Space Coast Families Share Their Holiday Traditions

It’s the holiday season on the Space Coast. And while most of us know that means dinners with the family, decorating the tree, hanging multi-colored lights in the palms, and big sales at our favorite stores, there are some things here we take for granted that newcomers find simply amazing. Wearing shorts on Christmas Day, swimming in the pool after church, or surfing after synagogue seem to come up often. We decided to ask a smattering of folks relatively new to Brevard about their old traditions, and the new ones they’ve started since moving here. Was there a common thread? Their responses varied, but it sure seems like Cocoa Beach’s Surfing Santas are a must-see and part of a growing family tradition for many. If you haven’t made it part of your holiday tradition already, be sure to check them out this year — it’s certainly typical Brevard, and amazing!

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Jude Hilles
G&G Roofing Construction
Pictured with wife, Alexandra; daughter, Adelina; and son, Jude

My wife, Alexandra and I are both Columbus, Ohio born, though she grew up in New Jersey. On a visit in January 2012 to meet her mother, we were drawn to the beautiful weather and glorious sunshine. We ended up going to Key West and getting married. I’d recently been laid off, and it is cold up north in November, so we decided it was the perfect time for a move. We went back to Ohio, gathered our stuff and came down to stay a month later.
We are relative newlyweds when it comes to family traditions, but we’ve been making our own along the way for us and our children, Adelina and Jude. They aren’t long-standing ones yet. For our first Christmas together, which was only a few months before we moved here, we put together a pajama Christmas Eve party, and we’ve brought that to Florida as one of our traditions each year since. This lack of seasons is still new to us, and we’re still getting used to not seeing the leaves change color like up north. But we love the warm weather, and we can always take a trip north and see them changing, and add a little ice and snow if we would like. On the other hand, it is so nice to go beachside in Satellite Beach off of Desoto to see the amazing display of lights. And we can do that in shorts and sandals!
It may seem like a small thing to some people, but Harvey’s fresh squeezed orange juice has become a staple for us, especially around the holidays, and Sugar Shack always has delicious donuts. We’d share our little secret with others new to Brevard for the holidays… the local churches have the best Christmas trees.

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 5.06.03 PMSteve Moldrem
Pictured with wife, Jill and son, Jake

My wife Jill, my son Jake and I relocated here from Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville in July of 2015. Embraer Executive Aircraft, who I have been employed with for the past 6-plus years, brought us here. The very first holiday season was very surprising to all three of us. Without a doubt, the weather, specifically the temperature, has been the biggest change.  I think it was 72 degrees last year! I grew up in northern Wisconsin, moved to Tennessee out of college and lived there 21-plus years before coming to Melbourne.  We were all surprised by the temperature and the fact we could wear shorts on Christmas day after church.
The holidays start in November for our family. Prior to our move to Florida, every Thanksgiving would include a visit to Jill’s aunt and uncle in Columbus, Georgia.  That visit consists of a family softball game on Thanksgiving Day and golfing for the guys while the ladies go shopping on Black Friday.  Every Christmas Eve, Jill, Jake and I would go to my father-in-law’s house with Jill’s brother and his family for a great traditional holiday meal and gifts.  Christmas day was then spent with Jill’s mother and her stepfather for another big holiday meal and more gifts. Up until last year we had kept this routine for the past 14 years.
This year we really want to go to Cocoa Beach and see the Surfing Santas and shop downtown Cocoa Village. Surfing, Santa, and Cocoa Beach. What a great combination for a holiday!

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 5.06.12 PMTodd J. Pokrywa
The Viera Company
Pictured with wife, Cyndi

We came to the Space Coast from Lakewood Ranch, Florida just over two years ago when I accepted a position as senior vice president, land use planning and development with The Viera Company. My wife Cyndi is involved with several non-profit organizations, including Space Coast Field of Dreams as a board member, a member of the Genesis House Guild, and she also plans to continue her post graduate education. She is originally from Dallas, Texas, and I am from Toronto, Canada, both far different than Florida, especially for the holidays!
We both have Polish roots, and always make homemade pierogi for our Christmas Eve meal prior to Midnight Mass.  Our new Space Coast tradition is attending the Light Up Viera parade; it provides a sense of that holiday chill in the air, even when the temperature doesn’t agree.
Another of our newest traditions is seeing the Surfing Santas in Cocoa Beach. There are so many others we love, it would be hard to pick a favorite, but we never miss frequenting the Sunday Brunch in the Tradewinds restaurant at Viera’s Duran Golf Club. We also enjoy waterfront dining at River Rocks. After a nice meal, nothing captures the Christmas spirit quite like taking a drive through Wickham Park during the Space Coast Lightfest, or attending the many holiday events at The Avenue Viera. Each of these has the outdoors as a key component, and that’s a refreshing addition to holidays normally spent either indoors or bundled up against the cold. We’re loving the holidays in Brevard!

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 5.05.52 PMChris Heinze
Toyota of Melbourne
Pictured with wife, Jessaca and daughter, Alexandra

We relocated from Scottsdale, Arizona in late 2008 for me to take over operations at Toyota of Melbourne and our luxury body shop, Platinumwerks Collision Center. ALL our family still lives in Arizona including my in-laws, so our traditions always involved getting everyone together.
One of our favorite traditions was getting all the nieces, our nephew and my daughter together with my brothers and sisters. My dad sets up his prized 8mm reel-to-reel projector (the kids look in bewilderment as to why anyone would make such a device to watch film while showing us how easy iPhones are to record video, as if we never knew).  We’d spend hours watching my father’s handiwork of capturing our family memories with his 8mm movie camera with a movie lamp mounted on the top (it weighed more than the actual camera!).  It always started with 30 to 40 minutes of 8mm projector fixes. I don’t think it ran properly when first started one time in 20-plus years.
Brevard was a great surprise and while we don’t have family with us here, we have found new traditions that we enjoy. Certainly going out as a family to look at all the house light displays is a great one. We live on the Grand Canal so one of our new favorite holiday events is the holiday boat parade.  Seeing all the lights on the boats that cruise by is a big highlight for us.
We also now do a family dinner at the Melbourne Chart House and this year we are looking forward to dinner at David Dashi’s The Chef’s Table restaurant!

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 5.05.43 PMSusan Chang
Harris Corporation
Pictured with husband, Nakin Suksawang, daughter, Alisa and son, Nevin

We relocated from Miami in 2013 when my husband was hired as a professor at Florida Institute of Technology. We moved our growing family to Melbourne during the summer of 2013.
In previous years, we’d typically visit the Thai Temple in Miami to celebrate the Thai New Year.  When we moved to Brevard, we found that Melbourne also has a Thai Temple, so we were able to keep this annual tradition. It was very important to our family to keep that tradition alive.
The biggest surprise to us is how low-key and laid back the holiday season has been here compared to other places that we lived prior to moving here. We lived in Miami and central New Jersey and the holiday seasons in those places were always hectic and stressful. Last year we stayed home in Brevard during Christmas and we had a blast going to the Surfing Santas on Christmas Day in Cocoa Beach.  It was definitely unconventional, yet an eccentric and fun way to celebrate Christmas in Florida.
We live right next to the Green Turtle Market and we always stop by to pick up fresh seafood, wine and bakery items. Also one of our favorite places for a casual meal is Miss Apple’s Crab Shack. They have the freshest and tastiest crabs and lobsters. Not a typical holiday meal, but then maybe here it is!