After dark on Town Square, the Saturday before Christmas

After dark on Town Square, the Saturday before Christmas

There are towns all across South Texas who go more all-out for Christmas than Luna City; illuminations, parades, evening street parties, complete with snow-making machinery and live music, craft markets set up in the central town square, pageants and posadas, with Joseph and Mary on a donkey walking through town looking for shelter… Luna City does a little of that. Usually the parade of Santa arriving is on the last Saturday before Christmas Day, although what with the development of inexpensive mini-light strings, nets and icicle lights, the city management has taken a lead in illuminating the trees in Town Square, beginning the first weekend in December. Volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce, fraternal organizations and the Scout troop assist in running and securing dozens of extension cords from the electrical main in the storeroom underneath the bandstand, and wrapping the tree trunks and branches with strings of white mini-lights. There are lights ornamenting the dome roof, columns and railings of the bandstand as well. Most of the businesses lining the Square also put up lights, along with decorated trees and wreaths.

Martin Abernathy emerges from his apartment over the hardware store last thing at 10 PM (when the evening news ends) with the bandstand storeroom keys and turns off the lights. Keeping the square lit up throughout every night in December would place a considerable burden on the city budget. Besides; the Abernathys, the Steins, and a handful of other Lunaites live upstairs from their businesses, and who wants all that light pouring into your bedroom windows at night? It’s the courteous thing to do. So, the lights go off at 10 PM; peaceful moonlight and the lights from the four old-fashioned street lamps fall undisturbed on the sleeping town. Still, almost everyone enjoys the seasonal lighting which transforms Town Square into a fairytale land of sparkling trees. The oldest residents even grudgingly acknowledge that modern technology has wrought some improvement to the Christmastime appearance of the square… back in their day, it was just a string or two of colored lights around the ground-floor store windows and they were grateful for it!

On that Saturday before Christmas, organizations such as the ladies’ auxiliaries of various churches set up booth between the trees. They are selling handicrafts, raffling a quilt or two, or homemade baked goods. A couple of food trucks from Karnesville and as far as San Antonio set up on the side opposite from the Café, and Andy Pryor’s family brings their enormous portable BBQ in time for a lunch crowd. The Grants are always there, with their free-range eggs, honey and goat-milk soaps. In the last couple of years, they have taken to bringing some of their younger goats, as a sort of impromptu petting zoo. By noon, all vehicle traffic is stopped from going into the square. One of the fraternal organizations has a very elaborate miniature train made from 55-gallon drums, powered by the engine out of an old industrial mower. A couple of drums and some bits of creatively cut galvanized roofing made the locomotive. The cars are made from single drums, with a generous oval cut from one side, and then the other mounted on a set of wheels. The train goes trundling around the square, usually with a full load of excited toddlers and small children.

As darkness falls, the activity increases. The kids from the Luna High School chorus perform, standing in the steps of the bandstand; they perform a brief program of traditional carols for about half an hour, followed by elements of the Mighty Moth Marching band – not marching, and usually playing the same set of carols. No one minds very much. People walk around the square, admiring the lights and visiting with friends. A number of the businesses remain open into the early evening, offering hospitality; plates of Christmas cookies and stollen, slices of fruitcake, and hot drinks to all. The Abernathys have hot chocolate, and the Steins began offering mulled wine a few years ago which proved enormously popular. Hot spiced apple cider is also very popular. The café, as always, has hot coffee.

At about eight in the evening, Santa Claus arrives; sometimes on the back of the Luna City Volunteer Fire Department’s old hook and ladder truck – which was replaced decades ago and relegated to the historical society’s car barn. The VFD members have usually set up a throne for Santa under the domed roof of the bandstand, and for the next hour and a half, children line up (the smaller ones holding on to their parents’ hands) to tell Santa what they want for Christmas. Santa – white-bearded and clad in a long red robe rather like the traditional Germanic Santa – curiously sounds like Doc Wyler. For most – especially the children – this is the height of the season, only matched by unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. And when the last child has confided their Christmas wishes, and taken away, yawning and confidently expecting those wishes to be granted within days, Lunaites gradually disperse to their homes. The Café closes, the Steins and the Abernathys close and lock their doors, although when the square is finally deserted, Martin goes across the Square with the bandstand storeroom key to turn off the lights.

And that is a very merry Luna Christmas.

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