It's Christmas Here Every Day of the Year

    By Susan Clary

    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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