Ask anybody – I’m about as holly jolly as the next guy when the Christmas season rolls around each year. I have to admit, however, that some holiday observances make me a little nervous.
Only last week I was motoring blissfully into the rustic mountain community of Paradise for a visit with my ex-wife and full-time kids when I encountered a large sign advertising a local church’s “Drive-Through Nativity.”
Well, I thought, that’s about as 21st century as you can get. And festive, too.
The more I pondered the roadside announcement, though, the more worrisome the entire drive-through concept became.
Sure, I’ve seen live nativity scenes, Southwestern nativity scenes and even a nativity scene surrounded by a gaggle of grinning blue Smurfs. Variety, is after all, the spice of life and I don’t think the holy family has a whole lot of concern about minor creative alterations in what is generally perceived as the traditional manger setting of roughly 2,000 years ago.
The drive-through concept, however, makes me just a tad bit skittish. After all, Paradise is located in the heart of Butte County where, it’s rumored, the average motorist maintains a blood alcohol level of .30 as a matter of personal pride.
Inviting anybody in Butte County to drive through anything is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It’s just plain risky.
At the very least, befuddled drivers stopping to order fast food are going to bring to a crawl drive-through nativity traffic.
(“Hey! Hey, Joseph – yeah, I’m talkin’ to YOU. I said TWO cheezyburgers and an order of crispo fries. And, uh, supersize that. Whattsamatter with you people? C’mon, I’m late for a turkey shoot…”)
Then there will be those motorists who simply assume that they have to drive through the nativity scene to get to Oroville. Or Nimshew…
As my son has warned me many times, “People up here, when they drive, are usually pretty confused. It may be an altitude thing, but everybody seems kind of dizzy.”
Paradise, I should point out, is also the unofficial harmonic convergence site for a benevolent organization of California history buffs collectively known as E Clampus Vitus.
Members of this freewheeling fraternity – commonly known as “Clampers” – have devoted themselves to identifying and preserving sites of historical significance within the Golden State. They also have been known to conduct impromptu mule races and run each other up municipal flag poles.
Two Clampers constitute a parade. Three Clampers constitute a regiment. Four Clampers and a mule are normally classified as an international incident.
Now picture, if you will, an entire community of enthusiastic Clampers with time on their hands and a drive-through nativity scene just around the corner.
Yes, as much as I’d like to spend Christmas in Paradise again this year, maybe I’ll just ship the kids’ presents parcel post and catch up with the family around, er, Easter…
Originally published December 9, 2001