More than any other time of year, I love this one — and it’s because of Christmas trees. There is a magic in a Christmas tree. The past week has been cold and miserable, and on too many days the sunshine gave up. But the Christmas season and joy of Christmas trees took over, so lots of people forgave the rotten weather.
There are dreams amid the branches of a Christmas tree. You stare at the lights and decorations and believe, deep down, that all is happiness. You are grateful that there are so few politicians grinding your ears on TV. You don’t want to think about Russians hacking our election process because that sort of thing would spoil the joy of the season.
It is not a Christmas tree unless it is green. If it is robin’s egg blue, or cherry red, it is not a Christmas tree. Some of you may remember when it was trendy to replace a real tree in your living room with an aluminum tree. Aluminum trees were ghastly. Thank goodness, they are extinct.
Christmas trees should be real, firs or Scotch pines, and not artificial except when there could be danger of fire. I shall always remember the concern when a concert at Davenport’s Westside Assembly of God was to be staged from what looked to be an immense living Christmas tree of bows and greens. A hundred or more people holding lighted candles were to sing lovely Christmas melodies as they stood on tapered platforms that made them appear to be standing in the tree. But the fire marshal stopped the music, not allowing the candles. The Rev. Tommy Barnett wrung his hands until a benevolent hardware store donated a hundred identical flashlights for the singers to hold in lieu of candles. It was quite effective.
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Davenport Memorial Park would attract thousands of cars winding through the cemetery to see hundreds of illuminated Christmas trees. Ray Groves, who owned the cemetery, had a fetish for Christmas trees. One of his cemetery workers would begin wrapping the trees in lights in September. It was a giant project with bigger-than-life manger scenes. Police directed traffic.The beloved display ran from the 1950s until limping to a close in 2001-02. The wiring had worn out; the scenes had faded.
The holy voice from the rafters
“I rarely laugh out loud, but your item in last Tuesday's column ('When Jesus’ light went out') had me howling,” says Tom McGuire, Davenport. “My voice changed when I was 10 years old. That Christmas, the nuns at St. Sebastian School in my hometown of New York City cast me as the voice of God in the Christmas play. Squirreled away in the rafters, I spoke my first line, ‘… This is the Lord.’ My little brother, Danny, loudly yelled from the audience, ‘That’s not God, that’s my brother Tommy.’ The crowd lost it.”