Spaniards prepare for 2014 anniversaries here

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Published by former Mayor George Gardner               December 11 2013
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Muskets blaze at Night Watch

Muskets blaze at Government House during last Saturday night's British Night Watch Grande Illumination, commemorating Britain's 20-year occupation of St. Augustine 1763-1784, and opening the Christmas season. Earlier in the day, the annual Christmas Parade stepped off.

Photo from Grande Illumination Parade video, Daron Dean, St. Augustine Record

Reenactor places wreath

Wreaths, lights

weekend features

   "Thanks to all throughout the community," says Location Director Dan Blackman, wreaths have been purchased for all 1,218 graves at the St. Augustine National Cemetery Saturday in the
Wreaths Across America Program sponsored by The Veterans Council of St. John's County.
   Now he asks community turnout to help place the wreaths at noon.
   It opens a weekend of holiday activity, including the 20th annual Bed and Breakfast Holiday Tour 1- 5 pm Saturday and Sunday featuring 24 inns; the 3rd
annual Firefighter Chili Cook-off  from 2 to 6 pm at the amphitheatre, hosted by St
Augustine Fire Department's Local 2282 to benefit Firefighters for Families, Second Harvest Food Bank and the IAFF Burn Foundation; an authentic re-creation of St. Augustine's 18th century Changing of the Guard by the city's Spanish Garrison from the City Gate at 4:45 to Government House at 5, and

Regatta of Lights  at 6 pm along the bayfront north of the Bridge of Lions.

   Photo: Reenactor joins in placing wreaths in 2012

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Spaniards prepare for

2014 anniversaries here

 A councilman in Aviles, Founder Pedro Menendez' birthplace, and the chronicler of Florida Discoverer Ponce de Leon are gathering information for two anniversaries in 2014 tied to St. Augustine.


   Next year will be the 90th anniversary of a St. Augustine delegation's visit to Aviles in 1924 during which Menendez' casket was formally transferred to the city.

   And it will be the 500th anniversary of the appointment of Ponce as first governor of Florida and the "ordenanzas to be observed in the new populations of Florida..." given by King Ferdinand and Queen Joanna of Castile September 27, 1514.

   Aviles Councilman Roman Alvarez Gonzalez said during his Landing Day visit here this year that he's assembling stories and photos of the historic delegation visit in 1924 for presentation at the 2014 Landing Day ceremonies.

   And Enrique Sanchez Goyanes, author of Retablo of Ponce de León, published this year for the 500th anniversary of Florida's founding, is compiling an "exhibition of the first public documents in the history of the current USA."

   Goyanes "discovered something very important in my design of that exhibition: the very first map of Florida as a peninsula, not an island. (It was) made by Alonso Álvarez de Pineda in 1519. He was navigating all the western coast up to the north and, therefore, determined that it was a peninsula and not an island. 

1519 map
Map of the coast of Mainland discoveries by Juan Ponce, Francisco de Garay, Diego Velázquez, etc. 1519. Florida peninsula is noted.

A Celtic Christmas concert

Celtic symbol

   The Concert artists of Jacksonville join the St. Augustine Community and Youth choruses to present A Celtic Christmas in the magnificence of the Cathedral Saturday 7:45 pm and Sunday 1:45 pm.

   The performance will include the traditional Christmas section of Handel's Messiah.

   Information on the website.

Fire Department rating climbs

On a scale of 1 to 10 a Class 3 rating is pretty good in the national Insurance Services Office (ISO) scale for a fire department's protection of its community.

   Class 2 is even better and, after years of that Class 3 rating, St. Augustine's Fire Department has reached Class 2 - entering the elite top 1.3% of 47,000 fire departments in the nation.

   Fire Chief Mike Arnold told city commissioners Monday credit goes to "many improvements made through the cooperation of other city departments, including the installation of new water lines, the new 800 mhz radio system, improved dispatching systems, inter-local agreements with St. Johns County and a lot of training, planning, inspections and investments in new equipment." 

