Holiday Traditions in Tampa Bay

Family Holiday Traditions in Tampa Bay

I love Christmas and I love traditions.

My Dad used to take us out to a Christmas tree farm in California and we would chop down the biggest, fullest, nicest tree we could find every year. One year it was so big he had to tie it to the ceiling. I’m not joking. I was the happiest kid in the world that day. As a child my siblings and I delighted in doing the same things year after year and creating those joyful memories. There is something so cozy and nice about a familiar tradition. Below are some of our family’s holiday traditions and things we do in the Tampa Bay area that are fun and easy. What are yours?

1. Lighted Boat Parade

We may not have snow, but Florida sure knows how to put on a Christmas boat parade. These parades happen all over Tampa Bay with locals showing off their beautifully decorated boats full of lights, music, reindeers, Santa, you name it! Our family attends the parade at the Tarpon Springs Bayou every year in early December. There is often a Snow Day Christmas Festival on the same night with fake snow, sleigh rides, vendors, goodies, music and performances. A similar event takes place in Dunedin and we’ve enjoyed that one in the past too. There is a Tampa Lighted Boat Parade scheduled to happen on December 23rd at the Riverwalk this year. Check your local area and plan to go to the boat parade! It’s so fun!

2. Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree 

I remember the days of babies and toddlers when putting only non-breakable ornaments on the bottom half of the tree, or getting a small tree and putting it up on a table was the best plan to avoid those little gangster fingers. If you’re not there yet, don’t worry, you’ll get there eventually. Now that my boys are 5 and 11, they can help with picking out and decorating the tree. But they mostly look forward to playing hide and seek amongst the Christmas trees while my husband and I pick out the tree. They seriously can’t wait to hide in the tree lot every year and have done this since Jack was 2 years old. I love that they’ve created their own little tradition.

3. Largo Central Park

Every year the Largo Central park is decorated with thousands of lights. There is also a big beautiful tree that is lit up with dancing lights timed to Christmas songs. We usually go on a Friday night and stroll all through the park looking at the lights and then let the kids play on the huge playground until they’re totally tuckered out. It’s so festive and fun and we don’t miss this tradition ever.

4. All the lights

There are many great places to visit and check out beautiful holiday lights. The Botanical Gardens in Largo is one hot spot. The best neighborhood we’ve ever seen is the Indian Trails neighborhood in Palm Harbor. The families in this area go ALL OUT and there are amazing lights everywhere. People drive from all over town to see the lights and stroll the neighborhood. This year, one group of college kids were out selling hot cocoa to raise money for charity and truck loads of kids and visitors were out with holiday cheer singing “Merry Christmas” to everyone they met.

5. Busch Gardens Christmas Town

This was a new tradition we added to the list this year and the whole family enjoyed it. Visit Santa’s House, Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland or catch a Christmas show in between rollercoastering! We loved the Christmas On Ice show. The shows are under thirty minutes, just the right amount to keep the kids happy and then off you go to the next activity. I would go again just for the magical dancing light displays.
Lambathas at Tarpon Springs

6. Light Up the Bayou, Tarpon Springs

On Christmas Eve every year, Spring Bayou is illuminated by lambathas (the Greek word for luminaries) that form a circle along the pathway, each with its own personalized dedication written on it. It is such a peaceful, calm and beautiful sight to see on Christmas Eve with hundreds of people visiting from the community. This is a much loved Tarpon Springs tradition that started 32 years ago and has continued each year since. A couple of times I have been prepared and organized enough to put in my request and pay for lambathas with personal messages written on them for my family and friends. (It’s a fundraiser put on by the Sunset Hills Elementary school PTA.) We had a great time walking around the bayou enjoying all of the messages and looking for ours! One year we even saw a marriage proposal written on the lambathas with one word on each bag: GIRL’S NAME. WILL. YOU. MARRY. ME? That was pretty cute!

7. Holiday Classic Movies

We have our favorites that we try to stuff into the schedule at some point along the way. Those being, of course: Elf, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Charlie Brown’s Christmas and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Okay and Home Alone. And It’s a Wonderful Life, and….. It’s hard to pick just a few. But if I had to live without Will Ferrell in Elf my Christmas would not be complete. “I just like to smile; smiling is my favorite.” These are just a few of our traditions! Share some of yours with us. There is nothing sweeter than families creating memories and joy at the happiest time of the year.

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading

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