Christmas is a small, unincorporated town of 1162 people (2000 census data) in eastern Orange County, Florida. It lies about 22 miles east of Orlando and 13 miles west of Titusville on state road 50, a bit west of the St. Johns River.

It's Christmas... every day!

The town started out as Fort Christmas, named thus because the stockade was built starting on Christmas Day, 1837. At the time it was a frontier post during the time in which the United States government was fighting the second of the Seminole Wars in the recently-acquired territory. Five years later the Seminole tribes had been banished to Oklahoma or driven into the Everglades, leaving the coast clear for white settlement and, after the war, the area was settled mostly by soldiers who had served at Fort Christmas. It's not quite certain when it started calling itself Christmas instead of Fort Christmas but the post office, established in 1892, has always used "Christmas" as its name.

Despite its proximity to Orlando, which is quite cosmopolitan, Christmas has a distinctly southern backwater flavour to it. More than 95% of its population is white (that is, only 59 of its inhabitants in 2000 were not), and a substantial portion traces its lineage back to the original settlers. In the words of a Christmas resident (name withheld to protect the guilty), it makes the area's acknowledged redneck capital, Bithlo, look civilised in comparison. Its median household income is about 80% of the state average, and 10% of the adult population has a college education.

In keeping with the inevitable theme associated with its name, there are several public buildings and residences which keep their Christmas decorations up all year, and the postcard business is almost as brisk as in Hell, Michigan. So, when it's 100°F outside and you're greeted by an illuminated reindeer under a palm tree, you didn't just land in Cape Town but have probably found your way to Christmas, Florida. Now get out, fast. In the immortal words of an area resident: "I wish the speed limit was greater than 55mph so I could get away from the place faster!"

It moves!

No, really, it does. When checking numbers, I found several figures for its distance from Orlando. This does not surprise me since I'm convinced that the place has moved each time I drive through it. There is also the mystery of an ancient, chicken-shaped letterbox which seems to appear in a different part of town each time. The place is spooky. One theory has it that there's a Bermuda kind of triangle between Orlando, Daytona and Melbourne, and Christmas is a time and space-warping vortex in the middle. This theory, apart from the empirical evidence of its apparent motion in relation to its neighbours, is corroborated by the fact that the locals seem to have no perception of their position in the universe: according to reliable witnesses, asking for directions to Orlando and SR 50, which is the town's main road, can result in blank stares and muttering.

Does Santa live here?

I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that he does not. One of his assistants does, though. A local gentleman reads the 6000 or so letters that the postal service, in its boundless wisdom, delivers to subtropical zip code 32709 instead of the North Pole every year. Some of the letters are handed to charitable organisations or individuals who wish to help the hard-luck cases.

Other places that raise the same question are North Pole, Alaska (which is infinitely more plausible), Santa Claus, Georgia (pop. 239, unlikely) and Santa Claus, Indiana (which would lend way too much credibility to the theory that Santa is a Hoosier). I'd just address my letters to "Santa, North Pole" and avoid the confusion.

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