Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pensacola Christmas Parade

Why do they groan? Why do they grumble and look annoyed when I say it’s time for the Christmas Parade?


Once they get there, they have the best time! Who wouldn’t? It’s all noise and flash, great floats and loud bands, dancing in the street, dancing on the sidewalk, seeing all our friends from church and school and waving to friends on the floats – throwing BEADS!

Even 1 year old baby N totally gets into the beads! “Beads! Beads!” she shouts and holds out her hands. She marvels at their sparkle as they hang around her neck.

Here is what I love about Pensacola. It’s been a bad month, with Ferguson, with New York, and in Pensacola 50,000 people gather peacefully and party on the streets. It’s New Orleans with our clothes on, it’s Christmas/Mardi Gras Family Style. We dance, we party, we jump for those beads – and then we pass them along to the children. It’s a long, happy parade, with every school marching band and Mardi Gras group, a local radio station or two, the homeless, the counter culture, drinks in open containers, church groups, neighborhood meet-ups, Jesus is there, with Mary and Joseph – it’s all cool.

When the parade ends, we all go home. Peacefully.

Some may grumble, but for me, they show up, every year, and we celebrate a family tradition, the Pensacola Christmas Parade.



AdventureMan and his helper went down early Sunday morning and pulled a great Bead harvest out of the trees. Little grandson Q carefully sorted them into piles for his friend Chris, his mama and daddy, his two other sets of grandparents and for his room upstairs in our house. 


December 19, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Christmas Time in Pensacola

Christmas in Pensacola starts just after Thanksgiving, for most people. I saw a very few decorations go up around Veteran’s Day (11 November) but very few. Most started going up around Thanksgiving. Because we are having some work continuing on our house, I couldn’t do the same decorations I did last year, so I did something new; my goal in the week before I left was to get SOME Christmas up, inside and out.

This year, AdventureMan is here, too, and it makes all the difference. Last year, he left for Kuwait just before Christmas, and I was so sad that it was hard to put a lot of effort into decorating. I did it, mostly because I am too proud not to. (No. I will not let adversity get me down!) But mostly, it takes a lot of energy to fight depression, so this year, I am appreciating just how good it is to have a ‘normal’ Christmas, i.e. my husband is on the same continent as me, in the same country, even the same state, same city, and same residence. It’s all good. 🙂

Our tree this year is smaller – and higher – that other years, and all the ornaments on it are unbreakable. Yes. Happy Baby, now Happy Toddler, will be coming by and I want to protect him – and the tree. Over the years we have collected so many wonderful ornaments that I have a lot to work with, and still manage to have a nice tree; the angel on the top is a traditional angel from Nurnberg, and we bought it the first year we were married. It’s nice to have her high on the top of the tree once more.

Under the tree, covering the table, is a special wool sefsari we bought when we lived in Tunisia, bright red with bands of gold trim. These were everywhere when we lived there, especially in the cold winters, but when we visited, I no longer saw them in any stores. Covering the tree stand, I have one of my smaller Damascus tablecloths; I treasure these coverings, and beads, Pensacola parade beads.

“Beads!” we shouted to Happy Toddler as we put them over his head.

“Beads!” the crowd shouted as the floats went by at the Pensacola Christmas Parade last night.

Last year, even as a Happy Baby, the parade was an enthralling event. What baby wouldn’t love a parade that starts with flashing lights, and motorcycles, and a loudly wailing, lights fashing FIRE TRUCK?? What Happy Toddler wouldn’t love the bands with the throbbing drums, and trumpets, and tubas, and trombones? And the dancing girls, and oh yes – the BEADS! Life is sweet at the Pensacola Christmas Parade.

The parade starts at 5:15 and we get there about 5:14. Here is what I love about Pensacola; you can get there at 5:14 and get a place to park only about 1/2 a block from the parade and be there when the spectacle begins. It is a laid back kind of parade, still a community parade, you see your friends there. It is sort of a Christmas parade, you see some Santas, and some reindeer, and snowmen, and there is usually at least one float with angels, but it is also sort of Mardi Gras, with all the Krewes (local social groups focused on Mardi Gras) on floats with their buds throwing beads, coins, toys and candy out into the waiting, dancing crowd.

Technically, I know this isn’t a great photo because you can’t even really tell what it is, but it is the beginning of the parade, and I love the motion of it all:

As it turned out, we were in a pretty good spot for catching beads, and we loaded down the Happy Toddler, put a few on each of us, and shared the bounty with some of the babies standing behind us. There were some people in front of us who caught a LOT of beads, and as soon as they caught them, they stashed them in a bag; they caught LOTS. Maybe they sell them back or something.

Last week, we took Happy Toddler to Boats on the Bayou, where boats decorated with Christmas lights gather near the bridge and then come parading to the park, and people gathered there sing Christmas Carols. Happy Toddler loves going to the park; the boats were interesting for about five seconds, and then he got to swing and play on the playground, which mattered a whole lot more to him:

It was just a really fun, community thing, and it was pretty, too.

Lunch at the Fish House, always a treat, and their tree is BLUE!

The Pensacola Christmas Parade attracts around 50,000 people every year. Imagine! It is so much fun. What I love about it is that there are so many floats, so many bands, so many civic heroes – you know how I feel about giving back to your community. These people are doing it. On one of the coldest nights of the year, they are on the Krewe floats throwing beads, they are patrolling behind the dog clubs, cleaning up, they are making sure the floats make the turn at Wright and Palafox, they are marching with bare legs in the cold, windy night – and it is so much fun.

Who would think that 50,000 people gathered in one place, competing for beads, would keep it all so civil? There is no place for ‘special people;’ we are all Pensacola citizens, there to enjoy a family evening, and it is just that, it is a great Pensacola evening, one of my favorite of the year.

Best of all was watching the Happy Toddler take it all in. The lights! The sirens! The beads, and the scrambling to catch them! The loud music, the pounding drums! It was all so much fun, and that fun was doubled watching him try to figure it all out. I can hardly wait ’till next year. 🙂

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Weather | , | 4 Comments