Area, residents ready for Christmas Scenes around region reflect traditional and familiar

December 24, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Tomorrow's the big day and Howard County is ready for Christmas.

There are scenes as exciting as a young child on Christmas morning, as vibrant as the leaves on a poinsettia plant, as heart-warming as the story of the Nativity itself.

Cecilia Kerr of Glenelg has come to one of the new shopping centers growing up along Route 175 on the outskirts of Columbia, big box stores that were dealing with their first Christmas.

Kerr, along with her husband John, was in Toys 'R' Us, to buy a final Christmas present for their 4-year-old granddaughter. This should be easy, Kerr told herself before coming to the gigantic toy store. She loves Barbies. We'll just get one of those and call it a day.

Soon Kerr finds herself facing six overflowing shelves of Barbies. They're everywhere. And no two are the same. Hula Hair Barbie, Jewel Hair Barbie, Dentist Barbie, Workin' Out Barbie. Even Ken looks different.

"Gosh, we've been away from toys for so long!" Kerr laughs. "What in the world has happened? We usually just use the checkbook at Christmastime.

"I think we might just go back to that," she says.

A few miles down Route 175, The Mall in Columbia, once the cutting edge of retailing, now seems like the traditional place to be.

Scaggsville resident Janet Washington has brought her 4-year-old daughter Michelle to the mall to have the girl's picture taken with Santa.

Mother and daughter stand patiently in the long, winding line leading to the Bearded One's chair.

It's the second time this year that Michelle has visited Santa and gotten her picture taken. Need to make sure that Santa gets to everything on her list.

Washington watches calmly from the sidelines as Michelle climbs into Santa's lap. The little girl smoothes her red velvet dress and flashes a shy smile to the man behind the big, black camera.

The scene seems so familiar that it's almost eerie, Washington says. "God, I remember when I was a little girl and my mom used to take me to the mall to get my picture taken with Santa," she recalls. "I loved it. It was one of the highlights of Christmas."

And what has become of those photos, taken almost 25 years ago?

"Oh, they're floating around somewhere in my parents' house," she says smiling. "I really should find them and give them to my daughter. I think she'd really like that a lot."

Husband stumped

The scene in the mall's lingerie store, Victoria's Secret, is one of barely contained chaos. Satin bras fly through the air. The table bearing silk floral panties lies in complete disarray. Employees stationed behind cash registers shift impatiently from foot to foot, some anxious for their dinner break.

In the corner of the shop stands Brian Moran of Columbia, who is staring intently at a red velvet bra.

"I'm trying to imagine my wife in this and I just can't see it," he says as he tilts his head to the side. "I mean, I can see her in it but I just can't figure out if it's the right size."

Moran puts down a package and starts to fiddle with the snaps on the back of the bra. Too complicated, he decides. On to the next store.

"I bet the bras at J. C. Penney are easier to figure out," he says.

Christmas seems easier to figure out on Ellicott City's Main Street. Every window is decorated with antique gifts. Restaurants offer seasonal fare. Candles shine in the windows of the historic buildings.

The historic street's ever-present charm seems magnified at this time of the year.

Wessel's Florist on Old Columbia Road practically tastes like Christmas. The air is thick with the smell of pine tree needles while red and white poinsettias and assorted seasonal floral arrangements assault the visual senses.

Somewhere overhead, a reedy Celtic flute plays Christmas carols. Beautiful, gold-toned topiary trees are swathed in ribbons and potted boxwood trees are being made for table centerpieces.

If Main Street seems far away from the hurly-burly of big box stores and the mall, it's not as far away as the Franciscan Friary in western Howard.

Nativity re-enacted

More than 250 people went there Sunday night. On this cold, black night, the friars re-enacted the nativity scene in the courtyard of their friary just as their founder, St. Francis of Assisi, had done in the tiny Italian village of Greccio centuries ago.

A young couple, dressed as Mary and Joseph, tended to their infant son, who was placed in a manger in a makeshift stable. A donkey and a couple of sheep, borrowed for the night from nearby farms, stood by as the friars and their congregants sang traditional hymns and read bible passages about the birth of Christ.

There were no speaking roles this night. A few robed men portraying shepherds and the three kings stepped into the stable to pay homage to the child.

Out of the crowd, a man spoke softly into the black night. "I feel like we're wrapped in a blanket of peace."

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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