Light and magic of Christmas

Sierra Jo Stan plays a trumpet solo during the Blair High School Christmas concert in the Blair high school auditorium

Sierra Jo Stan plays a trumpet solo during the Blair High School Christmas concert in the Blair high school auditorium

The following is a column that I wrote for the December 24 Pilot-Tribune.  I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

Every fine photographer that I know has a passion for light – it is the essence of photography.   And many of my fondest memories are about the light, magic and mystery of Christmas.  By magic, I mean the Oxford Dictionary description of a quality that makes something seem removed from everyday life, especially in a way that gives delight.  I know that Christ is the “reason for the season,” but there is also a primordial urge to look for and celebrate the mystery and magic of light at this darkest time of year.

Some of my earliest Christmas memories are about the mystery and magic of my grandpa’s house.  It was a huge old house – at least through the eyes of a three or four year old. It reminded me of Scrooge’s house in an old black and white version of A Christmas Carol that ran late at night on television.  In the winter, grandpa’s house was generally dark beyond the living room because he lived alone.  The stairs creaked, and walls in the hallways were covered with pictures of strange looking people I didn’t know, or who were only vaguely familiar to me. These halls and rooms were haunted.  People who were no longer present once occupied the bedrooms. An old 48 star flag hanging on the wall, seemingly old pictures of my dad and uncles in uniform, and fringed silk cushions with embroidered emblems were mementos of a war that had a profound effect on my family.

But at Christmas, all of this changed. A huge Christmas tree covered in tinsel filled the parlor, and the lights sparkled.  I played with my cousins, and like the Bing Crosby song, we built a Toyland around the Christmas tree. The vacant rooms were filled with people, conversation and laughter. There was magic in this event called Christmas.

Like every kid, I grew up hearing about this magical Santa and dreamed about what he would leave my brother and me on Christmas night.  Looking back, I remember the anticipation and being with family much more than the actual gifts.   While growing up I always enjoyed the nativity scenes and the stories of the star and shepherds who watched their flocks by night, and the wise men traveling from afar.  It is this rich texture – the mystery and magic and awe that makes this a season like no other.

Somewhere I heard the comment, “The past is a wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” And I agree.  While I have great memories of the past, my job as photographer is to capture the images of Christmas present.  This special season begins for me with the Sugar Plum festival. The streets and shops in downtown Blair were filled with people and the scene was like a Christmas card- in fact I used the image on my Christmas card.

Another highlight of the season is beautiful music, and I always enjoy the many concerts, and fine performances by the Blair community band and choir, as well as the school music programs. I always look forward to photographing the animated expressions and gestures of the kindergarten and first graders performing at Washington County Bank, and the approving smiles of family and friends gathered in the lobby.

Another fast growing community tradition is Christmas in Calhoun. I particularly enjoyed the live nativity with community members and families singing Christmas carols, and the music and dancing at the community center that followed.

Of course at the heart of all of these events are the people. And one of the joys of my job is sharing these events and moments with the many great people whom I have met in our communities – many who have become friends.  Like the drummer boy in that traditional Christmas carol, my gift is what I do.  I enjoy doing my part to capture and share these holiday moments with you in the newspaper and on the web. It is my pleasure.  And I wish you all a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.

Note: Please check back for additions to the photo gallery.

Fort Calhoun residents gather for a live nativity scene in Market Square.

Fort Calhoun residents gather for a live nativity scene in Market Square.

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