Christmas On the Water
By Jack Gamble | 12/19/2014
Something unusual caught my eye Saturday night on my drive back to Westlake from Lake Charles. Just off of Shell Beach drive, an extravagant scene was unfolding before me. The lake was littered with boats decorated like Christmas trees, and yes! They even had Santa! Having never seen such a display, I impulsively whipped my steering wheel around at the intersection to investigate further. In my hasty decision I barely avoided a head on collision with a well-lit, horse drawn buggy.
Driving slowly along Bord du Lac Drive I could see hordes of people gathered along the sea wall, so I found a parking space and preceded to the festivities. Approaching the crowd, I took in the many beautiful - often overlooked - sights our little city has to offer.
On any given night, the sea wall boasts a wide range of various attractions. From the alluring pillar style LED street lights, that alternate through all the colors of the visible spectrum; to the aforementioned horse-drawn buggies (equipped with environmentally friendly poop bags). One can't help but be intrigued. Mystery and romance dance in the air as family, friends, and couples - young and old - make their way towards the walkway. If Nicholas Sparks took an evening stroll down our charming sea wall, he'd write a box office hit about it. Tonight was different. Tonight was...special.
Millennium Park - the now flame-resistant playground - had been decorated like a Castle and was surrounded by several other festive structures. The Civic Center grounds, nestled between the historic downtown area and the lakefront, had all the enchantments of a storybook winter-wonderland (minus the snow of course), creating the perfect fairytale setting.
Hundreds of wonderful souls lined the sea wall, making the overcrowded railing anything but visible. Doe-eyed children perched upon their parents shoulders watching intently as the aquatic Christmas parade drifted by. The occupants threw beads, candy, and all sorts of Christmas cheer up-and-over the walls to their joyful audience.
The spirit of Christmas was amplified as carols rang out from the bow speakers of each passing boat. The crowd cheered on as a yacht, adorned with a towering 15-foot-tall inflatable Santa, drifted by. The grandiose display was too much to take in all at once; forcing me to take a step back, literally. My daughter had a Christmas play last week, and I couldn't shake the scenes (particularly the nativity) out of my head.
Christmas Controversy: a Romantic Comedy
I'm sure we are all familiar with the annual "War on Christmas", perpetuated by various media outlets across the country. Just like last year, and those before it; we are soon to be bombarded by a gaggle of talk shows, articles, and blogs with catchy titles like "Jesus Takes a Backseat to Mythology" telling us to remember the "true" meaning of Christmas. Some may even go so far as to assert that commercialism and consumerism are indicative of the sacrificial ideologies of Celtic, Greek, and Norse Paganism. There is, after all, countless historical texts relating the celebration of the Winter Solstice, and the Neo-Pagan observation of Saturnalia to modern day Christmas. Not to mention, a mötley crüe of esoteric pagan gods and daemons attributed as the original Santa, I.e., fertility gods interested in human and/or child sacrifice.
In my own research, I've found scholars (more than one) claiming that the story of the Catholic church's St Nicholas was superimposed onto the holiday in order to facilitate the conversion of Pagans to Christianity. The early church leaders even went so far as to designate the birth of Jesus into the equation to make it more Christian-friendly. Santa sounds great and all but, personally, I've always been a bit leery of philanthropists. Apparently, St Nicholas had a bit of a temper; he even punched a guy in the face at the First Council of Nicaea for disagreeing in the concept of the Trinity. Whether he was right or wrong, I tip my hat to his badass-ery.
Now, as for Christ? Regardless if you believe he was an ordinary man or God incarnate, there is immeasurable value in his scripture. His teachings of love, tolerance, and respect for human rights - in a time of savagery and barbarism - changed the perception of morality worldwide. In light of that, maybe we should all take the time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas: treating others the way you wish to be treated (Golden Rule); showing love, not contempt for your neighbors; giving willingly to those in need, and doing it on a personal level; harvesting all your crops so you don't die of starvation, etc. Have some compassion and a little empathy, for God's sake. If that means getting loaded on cheap whiskey and passing out in a puddle of your own vomit instead of spreading good will to all, I won't hold it against you. We’ve all been there.
The holidays can be rough sometimes...really rough. On an unrelated note, would it be a little too hip to give my kid frankincense and myrrh instead of that iPad she's been dreaming of? She probably wouldn't mind if I threw in some gold, but since we (US of A) left the gold standard in the thirties* that's not very likely. Thanks FDR.
All jokes and conspiracy theories aside, my first Christmas on the water was truly an event to remember. The atmosphere of yuletides and jubilance nourished the spirit. The city of Lake Charles displayed sincere altruism. It not only elevated the lakefront to its fullest potential, but utilized it in a manner keeping with the highest standards any community could ask for. I'm definitely looking forward to next year, and many more. God bless you and Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.
*the Gold Standard lingered slightly until the 70's, but then Nixon killed it...
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