Christmas In A Small Town
Big City Blues
Having lived in a big city environment for most of my life, any sense of enjoying a real Christmas was fleeting. Yes, there were the big light- driven displays and boulevard decorations. But little or no sense of community.
We lived for number of years in the outlying suburban city of Wellington, Florida. It is located just west of the metropolis of West Palm Beach. It had a laid back rural feel to it when we first moved there. But that began to change when a major shopping mall was built there. Big city traffic and crime infiltrated the area.
We loved Christmas back then. Lighted reindeer displays decorated our front yard. Festive lights trimmed the front of the house. A big colorful wreath hung on the front door.
Neighborhood kids eventually decided it was fun to cut the wires on our displays and house lighting. Thefts occurred. Neighbors were suspected. Police were summoned to investigate. Warnings were given but no arrests were made.
After a few years of this, we stopped setting out displays. It just wasn’t worth the trouble anymore.
Introducing Country Hybrid Manifestations
Since I wasn’t happy with attending a local church there, I looked for one in a small town. I found one in Belle Glades, Florida, about 25 miles from home. Not necessarily the best place for a rural home, it was more of what I was looking for.
We made a number of friends there and participated in several of the yearly events. One was singing in the Christmas choir. Members of the church invited us to dinners afterwards in their homes or the congregation would have a celebratory dinner after the service.
We knew then that someday living in a small town or rural environment would be a goal we would want to shoot for. I guess the feeling you get from country people is different than what you receive elsewhere. At least that is what I aspired to then and still believe now.
The Town I Live In Now
Defuniak Springs is one of only 2 areas in the world that has a circular spring-fed lake. Having moved there a few years ago, we discovered that the town centers major activities around it’s tree-lined shores.
The lake is surrounded by many antebellum and colonial-style homes. It is basically the showplace center of town. Every year around Christmastime, it is encompassed with an incredible amount of decorative displays, animated figures, and specialty lighting. Tours include riding around the route in horse drawn carriages.
Several of the big homes have large, and well lit “Nativity Scenes”. Banners hung from balconies emphasize the word “Christ” in the word Christmas. Since rural churches dot the area, God fearing people seem to live here.
Last year we took our grand kids on the tour. This Christmas, we viewed it all in our SUV with some friends. We had previously met them while shopping online for the fresh vegetables that they grow. They have a small farm just north of us. We enjoyed the fact that we could share the experience with others.
The Crux Of It All
I am sure that there are many small towns throughout America that embrace a number of seasonal traditions. Many of them are probably close knit communities.
But here, when the bank tellers get to know us, they remember our names. Have a Merry Christmas, they say, and enjoy some holiday treats from our display table before you leave. When you finish shopping in a store, clerks wish you a similar greeting.
Sometimes an old farmer will stop and chat with you while you are buying groceries. Or you get friendly advice looking for supplies in a country-centered hardware store.
I even asked our local United Parcel Service deliveryman to place a very special gift for my wife off to the side when he brought it. Trying to be secretive, I didn’t want her to see it. I figured he would forget. He didn’t. The next day the package was placed exactly where I had asked him to place it.
Our best holiday celebrations have usually been when we travel to visit with other family members. Or we are fortunate enough to have them visit us. In absence of that, you make do with what you have. Spending Christmas in a small town seems to bring it all together!