It's Christmas Here Every Day of the Year

By: Susan Clary

ADD TO FAVORITES
But beginning after Thanksgiving, the town with the holiday postmark draws more than 20,000 pieces of mail each day from all over the world.

Shirley Nettles Truex lives every day like it's Christmas. Maybe there's no snow on the ground, packages under the tree or mistletoe in the doorway, but she celebrates just the same.

Truex is an eighth-generation native of a town called Christmas in Florida – located about 25 miles east of Orlando. Around this time each year, revelers come from all around to mail their holiday cards.

"People come to the post office, then leave town," said Truex, who lives on a road named after her mother's side of the family. "If they would stay for a while, they would see what we're all about."

On a recent weekday, a sea of gray-haired seniors from Lutheran Towers in Orlando stepped from a large bus. One after another, one hand gripped the railing while the other held a neat stack of red, green and silver envelopes.

They had come to the U.S. Post Office, tucked on the south side of a long stretch of East State Road 50/Colonial Drive, for a Christmas postmark. More than 20,000 pieces of mail stream through each day from all over the world beginning after Thanksgiving.

"That cancellation is like gold," said Aida Tamarit, a sales services associate with the branch at the time. "It's not like most post offices. This is a big deal."

Betsy McMillan McCaghren of Winter Park arrived with eight letters from Santa to her children and grandchildren. "They might know they were from Grandma if they had a Winter Park postmark," she said.

Cyndie Charcalla of Ocala remembers the year she drove over on her motorcycle to find the post office shuttered. Giving it a shot, she stuck her cards in an envelope with an apology letter and a check. She was stunned to receive a note in return saying her cards had been mailed.

A few miles away, Richard Kann, owner of Heart of Christmas Farms, and two of his nine children are busy tending to rows of beautiful organic fruits and vegetables grown hydroponically on poles. Goldfish swim below the plants a few feet away.

Here is an entirely different part of Christmas. Miniature horses, mules, goats and cows graze over a pasture as dozens of chickens scurry around. Visitors like to see the animals when they come to the Farm Store.

Tours are scheduled once a month. The store is open on Sundays and for pick-up during the week. When people learn of the farm, they come.

"This is a pretty good destination to come to," Kann said. "As more and more people hear about our healthy message, we want to share."

Kann, a computer programmer, purchased the farm in 2005 after hurricanes Jeanne and Francis took their Palm Bay home. He could spend hours rattling off everything they grow, including 18 varieties of Heirloom lettuce, herbs, greens, chives, beets, broccoli, radishes and turnips.

Chefs at the hotels at Disney and Universal covet their wares. They also sell grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, raw milk, cheese and yogurt.

One of the things Kann doesn't have in the small pond on his property is alligators. But he knows that no day to Christmas is complete without a visit to Jungle Adventures. Boasting the home of Swampy, the "World's Largest Gator!" at 200 feet, one of Florida's last roadside attractions has an endearing kitschiness.

The park offers a tour of an Indian Village and animal displays that include native Florida bears and other injured or abandoned exotic pets. The bears are in a tall, airy cage. This is the largest gator farm in Florida, and the gift shop sells frozen alligator meat for your barbecuing pleasure.

Just up the road, Truex meanders through one of 10 pioneer buildings from 18th century Florida. She works at Fort Christmas Historical Park for Orange County Parks & Recreation and serves as a founding member of the Fort Christmas Historical Society. She might as well be at home. Many of the artifacts and photographs were donated by her or feature her ancestors.

"I never gave it much thought. We were just halfway between Titusville and Orlando," Truex says of growing up in Christmas, kin to a famous pioneering family. "Later on, when the post office was built, we were on the map."

Fort Christmas was one of only 200 forts constructed during the Seminole Indian War from 1835-1842. On this site is a full-size replica along with 10 restored historical homes to preserve the "Cracker" architecture of East Orange County. Key themes are homesteading, cattle, citrus, hunting and fishing.

The Park has three picnic pavilions, two of which seat 100 people and one which seats 50 people. Each pavilion has a large barbecue grill, electrical outlets and water hose. There is a playground, a basketball court, tennis court and a small baseball field. The store sells pioneer and Native American toys, jewelry, crafts and books.

Truex enjoyed entertaining schoolchildren and telling curious amateur historians about the beauty of the town of Christmas and its rich history. She knew that the U.S. Post Office – one of 90 around the country with holiday names, but the only one to boast the name Christmas – is a big draw.