... hung by the chimney with history

Bedtime stocking

   Great stocking stuffers with major figures and events in St. Augustine history!

    Ponce de Leon, Pedro Menendez, Sir Francis Drake, James Oglethorpe, Osceola, Henry Flagler; Matanzas, the Castillo, Siege of St. Augustine, Dade's Massacre, Sack of San Agústin, Fort Mose, the Lighthouse.

   Just some of the historic briefs included in St. Augustine Bedtime Stories, two 12-booklet series packaged for quick reads before bed, compiled by former Mayor George Gardner. 

   Look for them at the St. Augustine Visitor Center, Castillo, Lighthouse, Fountain of Youth, Fort Menendez, and St. Augustine Textiles, or contact 904-669-1348. 

   Details on this fascinating series here.

The historic Spanish Christmas Tree


Historic Spanish Christmas Tree

   The Christmas tree in the Flagler Hospital Imaging Center pays homage to Spain with this description:

Introduction to our historic Spanish Christmas Tree

   Predominant adornments were a variety of little glass globes, angels, glittering stars, silver thread and other ornaments.

   The craft was originally founded by Spaniards from the town of Leon. These men were skilled in the teasing out of gold and silver wire. In the 16th century, Nuremburg saw the creation of what was known as the Leonese industry.

   There is now a long tradition of Decoration detail manufacturing these decorations in Germany. It was from this thriving craft that Christmas tree decorations emerged about 1880.

   The use of musical instruments also served to help celebrate the season. Primitive to the era were the rattle, the tambourine and the zambomba, all of them vaguely pastoral sounding.

   Since this time, the Christmas tree has spread throughout the world and the decorations with it.

   Beneath all this glitter, sheltering as on that first night in Bethlehem, we find the nacimiento, a small-scale nativity scene, with its humble clay figures ... very much the focal point of every Spanish home.

History's highlight

In Spain, bonfires for Christmas

1 year, 8 months, 29 days  to St. Augustine's 450th anniversary


   The first of two articles on Christmas celebrations in Spain

   In Spain, the Christmas holiday season has one tradition not at all common elsewhere. Named "Hogueras" (bonfires), this tradition originated long before Christmas itself. Bonfire for Christmas

   It is the observance of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. It is characterized by people jumping over fires as a symbolic protection against illness.

   The more common traditions include incredibly elaborate "Nacimiento" (nativity scenes), Christmas trees, and remarkable Christmas markets scattered among villages and cities with piles of fruits, flowers, marzipan and other sweets, candles, decorations and hand-made Christmas gifts.

   Often, as the Christmas Eve stars appear in the heavens, tiny oil lamps are lighted, warming village windows. The Christmas Eve gaiety is interrupted at midnight by the ringing of bells calling the families to "La Misa Del Gallo" (The Mass of the Rooster).

   Christmas dinner is never eaten until after midnight. It is a family feast, and often highlighted with "Pavo Trufado de Navidad" (Christmas turkey with truffles). After the meal, family members gather around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols and hymns of Christendom. The rejoicing continues through the wee hours of the morning. An old Spanish verse says...

Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no es noche de dormir (This is the goodnight, therefore it is not meant for sleep.)

   It is not Santa who comes to Spain bearing gifts, but the Three Wise Men. The Spanish Christmas continues for a few weeks after Dec. 25th. On the Eve of Epiphany, January 5th, children place their shoes on the doorstep, and in the secret of the night, the Three Wise Men pass leaving gifts. 

  January 6th, Epiphany is heralded with parades in various cities where candy and cakes are given to children.

   Excerpts from Christmas, Boston University


   The St. Augustine Report is published weekly, with additional Reports previewing City Commission meetings as well as Special Reports. The Report is written and distributed by George Gardner, St. Augustine Mayor (2002-2006) and Commissioner (2006-2008) and a former newspaper reporter and editor.  Contact the Report at