A Literal Christmas Card
It's easy to love Christmas time. Cold winds drive us deep into fleece, cashmere, and wool. We wrap every inch of exposed flesh in layers of protective cloth, and practice that tilted, bent-toward-the-wind walk we employ whenever we venture out of the warm environs of our homes.
Store aisles are clogged with wide-eyed shoppers. Some are worse than others, like toy stores and big box retailers like Wal Mart, Target, and Borders. Even the mega-hardware stores are filled to overflowing, mostly because it's the easiest place to find that little something for that hard-to-buy-for Dad or Granddad.
Even the harried store clerks seem a little more pleasant during the holiday season, and it doesn't really matter if they wish me a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, as long as they work a seasonal greeting in there somehow.
A couple of years ago, a Maryland tollbooth operator on I-95 wished us a Merry Christmas when taking the $5 toll at Perryville. That little holiday cheer was good for about 25 miles, at least until we hit the Delaware tolls and got a grunt from a disgruntled First State employee.
Even the one less appealing aspect of Frederick holidays, namely the annual traffic choke points on the Golden Mile and Route 85/355 seem a little more bearable when you find that one special gift.
One of my favorite aspects is the service club outreach effort during December each year. Club volunteers ring bells for the Salvation Army, they wrap packages at stores, they sell Christmas trees, they volunteer for food service duties at the food banks, and they hold all manner of suppers and breakfasts.
Churches open their doors for tours, and host choral recitals and serve hot chocolate and cookies for the tourists who cross the threshold. What better way is there to spend a cold winter night in December than sitting in a historic church listening to our neighbors sing those special songs that whisk us back through the years to our youth?
A trip west on Route 340 displays the clusters of outdoor Christmas lights like little galaxies, laid out in small groups from Feagaville to Jefferson. Drive 10 miles from Frederick in any direction and you're treated to similar displays, as Frederick County residents seem to relish the chance to string twinkle lights from rooflines, porches, and tree branches to light the frigid December darkness.
At one point displays demonstrating taste and style received more of my credit than did the more carnival-like conglomerations of lights more evident in less populated areas. Today, any effort is appreciated, with those good old unsynchronized, multicolored, twinkling lights bringing a grin to my face.
It's impossible to get angry about those big, awkward illuminated blow-up things. Sure they're tacky, but, hey, it's Christmas! Besides, if it makes a little child smile, how bad can it be?
Governor Bob Ehrlich has turned historic Annapolis on its Christmas ear. He erected a large blow-up Santa and snow globe on the grounds of Government House, the official residence of the governor. Big might be an understatement, this inflatable Santa makes Shaquille O'Neal look like an extra from the Lollipop Guild in The Wizard of Oz.
The mavens and matriarchs of old Annapolis were aghast at the sight of these modern atrocities being inflated on State Circle. History and Victorian tradition dictated that candles, wreaths, red ribbons, and evergreen boughs were about as daring as Christmas decorations in the Capitol City were allowed to get.
Leave it to our Arbutus-born and bred governor and his young family to make Christmas in Annapolis fun again. I actually make it a point to drive around State Circle when I'm down there. It makes me smile every time I see it!
Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening wouldn't have dreamed of anything so outrageous, but he was such a Scrooge, its no wonder.
Our own Frederick County towns and cities offer special Christmas wonders. Shops and stores in Brunswick, Emmitsburg, Frederick, Middletown, Mount Airy, New Market, Thurmont, Walkersville, and Woodsboro are filled with the scents, sights, and sounds of the season. Each take a special pride in reflecting its own unique charm and appeal, and every one succeeds in its own way.
You haven't really shopped until you've walked through these downtowns, even if it's just to visit a few stores. The one noticeable difference is when you spend $20 in a local antique or specialty store, the proprietor really appreciates your purchase. It just might be the biggest sale they've made that day. At a big box, you're barely noticed, just another credit card in a long line of invisible shoppers.
Blessings abound in this beautiful place during this special time. So wrap yourself in that sweater, scarf, hat, gloves, and overcoat and venture out on one of these chilly Christmas season nights. Wish a stranger Merry Christmas, spend a little money on a truly unique Frederick County gift, and enjoy the twinkling lights along the way.
We're all just a little closer to heaven, sort of like that Santa at the Government House!