Start of Christmas season in St. Pete

I love the Christmas season. The movies, the carols, the pageants, the decorations!

This year, my daughter surprised me with a surprise visit to celebrate my birthday and to start the Christmas season together–Florida style. Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve had my share of white Christmases.

I am definitely flexible. Traditions can be adjusted, particularly when you have the benefit of warm weather. My daughter lives in Denver, so she was looking forward to a change.

Florida’s Christmas lights on palm trees with decorated boats at the marina were just some of the sights. Strolling along Beach Drive on the waterfront, there are creative holiday lights and decorations everywhere.

Having just spent Thanksgiving in Chicago, I was curious to see how sunny St. Pete could transform itself into a winter wonderland.

We started out at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), which traditionally celebrates the season with a holiday tree placed in the Great Hall of the museum. You can watch the tree lighting and enjoy free admission to their Collection Galleries. Refreshments and live Christmas music also are also part of the festivities.

This year, however, a new tradition was started. MFA commissioned renowned Tampa sculptor Dominique Labauvie to create an original site-specific design for this year’s celebration. Unveiled for the first time, he created a holiday design for the tree as well as custom ornaments.

His work focused on the idea of the Great Hall as the centerpiece and hearth of the museum–a place to congregate, share experiences and to connect. Labauvie got his inspiration from the holly leaf, a symbol of life and protection across many cultures.

“We were thrilled to start a new tradition at the museum with our Holiday Open House and tree lighting,” explained MFA Executive Director Kristen A. Shepherd. “Sharing the unveiling of Dominique’s Labouvie’s installation with the hundreds of members in our community was a special moment and an exciting way to start the holiday season.”

Friday we checked out lights and trees in North Straub Park, the Vinoy and at Sundial. Saturday we kicked off the day again in the park. It was transformed into the Snowfest. This I had to see.

The St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department created more than 65 tons of snow to bring a winter wonderland to life in the Sunshine City. Needless to say, there were very long lines for toboggan slides.

Family-friendly activities darted the park such as karaoke, an art tent, a Santa Village, reindeer races and a rock climbing wall. There were activities for the both young and old, not to mention food trucks with delicious greasy fare.

Bayyiyah Sadiki and her grandchildren are always excited this time of year.

“We start the season off here every year. In addition to the Christmas activities, this is a great location for Christmas Movies in the Park, watching the boats in the marina and tree climbing. We all get to enjoy,” she said.

Keeping it simple and sharing experiences is a good start to the Christmas season.

To reach Faye Tippy, email

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