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SEASON’S END: Old Christmas brings close to Christmas celebrations

Eric and Heather Minton and little Connors were Joseph and Mary and the Christ Child at the Old Christmas service at Clay Hill Church Friday night. The Wise Men were Eddie Powell, Chad Copeland and Lawrence Bowden. The Benton Brothers, Alex and Lee, Rev. Ed Shirley and Rev. Ron Jackson provided special music.

Eric and Heather Minton and little Connors were Joseph and Mary and the Christ Child at the Old Christmas service at Clay Hill Church Friday night. The Wise Men were Eddie Powell, Chad Copeland and Lawrence Bowden. The Benton Brothers, Alex and Lee, Rev. Ed Shirley and Rev. Ron Jackson provided special music.

Christmas came to a quiet and rather cold close on Old Christmas Day at historical Clay Hill Church Friday night. But the rain and cold temperature didn’t keep people always from the annual celebration of the Three Wise Men’s arrival to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.

Just how many years Brundidge United Methodist Church has hosted the annual celebration, no one is certain.

But Susan Renfroe knows for sure that it has been 16 years.

“Our oldest Copeland grandson, Max, who is now 16 years old, was the Baby Jesus at Old Christmas the year he was born,” Renfroe said. “His brother Marx and his sisters, Kaylee and Rylee, have all been the Baby Jesus. That has been special for us and I think it is for the parents of all children who have had the honor of being the Baby Jesus in this very meaningful Christmas celebration.”

Renfroe said Old Christmas at Clay Hill is a family tradition. Her husband, Don, has been a Wise Man several years and their daughter, Donna and son-in-law, Chad Copeland, have been Mary and Joseph four times.

“Chad has also been one of the Wise Men,” Renfroe said. “We look forward to Old Christmas because we enjoy the simplicity of the service. There’s no electricity, just oil lamps burning. The church is decorated with cedar and holly. We all sing Christmas carols. There’s no fluff to Old Christmas. It takes us back to what Christmas is all about.”

Renfroe said teacakes and cider and the fellowship of friends and neighbors is a special ending to the service and a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year.

Nellie Sue Helms said she would not want to miss the Old Christmas celebration.

“Ray and I started going to Old Christmas years ago,” she said. “Our church choir would sing the songs to match the Christmas story as it was read from the Gospel of Luke.”

Helms said cold nights don’t keep her away. The oil lamps and later, a kerosene heater, provide some warmth to the old country church, “but longjohns are recommended.”

“The beautiful candlelight service reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the World,” Helms said.

Lawrence Bowden has been a Wise Man at the Old Christmas celebration for “years.”

“It has been a pleasure for me to be a part of Old Christmas,” Bowden said. “The Christmas season does not end on December 25. It continues through the 12 Days of Christmas and comes to a close on January 6, Old Christmas Day.

“Friday night was cold and rainy but inside it was like all other Old Christmas celebrations – the stories and the songs are so meaningful. It’s a very moving service and I’m honored to be a part of it – always.”

Old Christmas at Clay Hill is held each year on January 6, Old Christmas Day. It is a non-denominational service and everyone is invited.