The Christmas season is a special time of year for Newport. Decorations and lights adorn the city from Downtown Front Street to north of Highway 367. Everything from the light posts framing Malcolm Avenue to the back yards of the residents with lake front property, everywhere is a reminder of this special time of year and the traditional symbols held dear.  
    Newport Lake is one place decorated for Christmas each year and has been for decades. The newest area, across from Lockwood Park, the side by the Farmer’s Market Pavilion, has a new snowflake arch this year constructed as a Christmas welcome to community members. Alongside the arches, is the large Christmas tree, decorated with numerous strings of lights. Ornaments grace the tree and even larger versions surround the bottom. What is the holiday significance of the Christmas tree? According to legend, the use of the evergreen began in the Middle Ages. It was said that when Christ was born in the dead of winter, every tree throughout the world miraculously shook off its ice and snow and produced new shoots of green. Some complain that the symbol of the evergreen distracted people from the true evergreen tree, Jesus Christ. This did not stop many churches from setting up Christmas trees inside the sanctuary. Alongside the tree often stood wooden "pyramids"—stacks of shelves bearing candles, sometimes one for each family member. Eventually these pyramids of candles were placed on the tree, the ancestors of our modern Christmas tree lights and ornaments.
    What is a Christmas tree without the idea of gifts? Gifts are associated with Santa Claus. The original St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra (in modern-day Turkey), became famous for giving gifts to poor children. Nicholas's fame lived long after his death, because he was associated with many miracles, and reverence for him continues to this day independent of his Santa Claus connection. By about 1200, he became known as a patron of children and magical gift bringer because of two great stories from his life.
    During the early Middle Ages, Christmas gifts most often took the form of tributes paid to monarchs—although a few rulers used the holiday season as an opportunity to give to the poor or to the church. In the English-speaking world, the union of gifts, trees, and Christmas was due to the influence of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. The custom of Christmas trees spread widely after Victoria and Albert set up an elaborate tree for their children at Windsor Castle in 1841. At this point, Christmas presents were usually hung on the tree itself.
     Keeping watch on Front Street is a legion of beautiful Nutcrackers. The Nutcrackers keep watch near individual light posts, which are wrapped with lights and a red bow. According to German folklore, nutcrackers were given as keepsakes to bring good luck to families and protect the home. The legend says that a nutcracker represents power and strength and serves like a trusty watch dog guarding the family from evil spirits and danger. Writers, composers and artists sang and danced the praises of the legend of the Nutcracker beginning with the novel “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice,” written sometime between 1776 and 1822, by E.T. Amadeus Hoffman. This novel became the basis for Tchaikovsky’s magnificent “Nutcracker Suite”, which debuted as a ballet in St. Petersburg in 1892 and lives on as a holiday tradition throughout the world.
    The Jackson County Courthouse spends many hours placing the decorations on the lawn for the Christmas season. Gracing the courthouse entrance are a large snowman and Santa Claus. The snowman decoration grew in popularity by Queen Victoria. She loved cheery syncretic celebrations: the mixture of Yule, the Winter Solstice, North European cold winters, and Christmas produced, amongst other glittery party accessories, the cult of snow at Christmas. The most famous snowman is ‘Frosty’. Ironically, the snowman is devoid of religious symbolism, culturally uncontroversial, and universally accessible as winter decorations.  They are inoffensive to any belief system, or lack of it. Anyone can make a Snowman, as long as there is snow.  Snowmen are ageless, and undefined in terms of ethnicity and gender.
    Make time to cruise the streets and highways of Newport to enjoy the decorations and lights of Christmas!