Friday, December 24, 2010


Christmas In The Ancient City

For over 412 years Christmas has been celebrated in St. Augustine's Plaza de la Constitucion,the nation's oldest public park. As a meeting place, the tradition continues.The live oaks and palms are strung with thousands of white lights, a twenty five foot tree is erected in the center and a grand illumination is held for all to "ooh" and "aah" when the switch is turned on. And they do...the viewers actually make that sound.

A few days ago a local radio talk show host spent time reminiscing about St. Augustine Christmases past in which the speakers and callers waxed eloquently over holidays here in the 1950's and 60's. One caller actually said that they do not go downtown anymore because "you put your life in your own hands" when you do so. I waited for someone to call to refute such an outrageous statement. After 15 minutes and no such call came I had to do it myself. I told the radio audience and the moderator (who should have challenged the earlier comment) that I spend a great deal of time downtown, particularly in the Plaza and it is as safe as anyone's back yard. Furthermore, during the holidays hundreds of children daily are now having their own holiday experiences that will be lovely memories for them in 2050. The kids play tag in the Plaza, tilt their head up in wonder at the twinkling official tree and line up to see Santa* in the Slave Market . The downtown St. Augustine that I have seen is one of the most wholesome and safe places that I've experienced in my travels and this goes for the year round ambiance. The remark that you "risk your life" is more than hyperbole, it is irresponsible and anyone who would say such a thing is not anywhere near the truth and causing harm to this wonderful city. 

I am certain that the holidays in the 50's and 60's were a magical time for 10 year old white kids here in St. Augustine, but I'll wager that it is even better now and certainly more inclusive.

Thank you to the City of St. Augustine for the fantastic lights and decorations. Merry Christmas!


*Unfortunately some parents remarked that they have never experienced such a high pressure, mercenary Santa before. Our City authorized Santa had his elve assistants aggressively hawk for donations to their"charity" sometimes,while puffing on a smoke. I gave my best disapproving glare toward Santa as he was in his chair counting out bills in plain sight...he got the message.

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