I just love going someplace I’ve never been and/or doing something I’ve never done before. This month has been a treat because I’ve attended three events for the first time that have not only been unique and enjoyable, but have given me a bit of the Christmas spirit as well.

In chronological order, the first was a “Pup Nuptials” event that took place at the Ridgway YMCA. As the name implies, it was a dog wedding between Cody, a rescue beagle mix, and Miss Pewps, a lovely Pomeranian. The whole affair was actually a fund raiser benefitting the Elk County Humane Society, as well as a promotion for the adoption of rescue animals, which can benefit both the animals and the humans involved.

The bride wore a tutu and sometimes a veil, if she didn’t pull it off, while the groom looked handsome in a black tux with a crisp white shirt. “Here Comes the Bride” was played as the two made their way to the black-robed “judge” who welcomed everyone with a short prayer before proceeding to read the vows. The couple promised to share their kibble and toys, be faithful to their owners, and keep their noses wet together, and were pronounced “Paw Pals” for life. They signified their agreement by wagging their tails.

Guests were asked to bring a donation that would benefit the Humane Society, but I wasn’t prepared for all the fancy gift bags and wrapped presents that were there when I arrived with my gift in a Walmart bag! I took the cat food and the stocking full of dog toys out of the bag and laid them anonymously among the other beautifully wrapped gifts. Thinking back, I guess it was a bit ironic that I showed up at a dog wedding with a bag of cat food!

The wedding reception featured a tier of cupcakes for a wedding cake, plus all kinds of snacks (human and animal varieties) and punch, in a room totally and beautifully coordinated in lavender and white, thanks to Cody’s mom, Alana Martin, and Mary Lynn Bellotti, director of the YMCA. What a delightful evening, and all for a good cause!

The next event I attended was a Bethlehem Walk that was held at the Paradise Community United Church of Christ in Reynoldsville. The time I spent being lost trying to find the church would prove to be well worth it. Shepherds sat around a fire pit and a donkey welcomed me as I approached the church.

The basement of the small church had been transformed to look like the streets of Bethlehem, and the town was very busy with all the extra people who had come because of the census. All of the shop keepers were dressed in homemade costumes of the time as they performed their tasks. One was grinding corn with a mortar and pestle. Children removed the dried kernels from the cobs to help with the process. There were innkeepers who told of how they had recently had to turn away a man and his pregnant wife because the inns were already full. There was a prisoner with bloodied bandages sitting in a cell from which he had recently attempted to escape, and had received a beating from the Roman guards for his efforts.

I stopped at another shop where a woman was selling short lengths of yard goods that had been dyed using the things on display such as carrots, onion skins, marigolds, roses, beets, and spinach. I moved on to meet the brown-robed baker where I sampled a wedge of the unleavened bread that had been drizzled with honey. Next I encountered a woman dressed in tattered clothing who held a tin cup. She sat near a sign that asked for alms for a poor blind widow, and I dropped a few coins in her cup. A potter sat nearby at a foot powered pottery wheel forming a bowl from reddish clay. A stone mason kept up a rhythmic pounding, chiseling away at a stone.

I then was escorted in hushed anticipation to the stable where Mary and Joseph sat with a very real baby. Joseph stood and held the baby and comforted him by jiggling and swaying from side to side, as parents have done since the beginning of time. Mary rested on a hay bale near a young calf that was determined to make a break for it. The sheep standing in the opposite corner occasionally made sheep noises so we wouldn’t forget he/she was here too. A heavenly choir of eight angels sang in beautiful harmony, and I relaxed in my seat and let the peace wash over me, until the calf escaped and created a small ruckus. One of the shepherds eventually corralled him and brought him back to the stable.

I was totally impressed with the effort and untold hours of work and planning done by the members of this small church to be able to host a presentation of this magnitude. No wonder they only do it every 2 years! I thoroughly enjoyed my walk through Bethlehem and the way it made the events of that holy night so real for me.

My last unique experience was a Madrigal Dinner at historic Lincoln Hall in Foxburg. The windows in the hall were grandly hung with magenta velour drapes and there were candelabras on each windowsill which were lit as the feast began. This dinner was patterned after feasts that took place in the Middle Ages in Ireland and other European countries, and featured beautiful music and Christmas hymns throughout the evening, performed by professional musicians wearing elaborate period costumes. A mighty trumpet announced the royal appearance of the King and Queen.

The festivities began with the parade of the boar’s head on a huge platter, surrounded by fruit and flowers and accompanied by the sounds of trumpet blasts and drum beats. The boar was the most dangerous and tastiest game that hunters hoped to capture. They couldn’t carry the whole boar because it was much too large, so they decorated just the head and paraded it around so everyone could admire it and the successful hunter who had killed it. Even though the head supposedly contained the most delicious part of the animal, I was relieved that it wasn’t on the menu that night! I enjoyed the hot wassail, shredded pork and chicken, potatoes, green beans, and bread pudding. No forks for all this, though, because they hadn’t been invented yet.

These three opportunities to experience new things really helped to make my Christmas season merry and bright. I hope that reading about them may have raised your spirits a bit too!

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