Church will host Old Christmas

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 4, 2009

Following the hustle and bustle of Christmas, there’s the quiet, peaceful time that is known as Old Christmas.

On that day, so long ago, the Wise Men finally arrived to worship the Christ Child.

American pioneers celebrated Old Christmas by the children shouting “Christmas gift!” and gleefully accepting an orange or piece of stick candy in return.

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Old Christmas is not a widespread celebration, as such, in America today. However, the tradition has become a part of the Christmas “story” in Pike County.

Each year at 6:30 p.m. on Old Christmas Day, Jan. 6, Brundidge United Methodist Church hosts an Old Christmas Service of Scriptures and Songs at historic Clay Hill Church. The service is non-denominational and everyone is invited.

The lantern-light service features special music played on acoustical instruments and sung by some of the favorite vocalists in the area and congregational singing of the familiar carols of Christmas.

Don Renfroe has participated in the Old Christmas service for nine years as a member of the congregation and as one of the Wise Men. His daughter and son-in-law Donna and Chad Copeland have played the roles of Mary and Joseph and four of his grandchildren have been the Baby Jesus.

“I believe that Max was the first live Baby Jesus that we had,” Renfroe said. “Participating as characters in the Christmas story has been special for our family.”

Old Christmas is especially meaningful to Renfroe because of the timing of the service and its simplicity.

“Old Christmas is tradition and it comes at a quiet time, after all the fanfare,” he said. “It’s old-fashioned and it’s nostalgic in that it makes me think of folks back a long time ago and what they went through to worship. It’s a Christmas celebration without the commercialization.

“I enjoy seeing the people from all areas of the community come together to celebrate Christmas the way it used to be celebrated and it gives me such a good feeling. It’s definitely spiritually uplifting.”

Betty Carter has attended all 12 of the Old Christmas services except one. She has a deep love for the old church.

“My mother and father went to Clay Hill Church for a long time and I can remember going there as a child,” she said. “It’s a very special place for me and for many others whose families worshiped there and for those whose families are buried there. And it’s special for all of those that come to Old Christmas. There’s just something about it.”

Carter said the she, too, is inspired by the simplicity of the service and the quaintness of the church.

“It’s like going to church used to be and it’s so beautiful,” she said. “The church is decorated with pine and cedar and berries and lighted by lanterns. The music is wonderful and hearing the Christmas story again reminds us what Christmas is really all about.”

Everyone is invited to Old Christmas at Clay Hill Church located between Banks and Brundidge just off Highway 93.

Turn on County Road 4408 and the church is about a half mile across the railroad track.