A celebration of “Christmas in July” in Venice Beach, Florida; promoting tourism and happiness.
After my second divorce, I was a mess. I think it was more guilt than anything: I mean, there I was in the prime of my life with two complicated relationships behind me and absolutely nothing to show for it. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.
Even though my career was skyrocketing, I couldn’t get my personal crap together to save my life. I wasn’t just embarrassed, I was going through a roller-coaster of emotions and like any newly-single woman, I was trying to figure out all the “man stuff” going on in my apartment. Like…
How does the security system work? What television remote worked with which cable box? And why only certain music played on my computer, while others needed a pass code that only my ex-husband had (and refused to give me.) Even my iPod was having break-up pains.
When I plugged it into my car to play my favorite tunes (I loved drowning my sorrows in depressing love songs,) it blurted out the most bizarre playlist; consisting of a healthy dose of Christmas music. Yes, it appeared “Santa Claus Was Coming To Town,” despite the fact it was the middle of summer in Miami.
I never managed to figure out the Christmas music mystery and actually grew accustomed to listening to my favorite pop songs interspersed with my favorite holiday classics. It went on that way for months, until I just didn’t notice it anymore. When my friends would ride along in my car, they’d be caught by surprise, laugh and then, of course, sing along. Who doesn’t love a good Christmas Carol?
It became a joke among my closest girlfriends, but strangely, despite the silliness of it all, I noticed songs like “Jingle Bells,” “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” just had this magical effect on people (no matter the time of year.)
Even though Bing Crosby couldn’t technically make it a “White Christmas” in the Magic City, his infectious tone, soothing voice and jolly spirit made my summer a little bit better. More importantly, the entire situation helped me find the humor in what was one of the saddest times of my life.
It also (by strange coincidence) introduced me to Venice Beach, a quaint little seaside town on the west coast of Florida. It was a place said to share my same affinity for all things December 25th.
I found out about it one night when I was driving home from dinner with one of my biffles, Jackie. While she was singing along to a stirring rendition of “Silent Night” by Mariah Carey, she giggled in-between lyrics and blurted out loudly over the music: “This reminds me of Christmas In July in Venice. I think you’d love it.”
She was right. I loved the idea of it. She explained that the entire downtown area of Venice gussied itself up and turned on its best holiday charm EVERY JULY. The mini-festival was created to promote tourism and bolster the slow summer economy with special sales and holiday discounts offered by almost every merchant. So…
When the timing was right – last week, to be exact – I drove three hours west and found Venice celebrating “Christmas In July” (which is one weekend each month; I checked www.visitvenicefl.org to pinpoint the exact day.) Coincidentally, when I arrived, I parked on Miami Avenue (I had a good laugh over that; I mean, what were the chances?) After hopping out of the car, I quickly ran into Santa Claus. He was making the rounds in his usual furry red outfit, adding his own tropical flair.
You can’t blame the guy for wearing shorts and sunglasses, it was blistering out. I spent the next few hours walking around downtown — exploring, shopping and talking to the warm and welcoming people of Venice. I even stopped for a refreshing glass of white wine where a one-man-band performed some of my favorite Christmas carols. As I sang along, a holiday trolley zipped by. During my visit…
I bought a lot of wonderful things for some crazy good prices: home decor, jewelry, a pair of sassy sunglasses and some original art work from a store called Tangi & Jess (which turned out to be my absolute favorite place.) I liked Downtown Island Way Boutique a lot, too. Other stores worth mentioning: Cleopatra’s Bath & Body, Sandy’s Designer Clothing and Fifi’s Fine Resale Apparel.
After a day of shopping, I was beyond starving and headed to the highly recommended Crow’s Nest Marina Restaurant. I loved its view of the Gulf of Mexico; the fact that it was so close to a jetty made it even better because after some amazingly fresh seafood, I was able to watch the sunset. That’s the thing about Miami: we have fabulous sunrises, but getting to see a sunset in all its glory is tough, unless of course, you’re perched up high above the city. Still, it lacks a certain sense of intimacy. That evening…
The sunset over Venice Beach was nothing short of spectacular. At first the sky was hazy, but eventually gave way to the most magnificent pinks, blues and purples. Just before the sun slipped below the horizon, a warm amber color with slices of bright orange and whispy whites filled the sky. Wow! Talk about showing off…
After an amazing day, I jumped in the car and headed back to Miami with a gigantic grin on my face. It may sound corny, but the concept behind “Christmas In July” is a great way to live your life. You don’t really need a special day to spread love and holiday cheer. It should really be a daily practice.
With all the craziness going on in the world today, sometimes it’s the little things that mean so much: listening to a holiday tune a few months early, supporting your local businesses during the slow summer months or just realizing that each day is the true gift we’ve all been given and that’s why “Christmas In July” is one of my favorite things.