I am a firm believer in celebrating the end of the week on Friday nights. There’s nothing more disappointing to me than looking forward to Friday all week and then going home and sitting on the couch. Fridays are meant to be celebrated!
Last Friday, celebration was a little tough because Chris was in tech rehearsals, so it was just me and the littles. I was on the fence about doing anything at all, really, but then Chris emailed me at work that Santa was arriving that night at the Millenia Mall and that maybe that would be something fun for me and the kids to do. I had never heard of “Santa arriving” at a mall before, but they promised food tickets with the event, so I was in. Turns out, Santa’s arrival might be the highlight of my Christmas season!
The entire event takes place on a Friday night from 5:30 until about 8:00pm, and is open to the general public for free. Or, you can pay a $15 donation to the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital and you get food passes for your entire family. That’s right. $15 to feed your entire family dinner! AND see Santa! For that alone, it was worth the trip to see what all the fuss was about.
We got there around 5:30 and quickly paid for our food bracelets before heading over to the private food area. The food area consisted of little tents for every restaurant from the mall (including the little Chinese restaurants that are my favorite!) to set up small “tasting plates.” At the Chick-fil-a tent, we each got a box with two chicken nuggets. At the Firehouse tent, we got small little turkey or ham sandwiches and a little bag of chips. At the Mrs. Field’s tent (the kids favorite, of course), we got small chocolate chip cookies. But even the sit-down restaurants had little tasting menus. I had spinach and artichoke dip with chips from The Cheesecake Factory and stuffed mushrooms at The Capital Grill’s tent. By the time we were finished testing almost every tent, it had been about an hour and we were stuffed!
Around 6:30, we finally rolled ourselves out of the food area and made our way to the big stage area to wait for Santa’s arrival. They had actors dressed as snowflakes and snow angels on stilts walking around, plus little photo booths and other quick activities to do while we waited. The main area had a big stage with a DJ who was playing Christmas music the entire time. It was just a delight!
The kids and I parked ourselves accidentally in what was arguably the BEST seat in the entire place. Who knew?! We camped out there until Santa’s arrival at 6:45, and we danced, ate ice cream, and sang along to the Christmas music while we waited.
At 6:40, Mrs. Clause and a few elves dressed in these GORGEOUS, elaborate costumes made their way to the stage and began talking about how they had just seen Santa’s reindeer land on the top of the mall! Well, we all just went crazy! SANTA WAS HERE!!!!! Every eye there was glued to the rooftop of the mall as we waited to see where Santa would appear. Finally, with a puff of smoke and stardust – THERE HE WAS!!!!!!!
The crowds went wild! Santa welcomed everyone to the Christmas season and reminded us all that the true gift this year was the love and joy that comes from being with family and friends. It was such a sweet message! And then, he officially opened the Christmas season by magically lighting the giant Christmas tree in the rotunda of the mall, which was right behind where we were standing!
While Santa migrated down from the rooftops, the heavens opened up and SNOW BEGAN TO FALL!!!!! Well, it was actually some kind of awesome, snow-like bubbles, but in Florida, you’re thankful for what you get!
The kids loved the snow! And we played and played in it while the crowds sang out, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!” Seriously. It was like being in a movie.
We stayed outside in the snow until the kids had had enough, and then we followed the crowd inside. Since this was our first time, we had no idea where we were going or what was going to happen next, but somehow, we just ended up in the exact perfect spot again! We headed upstairs so that we could look down on where Santa’s big red chair was set up. We had the perfect view as Santa, Mrs. Clause, and the elves paraded through the mall and finally landing in his chair, kicking off the holiday season.
It was just a magical night all around! And I had no idea what it was at all! I love things like that. Times when spontaneity takes over and you find yourself exactly in the right place at the right time for something completely unexpected and wonderful. I have been in the Christmas spirit since then – and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet! I think things like this are such special reminders that the spirit of Christmas – the spirit of joy and celebration and the hope and the wonder – live within us, no matter what day of the year it is!