Sprucing up Market Sq. for Christmas

santa-window2A 40-foot tree sprouted outside my window in downtown Portsmouth this week.

Couple million pine needles hitched together by some branches and a trunk — soon it will glow with twinkling white lights, projecting goodwill and warmth onto raw winter nights.

Yes, the massive pine is an unmistakable sign that the Christmas and/or holiday season is officially under way.

Black Friday is now behind us, along with Small Business Saturday. Ahead: Cyber Monday and several more weeks of Tannenbaum Tuesdays, Wisemen Wednesdays and Myrrh’s Day Thursdays.

(Christmas newsflash: If you were thinking about picking up some Christmas myrrh for the infant who has everything, word to the wise — a report in this month’s Bethlehem Journal of Medicine reveals that myrrh may be hazardous to your health.)

Confession: Yes, I am old and cynical. And yes, some years I can be kind of a grinch. But I love Christmastime here in Market Square.

The downtown illuminated — decked out in red and green. Pine boughs and bells. Brick walkways bustling with bundled shoppers bearing bundles of gifts — puffy clouds of white breath whispering from their lips.

Hey, the trolley just rolled through the Square with costumed characters caroling “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

We know the forecast calls for snow (but only the decorative, fluffy kind; not the heavy, nasty stuff that makes cars crash and people throw out their backs).

And while it’s true that the commercialization can get a little out of hand, veteran Christmas players know the holiday is plenty big enough to love both bargains and Jesus.

Experts say the economic impact of the holiday season — when combined with the estimated spiritual impact — can reach as high as elevendy trillion.

(Christmas newsflash: Due to ongoing U.S. economic difficulties, Republicans in the House are proposing that we sequester the so-called “Twelve Days of Christmas” down to six or seven. Nine ladies dancing and 10 lords a-leaping could not be reached for comment.)

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

When you are blessed, as I am, to come from a loving family that has run a downtown children’s store since 1978 A.D., the Thanksgiving meal is followed by another time-honored ritual.

In the old days, when we lived up in York, Maine, once the dishes were cleared and the belt buckles adjusted, my mom would drive down to Portsmouth to create a magical window display for Christmas.

One year, decades back, she even convinced me to don a red suit and hat with fluffy white trim, boots and beard, to play the role of a certain holiday icon (a pillow strapped to my midsection to simulate jovial girth).

I recall feeling awkward, shy and more than a little bit cynical in my rented Santa suit. But the moment that a small boy climbed into my lap and whispered in my ear, I melted like a San Diego snowman.

Ah, tradition.

(Christmas newsflash: The celebration reportedly dates all the way back to 1883 when someone named either Kris Kringle or Saint Nicholas started carting presents all over the world, allegedly hauled by flying reindeer in an enchanted sleigh.)

This year, the storefront window tradition spanned new generations, as my mom was joined by her daughter and granddaughters in creating an eye-catching yuletide scene.

There is Santa playing carols on a baby grand piano, accompanied by an elf wailing on the sax. And there are two baby penguins frolicking in the snow as a pair of friendly bears watch from a cotton igloo that houses their mini-tree trimmed with a pretty paper chain, and a top-hatted snowman spins slowly on a silver pedestal.

All that’s needed now is a small boy — a little fellow, eyes wide in a wool hat, puffy parka and one mitten — to press his nose up against the glass and imagine.

So yeah, I guess I get little nostalgic around Christmastime. Simple things. Heart-warming images. Love and family. A 40-foot tree sprouted outside my window this week …

— John Breneman


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