Hartwell, Ohio Christmas time --- 2018 --- a carriage with a dome of lights, the clip-clop of horse’s hooves on the street, Santa’s inside, waving and ho ho ho ing, children running to meet the lighted pumpkin…a bonfire burning, popcorn popping, the big tree lit as Christmas Carols are sung, luminarias bordering the church circle. This is the Hartwell neighborhood Christmas celebration.
The Hartwell churches sit in a circle --- an imitation of a village in France. That’s where we are, in that church circle, inside one of the churches, gathering for gaiety and marveling at the neighborhood children running around in perfect childhood liberation.
Inside the church are Christmas trees, gifts to raffle and bright red table cloths with tablescapes in greenery. The stage, musical instruments and sound amplifiers are positioned to enthrall us. There are homemade cookies and hot chocolate to nibble while we sing. The little kids have lined up for photos with Santa.
The recreation center’s children made gingerbread houses. We voted on the best one and moved on. The raffle stops in midstream when one of the winning team asks, “Does my team get a prize?…we worked hard on that gingerbread house. “ The audience, upon hearing the plea, began clapping in support of his question. He got a prize.
The church choirs, this year, are from the African American congregations. Their songs touch us and we become a community of music. We sway back and forth, clapping and singing as a tiny blond girl finds a playground in front of the choirs, runs in a perfect semicircle and smiles and skips and jumps.
Then the finale…the Liturgical Dancers from Unity Christian Church…young men and women in white masks and white gloves, interpreting and evoking the spirit from their songs. These young people, whom the world and we often demonize for their very being, sanctify, glorify and move the audience in new and cherished ways…we clap and sing and become joyous in seeing the promise of our neighborhood shine.
J. C. Robinson Hartwell, Cincinnati, Ohio
Our photographer captured these kids - of all ages- with Santa....