sailboats, and tiki huts.
  • The holiday décor has a flamingo theme.
  • Mama's disappointed because a warm front blew in, and now she can't wear her Christmas sweater. Oh, well. That's what her holiday jewelry collection is for—such unfortunate situations as this.
  • The kids in the children's choir are wearing shorts and flip-flops underneath their angel costumes.
  • After Christmas dinner, you and Mama break out your garden catalogs and plan for spring (which you start anticipating as soon as you unwrap your last gift).
  • The men in the family move directly from the Christmas buffet to the porch and then "walk off" the turkey and dressing by heading for the garage to check out the new Evinrude outboard Daddy got for his bass boat.
  • You walk into a Florida eatery and see a statue of a surfboard-totin' Santa—decked out in a Hawaiian shirt and red shorts.
  • Wafting from your radio is that heart-warming holiday favorite, "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer."
  • Instead of holly, your wreath is made of magnolia, burlap, or cotton bolls.
  • Instead of sleds, Santa brings the children battery-powered ATVs.
  • Santa brings Mama anything she wants if he knows what's good for him.
  • There's sweet tea with an ice ring in the punch bowl.
  • After dinner, Mama will dispatch unruly children in her own special way: "Y'all, hit the yard!" ("Hit the yard" is Mama-speak for "You're getting on my last nerve, and I'll give you two seconds to get out of my house.")
  • Mama will dispatch Daddy with a request all too familiar to Southern women: "Open up a window and get some air in here—I'm burning up in this kitchen!"

May your Southern Christmas be bright,
With no storm fronts blowing in tonight.