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Twelfth Night brings community together

By ELDON PITTS - For The Courier-Times

Several dozen residents braved the 15-degree weather Saturday night to attend the third annual Twelfth Night community celebration with a bonfire to burn more than 120 discarded Christmas trees. The event is hosted each year by the First Christian Church on Bundy Avenue.

In some branches of Christianity, the Twelfth Night festival begins the season of Epiphany, when the three wise men visited Bethlehem to deliver gifts to baby Jesus. It begins on Jan. 6 and marks the end of the Christmas season.

First Christian Church member John Miller said the church always wants to be active in the community. “This is not a church event, it’s a community event,” he said.

A call goes out a couple of weeks in advance asking residents to drop off their discarded Christmas trees at the church, Miller said.

Miller said he and George Caldwell, another church member, were next door neighbors in the ’50s and ’60s in New Castle.

“The neighborhood kids just went around town and got discarded Christmas trees,” Caldwell said. They would take the trees back to Miller’s house where his parents and other adults would pile them up in the back yard and burn them the night of Jan. 6 as the kids watched.

The adults would have an open house and serve hot chocolate, cookies and other refreshments.

Miller said Caldwell was instrumental in reviving the tradition three years ago and have it at the church. The community is invited to participate and watch the bonfire, either up close or inside the church watching through windows in a room where refreshments were being served.

The turnout usually is good, Miller said. “But we don’t get as big a community turnout as I would like. I’d like to have the high school band down here, the high school choir singing and maybe have the mayor here.”

Alecia Gross is pastor at the First Christian Church.

“It’s a community event to come together, celebrate the closing of the Christmas season,and enjoy the bonfire,” Gross said. “And it’s nice to have some hot cocoa together. I think it’s a great way to get everybody out, kind of break loose from the winter blahs and share a cup of joy.”

Gross welcomed participants to the annual Twelfth Night community celebration with a short prayer. “May this time of fellowship set the tone for our entire year,” she said.

The event also helps city employees out by not having to pick the trees up that have been left out by the side of the road, Gross said. “So it’s a win-win.”