In the early 1990s, Avalon Park was a 9,400-acre parcel of land, and most of that land was east of the Econlockhatchee River. The original plan of Avalon Park was to be a city of almost 30,000 homes, or close to 100,000 residents, at a time when the City of Orlando had 175,000 residents. You can imagine the undertaking, one of the largest real estate development projects in the United States of its time and it got a lot of attention.
The environmental community was fiercely opposing this new town, mostly east of the Econ River. Working together with St. Johns Water Management District and Orange County, we all did the right thing by figuring out a transaction that would create the Hal Scott Preserve Park. Around 8,000 acres changed hands from Avalon Associates to the St. John Water Management District, who got help from Orange County to create our own “Central Park,” just about 10 times larger than the famous Central Park in New York City. What a Christmas present!
The story of the “Water Management Deal,” is my first Christmas memory of Orlando, 25 years ago. By the way 1995/1996 was a cold central Florida “Winter” and I recall icy conditions in downtown Orlando for a few days in the morning. I first had to get used to celebrating Christmas in mostly warm weather, under Palm Trees and with no snow.
In Switzerland, my Christmas memories begin with a visit by Saint Nicolas that takes place on December 6th. Kids are told that Saint Nicolas lives in the Black Forest and knows everything about all the children, the good and the not so good. Therefore, on December 6th, Saint Nicolas visits all children, one on one. He carries a large book in which all the good deeds and shortcomings of every child is written. It is sort of the day of reckoning for the children, when Saint Nicolas in a rather serious voice tells a child, “….Beat this year you have been 6 times late to school and you often did not clean the dishes after dinner,” and depending on the particular year, more miss deeds where brought up. However, Saint Nicolas as well knew all the good deeds of the kids during the year, “Beat you helped your Father a lot in the bakery and your grades in school are up.” Depending on the kind of year that a child had Saint Nicolas would give candies or sometimes a rod as well!
Well, this year my family and I will spend Christmas in Orlando and our celebration is somewhat different. I will “secretly” buy a Christmas tree and “smuggle” it somehow into the house. On Christmas Eve the kids will be out of the house for all afternoon, while the Christmas tree will be decorated by my wife and me. We will have Christmas dinner with a traditional breaded ham and after the kids are escorted to the living room. Here is where the children will discover the Christmas tree and presents are appearing as a great surprise, that have been brought by the Christ Child. When a friend told me at age 7, that the Christmas tree and presents are brought in by the parents, I did not believe it, and told him the tree is coming through the chimney by the Christ Child along with all the presents. As will the tradition continue in the Kahli household.
However you celebrate the Holiday Season, I wish you Happy Holidays. Stay safe and healthy.