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Decoration traditions among area churches vary

JULIA NAGY/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — The manger scene at St. Mary Basilica was donated to the church in 1887.

By Julia Nagy/The Natchez Democrat

When it comes to the most joyful of Christian holidays, only the right decorations will do, and area churches deck His halls according to their own specific beliefs and traditions.

Purple banners hang from the pillars lining the hallway of St. Mary Basilica. For the Catholics of St. Mary, purple is the color for Advent, a time of preparation before the Christmas holiday. The color represents waiting. White banners, the color of celebration, will be hung for Christmas.

The Rev. David O’Connor said Advent is an important season.

“Christmas has not yet arrived,” O’Connor said. “We’re in the preparation.”

The Italian marble aisle way leads to the front of the church, where on the right is a nativity set from 1887. The church received the set as a gift from the Altar Society via the estate of Father Mathurin Grignon.

The manger is built in stages, with pieces being added on each Advent Sunday. At first the manger was bare, to represent creation awaiting a savior. Then animals were added, then Joseph and Mary. On Christmas Eve, baby Jesus will be placed in the manger.

The manger itself, lit by Christmas lights, was crafter in 1950 by Lev Dawson, a congregation member.

On the left side of the church is the Advent candle wreath. Purple and pink candles are lit by a different family in the congregation every Advent Sunday. The center white candle will be lit on Christmas Eve.

“It’s a way for families to visualize what’s going on,” O’Connor said. “It’s part of the tradition the church takes. The gift of the savior is not yet available.”

At Trinity Episcopal Church, a small Christmas tree covered in aging, family decorations sits at the front of the parish hall.

It’s only been around for two Christmases, but it’s a tradition the Rev. Walton Jones wants to keep alive.

The tree was decorated by children in the congregation. Jones wanted to have a tree, and he wanted to give the children a fun activity.

“I think it acknowledges the great cheerfulness of the advent season,” Jones said. “It’s not Christmas yet, and because of that a lot of priests will resist decorations.”

Jones asked the congregation to bring in their old, “ugly,” Christmas ornaments for the tree.

“I wanted to give it a nice family touch,” Jones said.

As for the rest of the church, it will be fully decorated with poinsettias and wreaths after this Sunday.

For the Pentecostals of the Miss-Lou in Ferriday, decorations are all in the family.

The week after Thanksgiving, some families in the congregation get together to decorate the church. Some years its five families, other years its 20.

Wreaths with red bows are fastened on the front doors. Fake pine tree bristles are wrapped around the railings of the stairs in the lobby. Vibrant, red poinsettias are placed around the church.

Behind the pastor’s podium is a simple wreath with gold and brown ornaments.

The church likes to keep things a bit more simple, church administrator Chris Turner said.

“It’s always fun putting it all up, not so much taking it down,” Turner said.

In the lobby is a nativity set donated by a family within the church. The previous one had to be replaced two years ago due to wear and tear.

A nativity scene has been set since the creation of the church in 1958.

“It’s just a celebration of the season,” Turner said. “You do this to be in remembrance of the arrival of our savior.”

Jefferson Street United Methodist Church has been putting up a Chrismon tree for approximately the last

40 years.

The Chrismon tree is a variation of the Christmas tree. Ornaments crafted by the women in the congregation decorate the tree.

At the start of the tradition, the women would gather together to make the ornaments. Now new ornaments are made to replace damaged ones.

Pastor John Kramer said the ornaments have special meaning.

“The ornaments represent the truths of the Christian faith and God being with us,” Kramer said.

One of Kramer’s favorite ornaments, a cross surrounded by a circle with a butterfly in the center, has a lot of symbolism for the church.

The circle is representative of the world. The cross is for Christ. The butterfly represents new life, Jesus’ rising. Purple is the church’s color for Advent season, representing royalty for Christ. White will replace purple during the Christmas season, representing the purity.

Connie Williams, head of the decorating committee at the First Baptist Church in Vidalia, decorated the church with both religious and holiday items.

In the main entrance, a large Christmas tree stands center stage, with large white poinsettias and silver crosses.

A group of plastic carolers is in the left corner. A nativity scene is on the right.

“We just put a mixture of it all in there,” Williams said. “Once you pass the pretty tree and the carolers, you see what the real thing about Christmas is.”

There are three nativity sets in the church. Members of the congregation helped with the decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving.

“I love decorations everywhere, but I just want people to realize the real meaning of Christmas,” Williams said. “Sometimes we get caught up in all the glitz and the glitter. The most important thing is the gift of salvation.”