Last week, I shared with you that the St. Louis Veterans Home has been under investigation following a series of complaints made by family members of veterans residing in the veterans home. Ultimately, an independent investigation revealed serious issues across a variety of areas. As a result, the governor launched full investigations into each of Missouri's other veterans homes, including Warrensburg. Since this announcement, there has been some concern regarding the potential for the veterans homes in the state to become privatized. This is very unlikely. All of the Missouri veterans home are regulated under federal law, not state law. Moreover, after speaking with the governor’s office, I’m confident they have no plans to pursue such a policy.
Also, this week the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted to not distribute $140 million in low-income housing tax credits during the current fiscal year. The commission’s vice chair, former Senator Jason Crowell, has long opposed the program and helped spearhead the effort. Governor Greitens also endorsed the zeroing of the program. This parted ways with Lt. Governor Mike Parson who stated that the move will leave rural Missouri without the ability to provide affordable housing for many residents. The commission also voted to apply for the similar federal program.
It is hard to believe, but Christmas is just around the corner and the year is nearing its end! In the spirit of Christmas, I would like to dedicate the rest of this report to a brief history lesson on the Christmas holiday. For a local Christmas record, see the last item under Quick Christmas Facts!
A Short History of Christmas
Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Of course, Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the commemoration of the birth of Jesus. Christmas customs include attending church, exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, sharing meals with family and friends and, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. Of course, today December 25 is a federal holiday.
In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the primary holiday, and believe it or not, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated! In the fourth century, Pope Julius I decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day that the three wise men completed their journey to find Jesus in the manger.
In the early 17th century, religious backlash changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. However, with the Stuart Restoration of Charles II, the Christmas celebration returned. The pilgrims, English separatists who came to America in 1620, were also very strict in their Puritan, and as a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early New England. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. In contrast, Captain John Smith of Jamestown reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident. However, after the American Revolution, another backlash occurred and English customs fell out of favor, including the celebration of Christmas.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.” a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status.
As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopal churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own and formed the holiday we know today. Christmas became a federal holiday in 1870.
QUICK CHRISTMAS FACTS
- Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
- The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith’s 1607 Jamestown settlement.
- Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green
plant from Mexico to America in 1828.
- The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.
- Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was the product of Robert L. May’s imagination in 1939. The copywriter
wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.
- Construction workers started the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition in 1931.
- KDRO host Charlie Thomas spearheaded the unveiling of the world’s largest Christmas stocking in Sedalia this week. It is 177 long, 72 feet wide, and weighs 820 pounds! I was too big to hang from a building so it was unveiled at the Fairgrounds in the Mathewson Exhibition Center. The stocking helped raise funds for the Community Santa campaign. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAf1qBfbUp4
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.