Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Chronicles: Caroling on the Strip

The children have gone caroling many times Christmases past: in Omaha and Denver and on the Western Slope of Colorado, on street corners -- downtown areas and suburban -- in retirement homes, living rooms, church halls, you name it...  But they've never sung in a place like Las Vegas.  Much less on the infamous "Strip.' 
This Christmas, though, on the evening of Christ's birthday, the children took Jesus to the
bustling crowds in the shadow of the casinos and bars and shopping malls under the neon lights. It was their idea and we were all so happy to do it, we left in a flurry of powdered sugar and tinsel, ready with Ave Maria, What Child Is This, and Alma.  But, well...  It's a funny and sad thing about Vegas (if not totally unexpected): Jesus was literally nowhere to be found -- at least not where we could see.  Signs of Christmas, even in a secular sense were scant.    We know there were certainly some good people sharing the evening air with us there on the Las Vegas Strip -- but we had, nevertheless,  the peculiar feeling that we alone carried Jesus with us. We weren't sure anyone else even remembered what day it was. Christmas was almost nowhere to be found.

One exception was the Bellagio which attracts an extra share of tourism every year with its amazing display of Christmas sculptures -- all made of live plants! Very cool, indeed!  In the palatial central courtyard of the Bellagio, larger-than-life-sized reindeer leap through the air and a candy cottage made of flowers nestles in a sea of white and red variegated poinsettias; white carnation polar bears romp within a sugar cookie's throw of Prada, Gucci, Tiffany's, and Dior -- all beneath a ginormous brightly lit, scarlet poinsettia Christmas tree that we all (us and a bazillion others, shoulder to shoulder) filed past to the melody of piped-in music, just loud enough to hear over the crowd.  Carol of the Bells and Jolly Ole St. Nicholas are the tunes I remember.  

But there were no angel displays at the Bellagio, no Creche, no Silent Night.  And, on the whole Strip, the only other nod to the season we saw was a Christmas tree display in one lone store window on Las Vegas Blvd.  Not a one to be seen in the Miracle Mile Mall, not one in the public squares, not one in any of  the casinos we passed.

Thousands of people milled about the Strip on Christmas night -- hurrying, hurrying, hurrying.  Everyone in such a rush.  No telling where they were all going.  Maybe they weren't going anywhere at all -- but they were sure trying to get there with no time to spare.  Every once in a while, the crowds would pause for a
moment: to watch the fountain show at the Bellagio, for instance, or to form sidewalk-blocking circles around the ever-present bucksters.  Chewbacca drew a good number of camera toting tourists, as did the Minions nearby; the floating Jedi warrior woman near the Bellagio fountains drew a good-sized curiosity crowd, and everyone had to slow down at the bottlenecks on the pedestrian bridges and at the stop lights along the way.  (Stop or be squashed flat by a taxi!)  But almost no one stopped to hear our stalwart carolers.  They didn't even slow down.

No one, that is, except one inebriated, sad, old man who sat down to listen to the children sing and couldn't get back up.  He slurred something about how important religion is, then needed us to help him up, and wanted us to pray with him.  (We did, and sent him on his way with $5 and his promise to get food with it.)

But then of course, there were also the angels who always accompany Christmas Carolers.   They were there, praising and honoring the Christ Child Who walked with us because we were singing His Name and loving Him on His birthday.  
It may be that the Christmas carols the children brought to Las Vegas this Christmas tripped no memories, warmed no hearts, and pricked no consciences...  Or maybe they did.  Who knows, right?
But, one thing we do know.  We all went home that night with sore feet and warm hearts, filled with the joy of Christmas, and glad we'd gone.  We went home on the air of angels' wings.

A very different kind of Christmas, but a very good one!

In front of the Bellagio Fountains December 25, 2013
L-R: Dan's parents Dan and Sharon, Michelle, Theresa, Dan, Anna, Dominic, Kevin, and Cathy

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