An Old Fashioned Christmas

The BC Clark jingle rings through every store and car speaker as the temperature drops and the holiday season blows into Oklahoma. In Edmond, more than 80,000 residents start to prepare their families for the joyous season. Even though it’s one of the state’s largest cities, Edmond’s small town charm and historic roots become evident as local storefronts are decked with festive lights and holiday cheer. Residents and family members who call the city home for the holidays partake in citywide traditions that have been around for more than three decades.

Christmas settingSimilar to the first Christmas celebrated in Edmond that included a Mass held at the Catholic Church led by Father Scallon and a Christmas program conducted at the schoolhouse, social gatherings are at the heart of the Edmond traditions. Nearly every church will be hosting their own holiday celebration—children’s plays, prayer services, and Mass ceremonies celebrating the birth of Christ. But, Christmas cheer isn’t limited to the church walls.

Ever since the mid to late ‘70s, families have gathered to hear local elementary students stand at the microphone in the middle of Shannon Miller Park and shout their essays to the crowd, proudly sharing their winning Christmas stories for the annual Mayor’s essay contest and tree lighting.

“It’s fun to see so many cute kids in the park filled with holiday spirit,” says Mayor Charles Lamb. “I was selected in 2011 to be the Mayor, and I was able to bring my grandkids into the city’s celebrations. Kids are the first to get in the holiday spirit.”

The celebrations aren’t just important for the youth, adults get really into them, too. “We used to just do the essay contest and Mayor’s tree lighting, and decorate the old amphitheater,” said Gary Johnson, Edmond Park Maintenance Supervisor. But the tradition quickly grew at the desire of Edmond employees and residents. “After the library and Shannon Miller Park were renovated in 2000, the parks department staff decided they wanted to do bigger and better things for the community on their own. We added lights to all the trees in the park,” said Johnson. “The trees were small and we used old-style twinkle lights. It has grown a lot in the past 14 years, and with the use of LED lights that use less power, we can have more lights while using the same amount of power.”

“For years, my favorite part of the ceremony was the way we did it,” said Johnson. The children help count down to the annual Christmas tree lighting. 3, 2, 1… the park is set aglow as the lights are turned on. “The park would be totally dark and we would kick all the lights on at the same time.”

Antique Christmas CardThe park has such a draw from the community that the lighting and decorations have expanded. “Now we light the park after Thanksgiving to give people a longer time to enjoy the lights. In the past five to six years, we have been adding larger displays, not just shrubs or trees. We try to get one or two new displays every year,” said Johnson about the park’s light displays.

Part of what makes the tradition so special is that all the lighting and stringing work is done completely by the parks’ employees, rather than contracted workers. “We all just love it. We have a two-man crew that takes care of our maintenance repair for the city. This is just something that they’ve really sunk their teeth into. They really enjoy hearing the comments and seeing the pictures of people enjoying it. They get a hoot out of it,” said Johnson. It’s not easy work, either. “It takes about 3 weeks to get all the lights placed, but they enjoy the results.”

For Johnson, it’s more than a work tradition. He’s been able to share his joy with family, too, “I will go by at least a couple of times a year and look at the park lit up. My wife and I go by together, too. I’ve been with the city for 32 years and going to an event in the park isn’t something I’d normally do because I’ve done it for so many years. But, I always make time to go to the lighting ceremony.”

The city of Edmond has worked to promote the true magic of the holidays with traditions that resonate with workers, residents and visitors alike. Among other events occurring throughout the city, you can find local shops open, ready to help find the perfect Christmas gift. Community organizations and associations provide a little extra magic through carriage rides and photos with Santa. For those that help make the magic possible, it’s more than just job, it’s a tradition that they look forward to each year.

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