Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in Rio Grande Valley

We are now comfortably ensconced in McAllen, Texas.  It is located in the Rio Grande Valley, which encompasses the area from the white sand beaches of South Padre Island down to the Rio Grande River along the U.S.-Mexico border.  It also extends to the north ranch country of Texas.  Nine international bridges connect the Rio Grande Valley to Mexico.  The area has sub-tropical weather, since we have been here we have enjoyed some rather warm weather.  Christmas day was in the mid 80s.  The park we are in once use to be the location of a citrus grove.  There is a ruby red grapefruit tree next to our home and the park has a policy that we can pick whatever is on our lot.  Looks like we have a winter of good eating!
 A couple living on another street in the park have a lemon tree on their lot, they were generous and gave us a sack of them.  Blooming hibiscus, oleander and poinsettias also surround us here in the park.  And a delightful floral smell hit me the other day as I was biking through the park in a Christmas parade.  I discovered that it was an orchid tree which was filling the air with that wonderful smell.
The beauty of the blossom of the orchid tree is as exquisite as its smell!
I once lived in McAllen.  In fact, the school where I once attended school and where my father was a teacher, is still standing.  That period of time was in the early fifties, when the building was not only a school, but also St.Paul Lutheran Church.  It now belongs to the Baptist Church.
Shortly after we moved from the town the church built a more modern building in another section of the city. That building and a school is still active today.  On Christmas day John and I attended church there, along with my brother Wayne and his wife Mary Jo.  Wayne was confirmed at St.Paul’s church, he is a older than I and has stronger memories of our time in McAllen.
I mentioned the Christmas parade, which we had here in the park on the 24th.  I put a Santa hat on and joined other bikers as well as people in decorated gulf carts for a parade through the park.  That was a bit out of my comfort zone!  Something else unusual we did on that day was to attend a bilingual Christmas Eve service. The church, Our Savior Lutheran, has a ministry to the Hispanic community.  There were a few Hispanic families who attended the Christmas Eve service;  their children wandered around the sanctuary during the service.  My guess is that they do not attend services very often. The pastor, Steve Herzberg, had a wonderful object lesson for the children.  He discussed the legend of the candy cane.  That sugary treat is a reminder that Jesus is our shepherd- the red stripes remind us of his suffering and death.  The gift of the baby Jesus, which portents for us life everlasting, is certainly what Christmas is all about!
Christmas day evening we drove to a small town south of McAllen, Hilalgo, to see their Festival of Lights.  We walked around the main section of lights, which were around the city hall and library.  After finishing that, we took the 3 mile driving tour around different sections of the town.  It was quite an impressive display for a little town, and all free of charge.  Our Christmas was a bit unusual but still a good one.   We wish all our faithful readers a blessed holiday season!

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