Whitney leaders share their holiday traditions

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

December 22, 2021

Brad Slaten, mayor of Whitney and pastor of King Memorial United Methodist Church, said nativity scenes have been a huge part of Christmas for him and his wife Amanda. In addition to the many crèches throughout their home, they have two illuminated nativity displays on the lawn. Rather than depicting Mary and Joseph gazing at the Christ Child while surrounded by shepherds and wise men, the pieces are found at various scenes around the yard. The shepherds will not be found at the stable, but “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” On Christmas Eve the Christ Child is added to the stable scene. That unto us is born “… in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Slaten said, “To our family, the story of God with us, Emmanuel, is not something that happened 2,000 years ago. It is a story that plays out in our lives and in our world every day. Our Christmas traditions are just one way that we acknowledge God’s presence.”

John McCullough, Whitney ISD superintendent, loves Christmas and says that this is his favorite time of the year. He grew up in a small town in northeast Texas, and every Christmas Eve his family would get together at his grandparents’ house for dinner.

McCullough said, “We would watch home movies, exchange gifts, and at 10:00 we would all watch the news because the weatherman would pull up his radar and show where Santa was, and then it was time to go home and go to bed and wait for Santa.”

Now on Christmas Eve, his family attends a candlelight service. After they leave the church, they drive around looking at Christmas lights. When they get home, they open up one gift, which is always Christmas pajamas, and they decorate Christmas cookies while watching “A Christmas Story.”

He said, “My favorite thing about Christmas is getting together with my family as we create new memories and celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

When Janice Sanders, executive director of Lake Whitney Chamber of Commerce, was a child, her family always put their tree up and decorated it with tinsel the day after Thanksgiving. Her dad would drag the process out for hours, insisting that they put one piece of tinsel on at a time. Janice said, “We hated it and loved it at the same time!”

Her mother made her family’s stockings when they were young, and Janice still hangs them 55 years later. Growing up, her stocking would be filled with apples, oranges, pecans, pennies and little candies that came with toothbrushes. She doesn’t remember many Santa gifts, but she does remember the year her brother got a BB gun, her sister got a puppy, her little sister got new boots and Janice got her favorite doll.

Janice said these days Christmas looks different for her because her children are all grown up with families of their own. Janice said, “Now, my husband and I dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and deliver presents to our good little girls and boys (our grandchildren). We travel from Covington, to Cleburne, over to New Mexico. We make a week’s vacation out of it now! We have so much fun!”

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