“Have you been to Christmas in the Park?” That may be the question I heard the most when people found out it was our first Christmas here in the Orlando area. In fact, as far back as September, I was already hearing that question and in fact had locked in plans to attend Christmas in the Park – before I even knew what (or when) it was!
While I may live in Orlando, my children attend school in Winter Park, where my husband teaches. And Winter Park is well known in the greater Orlando area for it’s fabulous downtown and active cultural scene.
For almost 40 years, the park in the center of Winter Park has hosted Christmas in the Park – a joint effort put on by the city, the Morse Museum and the Bach Festival Society.
One of the benefits to being in Florida is that we can happily enjoy outdoor activities at Christmas. Folks come early and stake out a place – chairs, tables, picnic baskets. I saw elaborate place settings, complete with tablecloths, napkins, candles and centerpieces. I also saw more modest preparations of picnic blankets and pizza boxes. While the event doesn’t officially kick off until 6:15 pm, most folks were there well in advance. We met our friends, set up our chairs and our food and settled in for an evening of unexpected delight.
Ringing the park are nearly a dozen enormous Tiffany stained glass windows. Each window is accompanied by at least one docent/security guard (complete with communication earpiece).
The windows are not on display at any other time. Just before 6:15, an introduction is made by the head of the Bach Society, and the music begins. Then just as darkness is settling in, the switch is flipped and the windows are aglow for all too see their radiant beauty.
We spent the next two hours listening to Christmas music, singing along, enjoying time with friends, and getting in the Christmas spirit. Our children began to grow tired, so we went for a walk through the park to see the windows up close.
The detail and intricacies of the designs were astonishing. The colors were so vibrant, it strains the bounds of credulity to think that no paint was used, it is all in how colors of glass are blended together.
Taking pictures of briliiantly lit stained glass windows in a park at night is no easy task. So as incredible as these images are, in order to truly appreciate them, you’ll just have to make the trip to Winter Park next year and see them for yourself!
Christmas in the Park was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season for me. After being introduced to the Morse Museum and the Back Society, I look forward to exploring the offerings of both those organizations in the future. And I’ll be ready on the first Thursday in December next year for another Christmas in the Park!
What unique holiday event does your town (or neighboring town) host during the Christmas season? Get out there and explore – then share it with us here!