NOTE; This column will be run int he Farmerville Gazette, the week of Dec 3rd.  Farmerville, Louisiana.

There is nothing more magical to a child than Christmas.  The season use to begin with the Massey’s Thanksgiving Day parade and  moved into full excitement right after the remainder of the bird was put away from the Thanksgiving meal.  All this has quickly changed as corporate marketing strategy dictates the Christmas shopping season begins prior to Halloween and we then begin to see early decorations adorn the shelves of the larger retail stores.  Other marketing strategies have also been inserted into this special holiday.

As a child the sights and smells and sounds of Christmas would provide a unique sensation, an inward glow that radiated a sense of belief in mankind that despite all the ills with the world there is still hope for the future.  This was no more manifested than in  WWI when a German soldier stood up with a very small branch symbolizing a Christmas tree and walked right into the British lines as a sign of peace at Christmas.  The British responded and there was an unofficial truce that spontaneously spread along no-man’s land in France with a large part of the two armies joining for carols, soccer and peace.  And this was despite warnings from British High Command to guard against such an action.

Growing up in Farmerville and rural North Louisiana was special.  We would go out into the “woods” to cut the perfect tree for Christmas and the smell of evergreen filled the living room.  My grandmother would send wonderful home baked cookies that I genuinely regret not having obtained the recipe.  My mother was of German linage from the Tahoe Basin and being Lutheran there was a unique manifestation of Christmas rituals.  One of these was the Advent Calendar and the other was the Nativity Scene.  I had my first Advent Calendar pre-elementary school and each day I would open a successive door to reveal something unique to the season.  Then on the 24th the large door identified Santa in his sleigh.  On the  25th, the largest door on the calendar disclosed baby Jesus surrounded by Joseph and Mary.  The nativity scene was even more special.  When I was in the first grade a package arrived from Sears and in it was a large plastic and cardboard depiction of a 2,000 year old barn complete with wise men, shepherds, a mother and father and their baby in a manger.  The Farmerville courthouse would have a nativity scene at the corner of the building for everyone to see the “true” meaning of Christmas.  This was repeated at almost all courthouses around our state.   I would periodically buy an additional nativity set over the years and my own children would see the magic of the season.  I still have the original set delivered when I was six.  Then a term referred to as “political correctness” entered our vocabulary.

After walking past Christmas artifacts in Wal-Mart’s for over a month this year I decided to look at the nativity sets.  None could be found so I went to Family Dollar and again none were there.  I then thought I had this figured out but was going to give the benefit of the doubt and I checked Monroe Wal-Mart and again no nativities.  Finally in Ruston I did find five individual nativity pieces priced at $2.00 each and nothing more.  Over the last couple of Christmas’s the shelves were adorned with pretty little scenes.  Even in Saudi Arabia, the keeper of the Muslim Faith, years ago I was able to locate a hand carved nativity that originated in “Palestine”.

So this all begs the question, what have we done so terribly wrong that the most fundamental and basic pieces of our culture, of our nation, can no longer be displayed in public nor acquired for enjoyment in our homes.

I’m still going to be the optimist and think that demand for nativity sets are so great in other parts of the country that we in the deep south have to wait for our shipments to arrive.  Unfortunately I also fear that optimism will give way to reality.

Next week we will take a look at the origin of the Christmas Tree as we count down the remaining weeks to Christmas.  I will be writing this from Hot Springs, Arkansas as we enjoy the down town festivities and I watch the wonderment of the season in my 3 year old grand daughters eyes.

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