fueled by spirit

Across the country, Christmas fuels holiday revelers to manifest the Yule Tide spirit in new and intriguing ways.

Across the country, Christmas fuels holiday revelers to manifest the Yule Tide spirit in new and intriguing ways.

Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition. The gathering of family. The songs, sweaters, and sermons. The sheer anticipation. The unwrapping. The food.

But every once in a while, people across the country break the mold (no, not aunt Carol’s Jello mold) to create and co-opt new and exciting ways to tap into the holiday spirit.

Let’s look at four of America’s most unique Christmas celebrations:

The Surfing Santas — Cocoa Beach, Florida

Cocoa Beach might be best known as the setting of I Dream of Jeannie. Science nerds will now it’s just down the street from NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center. But for surfers, it’s sacred ground — home to the headquarters of the one of the most famous surf shop in the world. And if you’re trying to uncover the local surfing community, you should swing by on Christmas Eve for the annual Surfing Santas event. That’s when hundreds of surfers — dressed as snowmen, gingerbread men, reindeer, elves and Kris Kringle himself — ride the waves en masse to raise money for local charities. Last year, 600 Surfing Santas attracted more than 8,000 spectators to Cocoa Beach.

Krampus Nacht — Washington, D.C.

Krampus is the opposite of Jolly Old Saint Nick, who rewards good kids with well-deserved gifts. Born from Austrian folklore and recognized in other parts of central Europe, Krampus is described as a half-goat, half-demon beast who appears during Christmastime to punish bad children. The traditional European parade and Krampus costume made its way stateside in recent years, and in Washington D.C., the annual Krampusnacht holiday event and charity walk not only promises a wickedly good party and get-together but a chance to raise money for Santa’s Cause D.C. — a project benefiting foster children in our nation’s capital.

Eternal Christmas — Santa Claus, Indiana

On the municipal level, not all Christmases are created equal. Some towns simply take the holiday way more seriously than others. There’s North Pole, Alaska and Lake Donner, California. There’s Christmas Cove, Maine and Christmas Valley, Oregon. But Santa Claus, Indiana might have them all beat. Street with names like Tinsel Circle, Holiday Boulevard and Kringle Place will take you to places like the historic 1880 Santa Claus Church, the Santa Claus Museum & Village, and the world’s oldest Santa statue — erected back in 1935. The crown jewel of Santa Claus is the Holiday World Amusement park, home to eternal Christmas and one of the best wooden rollercoasters in the country.

Santarchy — Detroit, Michigan Going on its 18th year, Detroit Santarchy unleashes an onslaught of Santas on the Motor City. They convene by the hundreds in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown. Meeting at the Gaelic League Irish American Club of Detroit, they continue to rove around the city — by foot and by bus — bringing very merry Christmas cheer to every establishment in sight. They have very strict rules: No Christmas sweaters allowed — no matter how bad. It’s all about dressing as Santa — head to toe — though you can do so as traditionally or imaginatively as you like.