The Super Miami Christmas Traditions We Cherish

Being from Miami has taught me plenty of things, but if I needed to sum it up in one phrase it’s that "there is really no place like home." Before leaving home for college, I always assumed that everyone slipped Spanish phrases into their daily communication and that cafe con leche was everyone’s favorite way to drink coffee. However, after moving away, I learned that not everyone does those things. If you’re reading this as a fellow Miamian, you get what I’m saying. If you’re not, let me quickly explain: even people who don't speak Spanish use Spanish words and phrases because they're used so much in Miami, and cafe con leche is literally one of the best the best beverages to ever exist so you need to have one as soon as possible - ideally from someone’s mom who makes them best or from any Miami bakery where you order in Spanish.

What has also come to my attention as the holiday season is quickly approaching is that Christmas in Miami is definitely quite different from Christmas in other places. As a spring break and beach vacay destination, this city is not exactly the ideal location of a Hallmark Christmas movie. It's a weird place to have spent the holidays for the majority of my life, but I wouldn’t want it anywhere else. There are a few traditions that are just so Miami, I can hardly explain them, but we’ll give it a shot.


Courtesy: Only in Your State


1. Santa's Enchanted Forest has been open since Halloween

The game, shows, rides and activities of Westchester’s own Santa’s Enchanted Forest are definitely a trademark of X-mas in Miami. The theme park is home to over 100 rides, shows, games and attractions, making it the world’s largest holiday theme park. The experience of going to Santa’s is unlike anything else; the animatronics that line the entrance and the large Ferris wheel that you pass as you ride on the highway are just some of the unforgettable draws toward this iconic place. What I find to be the most Miami/extra part of this experience is definitely the fact that this park opens up the day after Halloween. We aren't waiting until Thanksgiving or December or anything. It is this way of celebrating that you just don’t get anywhere else.


Courtesy: Amazon


2. La Caja China

First of all, my apologies to any vegetarian or vegan eaters because this tradition is a bit uncomfortable if you don’t particularly enjoy watching an entire pig roasting inside of a box. For whatever reason and for as long as I can remember, most people participate in this South Florida custom of roasting a pig. The pig is seasoned the night before Christmas Eve and placed in the wooden and aluminum box hours before dinner. The tradition connects back to Havana, Cuba where undoubtedly many Miami locals can connect their lineage. It's one weird way to enjoy pork, but somehow it's the norm among Miami neighborhoods. Usually it's served with a side of black beans and rice and probably some Cuban bread.


Courtesy: Cheap Caribbean


3. The boat/beach/pool instead of snow

Unlike the images you see while clicking through Snapchat and Instagram stories of friends that live in places with seasons, snow and below freezing temperatures, it will be sunny and gorgeous in Miami on Christmas. Dreaming of a white Christmas? You've come to the wrong place. The activities surrounding my return home for the holidays will include sun and ocean views instead of snow or skiing. The idea of this may not be everyone’s cup of tea and, admittedly, it's a bit out of the ordinary to be out in the sun as every Christmas movie ever takes place in snowy *fill-in-the-blank city.* I do enjoy views of snow falling and that kind of imagery, but nothing beats Santa hats on the beach and being able to wear shorts all December long.


Courtesy: Flickr


4. The tree displays & palm trees at Merrick Park, Bayside and the Biltmore

Usually the more iconic and well-known Christmas displays across the country and the world are accompanied by oak or other evergreen trees, but in Miami the compliments of the displays are palm trees. Many venues will place lights on these skinny, tall palms in a very Miami fashion. The look is tropical chic, to say the least. The massive decorated trees around Miami are worth passing by. My favorites include the one at the center of the Shops at Merrick Park, the one by the waterfront in Bayside in Brickell, and the Biltmore Hotel’s which is in the lobby.


Courtesy: EventBrite


5. Ugly Christmas Sweater Bar Crawl in Brickell

Holiday drinkers can be comforted with the fact that Miami is home to countless bars and nightclubs that take their holiday drinking specials very seriously. One of the newer ones is concentrated in Brickell and is planning for this year’s second annual Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl. What better place to allow people 21+ to stumble around the wonderful warm weather Miami has to offer? The games begin on Saturday, Dec. 15 from 7-9 p.m. at Fado Irish Pub. The other four bars included in this deal are Blackbird Ordinary, Baru LatinBar, Batch Gastropub and lastly American Social. With the purchase of your $20 ticket, you get a total of five free drinks from the participating bars.


Courtesy: Independent


6. Noche Buena is Very Late

Christmas Eve is referred to as Noche Buena, meaning “Good Night" in Miami. It may not come as a surprise that Christmas Eve in Miami is a late-night affair. Meals in Miami are almost always late. The norm for places outside the 305 is to eat around 5 or 7 p.m. at the latest, but you can forget about sitting down to eat until 8:30 p.m. or later. Note: the late start time doesn't stop the large amounts of food and dishes. It also doesn’t help that Miamians are notoriously late. The invite may have been said 6 p.m. but no one is coming till 8:30 p.m., trust me. It may be frustrating to watch as other festivities are in full swing and the pig is just starting the roasting process, but the wait will be worth it. The party usually does not stop after that either. My family’s Noche Buena festivities extend past midnight as we sing happy birthday to Jesus at 12 a.m. and dance to numerous Latin hits as well as the holiday classic Mi Burrito Sabanero.


Courtesy: Flickr


7. Unavoidable Mall Madness

One of my absolute favorite parts of being home is always the massive amounts of malls in Miami. From Dadeland, the Falls, Lincoln Road, Aventura, the Shops at Sunset Place, Merrick Park, Miracle Mile, Brickell City Center and more, there are plenty of places to shop till you drop. The extensive number of malls will not, however, lessen the lack of places to park. Enjoy the drama of finding a spot and looping around the lot/garage a few times before getting to even go inside or getting frustrated and leaving. If you’re a serious shopper go early because closer to Dec. 24 and even on that day, the stores will be insane. The typical Miami shopper is likely to procrastinate shopping and shopping is a social event, so you’ll definitely run into someone you know. You must account for that time as well when you make plans to visit some of these malls among other shopping destinations.


Courtesy: Miami New Times


8. Churros and Hot Chocolate the Moment it's Below 67 Degrees

The slightly stereotypical fact that Miami people are dramatic about cold weather is backed by some truth for sure. In Miami, it is normal — no, encouraged, to whip out your booties and cold weather gear as soon as it is about 67 or below. Anything lower than what the AC is set to calls for winter clothing. The other sweet Miami activity that occurs when it gets “cold” is eating churros and hot chocolate. The best places to get them are at Churromania and La Palma. It is just our way of pretending there is a chance for snow and imagining that our plans for later involve snow and not the boat with friends.

9. "Merry Chrima"

Last but certainly not least is the phrase “Merry Chrima" which is inevitably how someone will wish you the best of holiday wishes in Miami. It is the quick Spanglish version of Merry Christmas.