Christmas arrives in Central Florida


Maurice Beaulieu

Attendees take photos of Lake Eola Christmas Tree

Maurice Beaulieu, Contributor

“Tis the season and events held throughout the month of December are creating Christmastime spectacles for families to enjoy. This year, visitors and residents of Orlando can bring their families to celebrate the holiday season by attending the ballet, a tree lighting ceremony downtown, and even take a road trip to a world-famous racetrack. 

Approximately 50 miles north of Orlando, the legendary Daytona International Speedway is currently holding its annual Magic of Lights, a month-long event designed to captivate audiences by allowing families in their automobiles to navigate through the actual speedway full of magnificent Christmas lights. 

 “Running every day through January. 1, guests visiting the World Center of Racing, the largest lighted sports facility in North America, will be able to enjoy spectacular displays, using the latest LED technology and digital animations, from the comfort of their vehicle,” Daytona International Speedway’s Director of Public Relations Andrew Booth said.

The construction and the efforts that go into making the event each year is noteworthy. Each Magic of Lights show has over 10 miles of LED lights within the various displays and 10 different colors of LED bulbs used to produce the vibrant speedway. Past sections still included are the 12 Days of Christmas, Enchanting Tunnel of Lights, 200-foot Candy Cane Lane and Snowflake Forest, as well as new displays like the Ornament Passing and Joy to the World.  

“At Magic of Lights,” Booth said, “you will drive your car straight through the heart of the up-to-200-foot Enchanted Tunnel of Lights containing tens of thousands of bulbs, all animated into a dizzying and spectacular show of sparkling lights in every direction.” 

Another Christmas event to visit is Mayor Buddy Dyer’s annual Tree Lighting Celebration at Lake Eola Park on Friday, Dec. 6 from 5 to 9 p.m. Organized as a free event, it will feature the ceremonial lighting of a 72-foot Christmas tree, along with several live performances, vendor booths, and food. 

Communications and Events Coordinator Emily Bonvini encourages families to attend the celebration. “We always have a strong turnout for this event,” she said. “Last year we estimated about 10,000 attendees.” The Christmas tree itself is a remarkable sight, she explains. “There are 160,000 LED lights and 7,000 ornaments on the tree.”

There are many other reasons besides the visuals to attend.
“We will have ten food trucks selling food, drinks, and desserts, and vendors selling light-up toys and doing face painting,” Bonvini said. “The Orlando Magic, Cure Bowl, and Topgolf will also be present, plus giveaways from Sony Pictures for advanced screening passes to ‘Jumanji: Next Level.’” Regarding music, she said “The Trinity Lutheran School children will be performing at 5 p.m., followed by the Tree Lighting Celebration Stage Show featuring the Orlando Concert Band at 7 p.m. The stage show is co-hosted by Pastor Billy Brath and the News 6 WKMG morning show.” 

“The tree will be lit for the first time just after 8 p.m. After that, visitors can come to Lake Eola Park to see the tree’s synchronized lights-and-music show every day at 5:45 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 8:45 p.m., and 9:45 p.m.”

Although the event is funded through the City of Orlando’s budget and from vendors, Bonvini encourages visitors to make donations, as well. “The Salvation Army will be present at the Tree Lighting collecting monetary donations to help provide gifts to the less fortunate this holiday season.”

For those who want to experience the Christmas season through sophisticated dance, The Centre for Dance & Performing Arts will hold a two-day special ballet honoring Jesus, “In His Name We Dance.”  

Nationally-recognized ballet instructor Dr. Kathryn Austin will direct the event that displays the story of Christmas through dance. 

“The holiday ballet ‘In His Name We Dance’ is a Christmas tradition in our family; it is a beautiful production that tells the true story of Christmas,” Ann Slade, a Winter Garden resident, said. “The music and dancing echo the joy of the holiday season.” The event will be held on Dec. 22 and 23 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.