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Confession: Publix holiday commercials turn me to mush.

Maybe it's the music. Maybe it's because I'm already in the holiday spirit. Or maybe it's just good marketing.

Whenever a holiday approaches, I brace myself for a good cry, courtesy of the Lakeland-based supermarket chain.

The ads are like little movies. Even the Spanish-language commercials fill my eyes with lágrimas.

This one from 2008 still gets to me:

Arthur Price of New York City asked this provocative question: "Is it my imagination or is NPR featuring an excessive number of Republican voices when it comes to the so-called 'fiscal cliff'?"

I didn't know, but I loved the issue he raised. Its relevance in influencing today's fierce tax and spending debate as we approach the Jan. 1 supposed "cliff" is obvious. But perhaps even more interesting, I thought, was the insight it might offer into political bias by NPR in general.

zazzle.com

Department stores are mostly full of the same old stuff, so we went trolling online for some Florida-themed (read: kitschy) holiday gift ideas. Check out these real products we found on the web.

The techie in your life may already have an iPhone 5, but we bet he or she doesn't have a kayak Christmas tree case for it. We found this one for $44.95 at zazzle.com.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF

Here's a holiday tradition in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood: Residents wrap the old oaks and palm trees that line South Boulevard with tiny white twinkle lights. Folks come from all over to drive down the street from Swann Avenue to Bayshore Boulevard to view the lights.

Dalia Colón / WUSF

I spotted this oh-so-Florida decoration on my neighbor's lawn in Brandon. I thought it was prime caption material -- and apparently, many of you agreed. Here's what folks on WUSF's Facebook page thought up. Leave your own clever ideas in the comments section below.

Jon Tallon: Cinderella boy... outta nowhere to win the Masters.

Jeff Finn: Lazy unionized reindeer.

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Even before we came up with our Florida Holidays project, Aleida Morse was getting into the spirit.

Morse teaches performing arts at Academy at the Lakes in Land O' Lakes. Many years ago, her third-graders rewrote The 12 Days of Christmas to make it a bit more... Florida.

Geese a-laying and a partridge in a pear tree? Not so much. But Florida panthers and a big glass of sweet tea? That's more like it. (At the bottom of this post, you can read the full lyrics to the song.)

When his teenage son ventured into social media, Virginia father Mike Robinson wanted to make sure he could keep tabs on him. Robinson works in IT, so he rigged a surveillance system that works no matter what kind of device either of them is on.

"It's sort of like a version of remote desktop that enables you to run the program kind of silently in the background," Robinson says.

One day, checking in from his iPhone, Robinson discovered that his son had come across an adult meet-up site on Facebook.

vinodeco.com

Sunset Beach's tradition is the Holiday Stroll. It's a cross between Halloween and Christmas, with a dash of New Year’s Eve thrown in for good measure.

A parade route is designated in the neighborhood. Local residents wear costumes. They even dress their pets in costumes. I am ashamed to say many of the costumes are not exactly what one would call "Christmas sensitive." In fact, many would be more appropriate at the Gasparilla Night Parade.

Residents along the route put out folding tables offering food and drink. Mostly drink. Almost exclusively drink. 

EVE EDELHEIT / Tampa Bay Times

The Tampa Bay Times recently profiled Gretchen Molannen, a 39-year-old suffering from a condition called persistent genital arousal disorder.

According to the Times, it is “a debilitating condition marked by continuous sexual arousal. Women who have the disorder are physically but not psychologically aroused.”

For Molannen, having the disorder meant she couldn’t work. She said she had attempted suicide at least three times in the past year.

Courtesy of Robin Sussingham

For my  family, the traditional holiday food is smoked mullet.

My father, Bob Trohn, has been catching and smoking mullet at his home on the river in Palmetto for more than a quarter century. When the extended family all congregate there at Christmas-time, there's always enough smoked mullet to eat and to give away to friends.

I followed my father around the dock one weekend, to see how it's done.  (A version of the story originally aired on American Public Media's Weekend America).

Courtesy of Valerie Alker

Here's a sweet memory from Valerie Alker, host of All Things Considered on WGCU in Fort Myers. Val shared this tale as part of our Florida Holidays project. We'd love to hear your stories, too.

The signs of Christmas are everywhere.  Salvation Army bell ringers, decked-out stores and Christmas muzak streaming from speakers.  But through it all, the Florida sun shines, striking an odd note for some us whose  impressions of the season were formed our Northern childhoods.

The contrast was particularly marked my first Florida Christmas. My brother and I had just moved here to live with our dad.

You may have heard about it already -- a disturbing photo of a man, just pushed in front of a subway, seconds from his death.

The New York Post published the photo on the front page with the headline, "Doomed."

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-making Project says this boils down to two ethical questions:

1. When should a photographer put the camera down and try to help a potential victim?

2. When should newspapers print disturbing photos?

Courtesy of Paul Taylor

While folks up North are huddling around a fireplace and donning ugly Christmas sweaters, we Floridians can celebrate the holidays al fresco. With Tampa's average high temperature of 72 degrees in December, the weather outside is anything but frightful.

Here's how some Floridians enjoy the great outdoors during the holidays.

Courtesy of Dalia Colón

My husband, Braulio, and I had this Florida holiday tradition for years: First we’d meet up in downtown St. Petersburg with our friends Cara and Quincy to watch the Palladium’s free annual performance of Black Nativity.

Then our foursome was off to South St. Pete for a visit to the home at 2719 Oakdale Street South – which we lovingly referred to as the Tacky Christmas House. See for yourself in this video:

Courtesy of Scott Finn

One-horse open sleigh? Try one-zebra open sleigh.

That's how we roll during Florida holidays, as illustrated by this pic from WUSF news director Scott Finn. Scott and his kids, Iris and Max, were laughing all the way at Busch Gardens last year.

reasonstobelieve.com

Florida doesn’t do anything by the book -- that includes celebrating the holidays. So this season, WUSF is extolling all the ways to enjoy the holidays with a Florida twist... and we want your input.

Tell us about your Florida holiday tradition. Does your family take part in a lighted boat parade, lace up for a jingle bell run or spend New Year’s Eve making sand sculptures?

Then there are the decorations. Show us your seashell ornaments, palm trees wrapped in lights and flamingoes in Santa hats.

We want your recipes, too. Do you dress your gingerbread men in Bermuda shorts or dip your latkes in Key lime jelly?

And how to do show out-of-town guests a good time in the warm weather? Do you take them caroling down the beach or spend all eight nights of Hanukkah at Disney?

The online magazine Longform has gathered some awesome stories about our area -- including lap dancer pioneer Joe Redner; carnival workers in Gibsonton, and Calvin Trillin's take on a newly-opened Disney World.

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Florida State University head football coach Jimbo Fisher recently penned a letter in praise of Tallahassee. The note was originally written for The Huffington Post as part of that site's Love Letters series, which features appreciations of American places by luminaries such as chef Mario Batali, reality TV star Bill Rancic and writer Ann Patchett.

With HuffPo's permission, we're reposting Fisher's letter here:

USF's Student Government and the company that runs the USF Sun Dome have a message for English indie rockers Mumford and Sons: We want you.

Specifically, they want the band to perform at USF on its worldwide tour promoting the new album, Babel.

"We have a lot of dedicated fans of Mumford & Sons; many of which even drove to see them perform at the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee," said USF Student Body President, Brian Goff.

"The students here are passionate about the band and would love to have such great performers come on campus and showcase their talent.”

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