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Try a little more civility, calmness around Christmas holidays

November 26, 2005|By Dee Mayberry

There are some things unique to Washington County - maybe to all of Western Maryland.

Local people celebrate big events in their own special way. Colored eggs are hanging from trees well before Easter; July 4 bunting goes up in late June; fall sees dried corn, pumpkins from Halloween through Thanksgiving, and Christmas makes everything beautiful from November to the New Year. Christmas is especially lovely in Washington County.

Whatever "politically correct" stores may do, people put up something - ranging from a single light in a Hagerstown rented room to a blazing, even blinding display elsewhere.

A newcomer some years ago was unpacking her kitchen equipment on Dec. 24. The moving company had left the day before and the box of tree ornaments - collected over many years - could not be found.

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That morning the family cut down a tree from a field where people pay a price to do that. They used a convertible to get it home, bringing howls of laughter from other tree cutters. The seller took a picture of the top-down convertible with its freezing occupants as the family drove away. The photo hung on his sales wall for years, embarrassing the family every Christmas that followed.

The Boonsboro drugstore sold them a stand and a set of white lights. A friend brought a crocheted angel. The fresh sweet-smelling tree with its white lights topped by the lacy angel was in place as Christmas Eve grew dark. Simple, natural, it was the most wonderful tree they ever had - easily trumping earlier city extravagance.

The woman finished her kitchen tasks long after the family had gone to bed that night. Her thoughtful husband had put logs in the fireplace with a pretty good idea about what his spouse was likely to do. She lit the white lights on the tree and sat down by a front window to rejoice in the fragrance and beauty around her.

Near dawn, the darkest part of the night, a light from the dairy barn across the road caught her eye. The light went from stall to stall as the farmer milked his cows. She watched it, a little suprised at her ignorance of farm life, thinking for the first time that there was no lazy Christmas morning for hardworking rural people.

Yet there was a green wreath on the barn and one with a red ribbon on the house door. There was a Christmas tree not unlike her own - simple, natural. It gave her a Christmas morning of learning and appreciation of people, holidays and nature she does not forget.

That early rural Christmas is sorely missed as quarreling breaks out all over the country. Recently, two towns in other states decided to ban all religious references in schools.

The squabbling is a "what about me" kind of thing. It talks of what people put into heads of children to justify court action. Someone says holidays, monuments, scrolls, flag emblems should have historical value or none at all.

The office of the presidency loses respect here and abroad as some call the president a liar, a trickster who conned us into a war. We seem to find ourselves in the middle of a national anger about everything, anything. Like the fearsome Asian bird flu, it spreads among us. We the people are in charge but allow a spoiling of what we cherish - all the way from traditional holidays, from pumpkins and carols to presidents and finger-pointing elected officials.

In an effort to answer that anger, here are a few facts:

- A Christmas tree is a pagan symbol. As such, it can be embraced and stand for beliefs, or non-beliefs of anyone. Christmas, with its carols and ornaments comes out of Western custom before the United States was born. All religion, Eastern or Western, is a gift to accept or reject. In its finest observance, it represents freedom. In all but its artificial and satanic forms, it cries out against anger.

- Politics is man-made. Politics and religion do not come together naturally, but benefit from respecting each other.

- War also is man-made and sometimes unavoidable. It can be thrust upon a peaceful people. Those who observe leaders need to ask if Abe Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt wanted war. They might also ask if any president, including George Bush, could wish to go down in history as the "war president." Is it even reasonable to think a president would lie his way into war, leaving himself remembered only for a trail of death?

That said, it would be a blessing if we could all calm down, like each other a little more and let our children enjoy St. Nick and Easter chocolate. Let's stop calling names in our political environment, stop playing "gotcha," fight as Lincoln and FDR fought, honor our traditions, our dead, our maimed survivors, our country and the leaders we elect.

Finally, there is offered a happy Christmas wish for all people of all faiths and a special prayer for those who have none.

Dee Mayberry is a Boonsboro
resident who writes for
The Herald-Mail.

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