Is there any other holiday that has so many traditions associated with it? Everything from Christmas caroling to baking cookies to candlelight services to Candy Cane Lane, the activities surrounding Christmas and New Years are almost endless. There are personal traditions, like Scott Metzger, the new Lycoming County Commissioner who for the past 39 years now has donned the white beard and red suit to become a very convincing Santa. Scott has played the part of Kris Kringle to schools, parades, and nursing homes. His greatest joy comes from visiting Loyalsock Valley and Lyter Elementary schools. At a recent visit, one adorable little girl was asked what she wanted for Christmas, looked up with her dark brown eyes and innocently said, “Santa, all I want is for all the little boys and girls who don’t have a home to have one.”
If not a home, there are those who want to provide a hearty Christmas dinner for those who would not have one. In the late 1970s, Lois Temple from Clarksville was selling advertising for a local newspaper and one of the clients asked if Lois knew of anyone who provided Christmas dinner for those who would not have one. She responded that she did not know of anyone that did that in the area, but got to thinking that there should be one. So for some 38 years running now, Lois has organized the Spirit of the Seasons Dinner at the Hughesville Fire Hall for anyone who wishes to attend. Donations come in from throughout the region, and even a live band provides entertainment. It has become a legendary event, with over 400 people served on Christmas day.
Other organizations in our area host similar events. Christmas dinners are provided in Williamsport by the American Rescue Workers who provide a free Christmas dinner at the Castellano Center for Community Outreach and in Jersey Shore, there is Christmas Eve ham dinner provided by the Trinity United Methodist Church between their Christmas Eve services.
The small community of Montgomery has a very long tradition of providing food and presents on Christmas Eve to needy families in their area. Back in the 1960s, there was a local community grocery store called Hess’s which started giving a free bag of foodstuffs for a special Christmas dinner for those customers who the staff knew were quite needy. When the store went out of business, the idea continued with a Christmas Committee chaired by Nancy Gruver. The program was expanded to provide a full Christmas dinner that would include a turkey and all the fixings along with individually wrapped presents for each child in the family. Nancy headed up the effort for nearly 50 years until her sad passing last year. But others have picked up the baton, and this year Christmas dinners were provided for 167 families and toys were given to 250 children.
These wonderful traditions of service that are celebrated all over our region speak volumes of the best of our past. As we look forward to the coming of a new year, hopefully we can continue to keep our servant-minded heritage while pointing toward a better and brighter future.
Larry Stout welcomes your comments or input. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.