By Darlene Hawley – It’s December and the holidays are fast approaching. We all have traditions that make the holiday special. Many of our special traditions are part of our childhood and the childhoods of our parents and their parents before them. We carry on the traditions and pass them on to our children. All of the early settlers and immigrants who came to this country long ago seeking freedom and a new life, brought with them the customs and traditions of the country they came from. As the years passed in this melting pot of a nation, traditions and customs were shared among the people until today we have a mixture of traditions from many of the European, Middle Eastern, Asian, Mexico and other countries.
We have St. Nicholas, Father Christmas and Santa Claus among the many names for a jolly old man who brings presents to children. We have the fir tree from Germany which was decorated with fruit, flowers, candy, candles and colored paper. Mistletoe, which was long ago used by druid priests in winter celebrations and by ancient Celtics for healing purposes, was also used by the Scandinavian countries to decorate for the holidays. They believed that those who kissed under the mistletoe would receive happiness and good luck throughout the year. Holly was placed over the door of a home to drive away evil. The poinsettia plant came from Mexico and the candy cane from Europe. Stockings have long been hung from the fireplace where they wait to be filled with toys and goodies. Special holiday foods and treats, that are often only prepared once a year, fill our tables to overflowing and are enjoyed by family and friends, young and old.
Many of these traditions and customs from all around the world have been woven into the celebration of the holidays by the people of our community. One of the favorite events remembered by long time residents of Wayne was Santa Land. In the 1950’s and 60’s Santa Land was sponsored by all of the local service clubs in Wayne and was located in downtown Wayne in the park next to the Methodist Church. (At times it was set up behind the old city hall on Sims Street in what is now Goudy Park.) Santa Land opened a few weeks before Christmas and consisted of displays, cut out characters, small buildings and houses and even an igloo. Santa Claus arrived in a Christmas Parade and children would line up to visit him and make a request for Christmas presents. (The parade was made up of floats from area clubs, businesses, organizations, churches and school bands.) One building housed small farm animals and one had displays from local businesses with goods you could purchase. Some booths sold food and hot chocolate. Santa Land was open in the afternoon and evening during the week and all day Saturday. The fire department ran the generator to power the flood lights and Christmas lights so people could enjoy the festivities. The whole town turned out for this celebration. At the end of the first week in January, Santa Land was taken down and stored at Wayne’s DPW. In 1966 the DPW building caught fire and Santa Land was destroyed.
The City and many groups in Wayne including the Rotary Club continued the Christmas Parade in our community. It included floats, community groups, school bands, civic leaders and of course Santa Claus. Families lined the streets to watch the celebration and children joyfully gathered up candy passed out by those in the parade. Hot chocolate was served to all and often the State Wayne (Phoenix) theater was opened for families to enjoy a free Christmas movie after the parade.(This parade has not been held for several years but is greatly missed.)
One tradition that has been going on for years in Wayne is the tree lighting ceremony in front of our Historical Museum. With the help of the Wayne Historical Society, the Main Street Organization, Wayne Rotary, the City, and many local businesses and organizations, a wonderful kickoff of the holiday season takes place in early December. This year the “Christmas Tree Lighting and Night at the Museum” was held Saturday, December 2, from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. After the tree lighting there was music, caroling, a petting farm, pony rides, crafts, cookies, hot chocolate, gifts, tours of the museum and of course Santa Claus who arrives with a small parade of people. Children visited Santa inside the museum where they asked for a special toy or present. Everyone enjoyed the new displays and artifacts in the museum that tell the history of our community. Many people worked very hard to plan and fund this wonderful event for the people of our community.
Also, be sure to notice our light poles that line the main streets of Wayne and display our holiday banners and proclaim the Holiday Season. As you prepare for the holidays, take a moment to think about your family traditions and how much they add to the joy of the season. It’s a great time to enjoy the traditions of our community too. Happy Holidays to you and yours!!