For a historic site, Fort Christmas is a little lean on history. It was built as a supply base in December 1837, by U.S. Army troops engaging Seminole Indians. Some 2,000 troops were located there at one point, but the army soon discovered the Seminoles had vanished from the area and moved farther south. The fort was abandoned only four months later when the troops left to pursue the Seminoles in south Florida.
The fort got its name from the date it was completed. According to the Fort Christmas Historical Society, an excerpt from the journal of Captain N.S. Jarvis, a surgeon in the United States Army, states on December 27, 1837, “today we finished our fort which we called Fort Christmas, having commenced it on that day”. Many years later, a small village took root nearby and adopted the name of the fort. That is how Christmas, Florida, got its name.
Rambling Around in the Past
The present-day fort is a replica of the real thing, dating to the 1970’s and is part of the Orange County Parks and Recreation system. At the time of this writing, visitors are allowed to enter the park and walk around the grounds, but the fort itself is closed due to COVID. There are buildings outside the fort walls, some of them traditional Florida “Cracker” homes. The buildings include a sugar mill, schoolhouse, and a community lunchroom, all of which are also closed. There is a small museum with fort and Cracker era artifacts, which is also closed.
The park sits on 143 acres of oak shaded lands. In addition to the fort there are picnic pavilions, playgrounds, a baseball field, tennis courts and a basketball court. Admission is free and pets are not permitted in the park. The fort is located north of State Road 50 at 1300 Fort Christmas Road in Christmas.
The status of when the fort and outbuildings will reopen, according to Mandy Kimmer, the Orange County Park and Recreation Department media liaison, is being considered “on a month by month basis.” There are no current plans to open the park until sometime in the new year.
Christmas Post Mark
Usually, the annual Fort Christmas ‘Cracker Christmas Festival’ takes place the first weekend in December. It features pioneer day arts and crafts, tours of the fort grounds, military reenactments and people dressed in pioneer period clothing. One of the popular events at the festival is when postal workers from the local post office postmark Christmas cards with the town of Christmas stamp. This year, however, your only option to get cards stamped is to drop them off at the Christmas, FL, post office, which is located on State Route 50.
Other events in 2021 are still scheduled, except the popular Bluegrass Festival in the spring, which has been postponed. A complete list of events is on the Orange County website, www.orangecountyfl.net.cultureparks
Many Space Coast residents make the (not so snowy) trek north to Ft. Christmas, FL, annually to take part in the holiday festivities and get their holiday cards postmarked from the town with the same namesake. This year, things are a bit different.
Fred Mays is a freelance writer and photographer who resides in Satellite Beach. He is a retired television journalist, and active on media issues with the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition. His blog is www.floridaunplugged.net.