Christmas comes only once a year unless you live in a little town just east of Orlando, Florida. For the people who live in the village of Christmas, they get Christmas every day.
Christmas is a small town of a little more than a thousand people. It straddles Highway 50, Colonial Drive, about midway between Orlando and the Kennedy Space Center. It’s a rural town of mostly older homes, doublewides, and manufactured houses. The boom of the tourist magnet of Central Florida, and the space coast economy, never quite reached Christmas.
The Coveted Christmas Postmark
But that doesn’t stop many thousands of people from an annual pilgrimage for a rite of the holiday season, the treasured Christmas stamp cancellation from the town’s small post office.
Dawn King was the postmaster in Christmas for 10 years before her retirement. “Our mail volume quadruples” during the holiday season. She doesn’t guess at how many pieces of mail the post office handles during the holidays, but it’s a lot. There are thousands of Christmas cards to be posted almost every day, usually beginning right after Thanksgiving. It’s just three employees manning the small office, no extra help during the Christmas rush.
“Kids come in with their parents and bring cookies,” says Dawn. There is even a special mailbox in the post office lobby for letters to Santa, no stamp required. Dawn says Santa’s helpers try to respond to as many of those letters as possible.
People from all over come to Christmas to visit the post office. “We get some people who come from Alabama every year,” says Dawn. A couple from North Carolina is also a regular. Boxes of cards are even shipped into the post office from around the country, and occasionally from overseas.
There is a table in the lobby where people sit and use special rubber postal stamps to decorate their cards. A lobby Christmas tree is a fixture year-round.
Things To Do And See In Christmas, Florida
There is a permanent Christmas tree and display along the highway in town, across the street from the post office. The town even has streets named for Santa’s reindeer … Blitzen Avenue, the intersection of Comet Street and Cupid Avenue. Highway 50 is named Dasher Street in the town. There is even a street for Rudolph.
For a small town, there are actually a couple of things to do, other than just visit the post office.
Fort Christmas is an old Seminole Indian War fort that was built in the mid-1800s and gave the town its name. The fort has been restored and offers tours and a history lesson about the early settlers in Central Florida.
Down the highway, east of the post office, is Jungle Adventures, a wild animal park where you see live alligators, black bears, skunks, and others. You can even have your picture taken holding an alligator (a small one). It’s hard to miss the alligator head entrance off Highway 50.
There are several airboat operators in the area that will take you on a tour of the St. Johns River. The Tosohatchee State Wilderness area is nearby, and a great place for hiking. Also in town is the Orlando Wetlands Park, which offers hiking and mountain biking trails in a 1,650-acre park designed to filter brown water from the Orlando water treatment lines.
Historical Fort Christmas
For a historical site, Fort Christmas is a little lean on history. It was built as a supply base in December 1837, by U.S. Army troops engaging Seminole Indians. Some 2,000 troops were located there at one point. But the army soon discovered the Seminoles had vanished from the area and fled farther south. The fort was abandoned only 4 months later, March 1838, when the troops left to pursue the Seminoles in south Florida.
The fort got its name from the date it was completed. According to the Fort Christmas Historical Society, an excerpt from the journal of Captain N.S. Jarvis, a surgeon in the United States Army, states on December 27, 1837, “today we finished our fort which we called Fort Christmas, having commenced it on that day.” Many years later, a small village took root nearby and adopted the name of the fort. That is how Christmas, Florida, got its name.
The present-day fort is a replica of the real thing, dating to the 1970s. It is part of the Orange County Parks and Recreation system. There are buildings outside the fort walls, some of them traditional Florida “Cracker” homes. The buildings include a sugar mill, schoolhouse, and a community lunchroom. There is a small museum with fort and Cracker-era artifacts.
Fort Christmas Cracker Christmas
The annual Fort Christmas Cracker Christmas is a festival that usually occurs on the first weekend in December. It features pioneer days arts and crafts, tours of the fort grounds, military reenactments, and people dressed in pioneer period clothing. One of the popular events at the festival is when postal workers from the local post office postmark Christmas cards with the Christmas stamp.
The park sits on 143 acres of oak-shaded land. In addition to the fort, there are picnic pavilions, playgrounds, a baseball field, tennis courts, and a basketball court. Admission is free. No pets are permitted in the park. The fort is located north of State Road 50 at 1300 Fort Christmas Road in Christmas.
While you’re here, take an airboat ride in the backwaters of the St. Johns River, or visit some native Florida wildlife at Jungle Adventures. A hike in the wetlands park can bring you views of migrating birds from November to April.
There has never been a white Christmas here, and the town is not much of a sightseeing destination. But the post office and the fort make it worth the half-hour trip from Orlando.
Experience other ways to enjoy Christmas in Florida: