Boat Parade
Posted December 15, 2017 | 5:06 PM

Happy Holidays, Hillsborough County Style

No snow (natural, at least), no cold (most of the time), no problem: Just be creative during the holidays

When it comes to the holiday season, we do it differently in Florida - and we do it comfortably, often in short-sleeve shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. We have a unique Christmas spirit, and it goes like this:

Let's start with decorating.

For starters, how about a natural Florida Christmas tree?

Southern red cedar and sand pine are native Florida trees, and grown commercially. And after the lights are removed, both are ideal for planting. Both are drought-tolerant, and the red cedar also has good tolerance to salt. If you're a Hillsborough County solid waste customers and need to dispose of your Christmas tree, here's how.

In addition, table centerpieces and other decorations can be made from acorns, holly, berries, pinecones, and other natural objects, as well as harvested fruits and vegetables. It's a fun family project.

For a neat holiday treat, try roselle, also known as Florida cranberry, red sorrel, and Jamaica sorrel. It is a relative of hibiscus and okra. The calyces of the flower can be used to make a variety of sauces, jams, and teas. The seeds can be roasted and brewed like coffee, and ground and sprinkled in salads and soups.

Roselle can be used to make a cranberry sauce alternative. To make the appropriately named Florida cranberry sauce, use chopped roselle calyces instead of cranberries. Don't forget to refrigerate.

For entertainment, holiday parades don't always take place on asphalt. Hillsborough County has two major boat parades that add sparkle to local waterways.

The Alafia Boat Parade is set for Saturday, Dec. 2 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Riverview Civic Center, 11020 Park Drive in Riverview. A tradition that dates to 1984, the parade features boats colorfully decorated for Christmas cruising along the beautiful Alafia River.

A week later, on Saturday, Dec. 9, it's Apollo Beach's turn. Hosted by the Tampa Sailing Squadron, the Apollo Beach Lighted Boat Parade is another decades-long tradition. Brightly lit boats will illuminate the canals of Apollo Beach. A good viewing point is the TSS Club House, 1250 Apollo Beach Blvd.

Busch Gardens' Christmas Town also will put you in the holiday spirit, and among the season's favorite characters and places, including Santa and Rudolph. On select days from Nov. 19 through Dec. 31, the attraction will feature bright lights, Christmas shows, and Santa's house.

And it wouldn't be a Florida Christmas without a trip to the beach to build a sand snowman or a snow angel. Hillsborough County's Apollo Beach Preserve is the perfect spot. Don't forget to take a photo
to share with your friends up North.

Photo information: This crew and boat taking part in the annual Apollo Beach Lighted Boat Parade are definitely in the holiday spirit. (Photo courtesy of Bill Fishbourne)