"Don't tell anyone, but anytime I share our story I feel like I have died and gone to heaven and got all my money sent to me there," Truex whispers. "Whether it's Christmastime or not, this place is just special."

If You Go

Fort Christmas Historical Park
1300 Fort Christmas Road
Christmas, FL 32709
Park Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday through Saturday (summer hours); 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday through Saturday (winter hours)
Pioneer Homes & Museum: Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Note: Historic structures closed on Mondays and County holidays
Entrance Fee: Free
Gift Shop: 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday
Telephone: 407-254-9310
Email: cheryl.wasserman@ocfl.net

Heart of Christmas Farms
21310 Fort Christmas Road
Christmas, FL 32709
Fresh picked strawberries, tomatoes, greens, herbs, peppers, lettuces, squash, sprouts, micro-greens, edible flowers, radishes, spinach and more.
Farm Store: Noon-6 p.m., Sundays; Monday through Friday for preorder pickup (check availability list on website)
Telephone: 407-512-2004
Email: heartofchristmasfarms@gmail.com

U.S. Post Office
23580 E Colonial Drive
Christmas, FL 32709-9771
Hours: 9 a.m-5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9:30 a.m.-noon, Saturday; closed Sunday
Telephone: 407-568-2941

Click here for a list of Holiday events and celebrations across Florida.

Holiday Post Offices Nationwide

Interested customers can write to these Post Offices for postmarks to keep or to share with friends. Enclose a stamped, addressed card or letter in another envelope or box labeled "Christmas re-mailing" and address it to the postmaster of one of the towns listed below. Please allow enough time for postmarking, re-mailing and delivery.

Angeles PR 00611
Angels Camp CA 95222
Antler ND 58711
Antlers OK 74523
Bell Gardens CA 90201
Bell FL 32619
Bethlehem CT 06751
Bethlehem GA 30620
Bethlehem IN 47104
Bethlehem KY 40007
Bethlehem MD 21609
Bethlehem NH 03574
Bethlehem PA 18016
Blessing TX 77419
Chestnut IL 62518
Christmas FL 32709
Evergreen AL 36401
Evergreen CO 80439
Evergreen LA 71333
Evergreen NC 28438
Evergreen VA 23939
Faith NC 28041
Faith SD 57626
Frost MN 56033
Frost TX 76641
Garland ME 04939
Garland NE 68360
Garland NC 28441
Garland PA 16416
Garland TX 75040
Garland UT 84312
Holly CO 81047
Holly MI 48442
Hope AK 99605
Hope AR 71801
Hope ID 83836
Hope IN 47246
Hope KS 67451
Hope MI 48628
Hope MN 56046
Hope NJ 07844
Hope NM 88250
Hope ND 58046
Hope RI 02831
Joseph OR 97846
Joseph City AZ 86032
Joy IL 61260
Nazareth KY 40048
Nazareth MI 49074
Nazareth PA 18064
Nazareth TX 79063
Noel MO 64854
North Pole NY 12997 (CPO)
Partridge KS 67566
Partridge KY 40862
Rudolph OH 43462
Rudolph WI 54475
Saint Joseph IL 61873
Saint Joseph LA 71366
Saint Joseph MI 49085
Saint Joseph MN 56374
Saint Joseph MO 64501
Saint Joseph TN 38481
Saint Mary KY 40063
Saint Mary MO 63673
Saint Marys AK 99658
Saint Marys GA 31558
Saint Marys IA 50241
Saint Marys KS 66536
Saint Marys OH 45885
Saint Marys PA 15857
Saint Marys WV 26170
Santa ID 83866
Santa Claus IN 47579
Shepherd MI 48883
Shepherd MT 59079
Shepherd TX 77371
Snow OK 74567
Snowflake AZ 85937
Snow Shoe PA 16874
Snowville UT 84336
Spruce MI 48762
Star ID 83669
Star MS 39167
Star NC 27356
Star TX 76880
Starlight PA 18461
Wiseman AR 72587

As a community service, the Postal Service offers pictorial postmarks at temporary Post Office stations set up for special events. The pictorial postmark pictured above was offered at the Star Station of the Star, North Carolina, Post Office during December 2007. Lists of upcoming pictorial postmarks and instructions for obtaining them are published in the “Philately” section of the Postal Bulletin, at www.usps.com/cpim/ftp/bulletin/pb.htm.


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