Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkeys and Christmas Parades

     It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the day when our nation pauses to give thanks to a God we’re not allowed to mention in schools or any government institution, but a God we still trust to watch over our money and to whom we swear to “tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God” in our public courts. We were headed to a Christmas Parade, yes, a Christmas parade, a town sponsored fa-la-la-la-la hoopla that would kick off the Christmas season, that time of the year when we celebrate the birth of the Savior we are not allowed to pray to in public but in whose honor the shopping malls and retailers beg us to spend outrageous amounts of cash.  
     We stood in a park beneath trees still shedding their fall foliage, a full week before we stuffed the bird or cooked the pumpkin pie or went over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. November had not yet turned into December, but who cared if we were rushing the season, everybody loves a parade! The sparkling floats, the marching bands, the Shriners in their tiny cars, the prancing horses clicking down the tarmac, the beauty queens perfecting their royal waves, and always, always,  there at the end, riding high on a sleigh perched precariously on a float,  the breathless arrival of Santa!
     Sissey, ever the purist, was lamenting the fact that poor Tom Turkey was getting a bum deal, that he was getting skipped over, ignored, and that we needed to celebrate Thanksgiving before we barrelled into Christmas.
     “This should be a Thanksgiving parade,” she said. “It’s November, for heaven’s sake. It’s not fair to the bird to just jump straight into Christmas before we’ve even celebrated Thanksgiving. I’m standing up for the turkey! No Christmas carols, no decorations, no celebrating Christmas until December! I’m calling this a Thanksgiving parade.”
    “Believe me, Sissey, the bird doesn’t mind. In fact, I’m quite sure all the turkeys of the world would be perfectly happy if we missed Thanksgiving altogether and just carved the Christmas roast instead.”
     “I guess I didn’t think about it from their point of view,” she conceded, as she agreed to join  the gathering crowd of holiday revelers.
       So we lined up beside the road, a misty drizzle frosting our heads, and prepared to celebrate the birth of a Son that we’re told is not sovreign in this nation.  I wondered how all the elected county officials,  the government representatives, the politicians and public servants  could be allowed to ride in shiny cars, grinning and waving, in a parade that celebrated the birth of a Savior?  Let them try to post the Ten Commandments in a government building or say a prayer in Jesus’ name and see what wrath and litigation they ignite. Yet the little town of Great Falls, all prettied up for the holidays, lights stringing the streets, wreaths on the windows of shops, trees sparkling and twinkling with tinsel and light, was ready to roll out the regalia of a full blown, band marching, candy throwing parade to celebrate the occassion of the birth of our Lord.
   “Look, Washington,” I wanted to yell, “You think you’ve removed God from this nation? You think you’ve wiped God out of public view?  Come on down south to a small town parade. We’ve still got Him down here, and we’re not only celebrating, we’re throwing Him a big ole parade!”
      The high school band (the very public high school band!) was  marching and blasting out Christmas carols on piccolos and flutes and clarinets,  drums booming and trombones blaring,  as they high-stepped down the street.  The flashing lights of the county fire truck and the blaring sirens of the city police cruisers hailed the beginning of the Christmas processional as floats filled with merry children and beaming dignitaries began creeping down the winding street.
     We waved to the school board chair, the public representative of the place where the mere mention of God would bring lawsuits and the full fury of the ACLU, yet there she rode in all her glory, Sunday hat perched haughtily on her head, smiling, waving to the crowd.  Next came the county coroner, and we all waved and yelled out “ Hey Terry!” to the man who will one day officially pronounce us dead, a laughing greeting now, while still alive, to the man who would eventually sign our death certificates. We yelled for the floating queens to toss us some stale Halloween candy which we scrambled for like rats in the gutter, snatching pieces of rain-drenched sweets we had no intention of consuming, the mere thrill of the find driving us to dive for the candy, darting in between the floats and cars to scoop up a tootsie roll or a peppermint or a piece of bubble gum before they were smashed by a tire. The local beauties smiled sweetly from their perches on the backs of convertibles, tiaras twinkling in their hair as they shyly waved and tossed candy to the crowd. The pharmacy, the bank, the local businesses, the phone company, the insurance companies and hardware stores and animal pound all processed by on homemade floats and decorated trailers. The local biker group noisily rolled by, revving up the throttles as they made lazy circles in the road, not to be outdone by the roar of the Shriners on their souped-up gokarts and miniature cars. And finally, in all his secular glory, red velvet suit glistening in the misty rain, Santa arrived on his truck-pulled sleigh, ho-ho-hoing and waving to the wide-eyed, excited children as they clapped their hands and cried out, "Santa, Santa, Santa!"
     It was a fine parade, and although there were no giant balloons or televised broadcasts, no big-name entertainers or celebrity marshalls,  the excitement and festivity the community produced had turned this little small town parade into an affair not to be outdone by Macy's on Turkey Day. All this, all this in preparation for a holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ. And they say we don't have religion in America? I say, bah, humbug to that and Merry Christmas y'all!

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