The prelude to Christmas in this historic small Virginia foxhunting and racehorse town near Washington, D.C. has been a panorama of exciting visual and musical events.
First we had the local joint masters of the hunt -- Jeffrey Blue and Penny Denegre -- on horseback in red jacket, surrounded by others in hunting regalia, and their lovely athletic pack of beagle hounds leading the Christmas parade down Middleburg´s main street. It was a breathtaking picture shot and published by Dee Dee Hubbard, editor of Middleburg Eccentric, a feisty local tabloid.
Then there was the traditional annual Christmas concert at Middleburg's historic Emmanuel Episcopal Church, led by concertmaster Wendy Oesterling, with the area's most gifted voices and musicians joining together with pieces from Handel's Messiah and other favorites.
The Middleburg Players, one of the country's best and renowned amateur troupes, had their Christmas party at restored Buchanan Hall in Upperville, 10 miles west of Middleburg up John Singleton Mosby Highway, where Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and Santa Claus regaled a packed audience with Christmas songs and witty banter.
As all of us this time of year with Christmas looming, I´m wrapping presents, listening to traditional Christmas music, sending out Chrissy cards, making chicken soup, mince pies, Christmas pudding, and loving kitchen smells preparing treats that family and friends will enjoy on December 25.
Middleburg is the town where President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy rented Glen Ora Farm to get away from the Nation´s Capital an hour away by car so Mrs. Kennedy could ride and go hunting in the nation's premiere foxhunting community -- which People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) folks don´t mention in their trampling of people´s rights to hunt for sport.
It´s ironic that Elaine Broadhead, daughter of Mrs. Raymond Tartiere, who rented Glen Ora Farm to JFK and Jackie in 1961, has used the farm she inherited from her parents over the past several years to host a guerilla warfare training center for the Ruckus Society folks who show up at all the World Bank meetings everywhere to stage violent demonstrations and protests against free enterprise and economic capitalism.
The Ruckus folks are intolerant of free enterprise and business generally, even though their wine-sipping leftist sponsors and supporters (such as Elaine Broadhead) are rich and live in luxury because of free enterprise and capitalist business success.
So we have first-hand evidence in this small colonial community formed before the Revolutionary War -- over-populated by deer who get pranged by cars on all our roads at huge expense to insurance companies because of stupid governmental hunting restrictions -- that people eat their own while the fox goes to ground and escapes the hounds as deer have taken over our meadows because hunters with rifles are not allowed hunt.
Despite a few ideological zealots, Middleburg is a most friendly, lovely town, where I grew up after parents moved from England 50 years ago, and it remains a horse-centered community where people train their animals and Olympic-oriented riders train and prepare to ride the circuit that ultimately leads to selection for the U.S. Equestrian Team and competition at the Olympic Games.
So as we lead up to Christmas in historic Middleburg, must visits are to the Fun Shop -- that´s its name -- started by Nancy Allen 50 years ago, where one finds a huge assortment of gift cards, china, crystal, every classy product imaginable, lovely clothes -- even stuff to clean silver. (Howard Allen, Nancy's professional photographer husband, took some of the best pictures of JFK and family and Jackie riding around Middleburg) -- and to Penelope Wisdom's Gallery on Madison Street, around the corner from Linda Tripp's Christmas Sleigh near the stop light on the main road through town, called Washington Street.
At the corner, in the old Middleburg Bank Building, is an organic butchery owned by Sandy Lerner, clever and environmentally-committed gazillionaire founder of Cisco Systems, who raises organic beef, pigs and vegetables at her nearby Ayeshire Farm and also runs the Hunter's Head Inn in nearby Upperville -- the closest thing we have to a real British pub with great brews, shepherd's pie, bubble-and-squeak, and steak-and-kidney pudding.
I found wonderful horsey and religious Christmas cards at the Fun Shop and Wisdom Gallery. Then to the local Post Office next to the Fun Shop to get stamps. They were out of Madonna and Child stamps for a few days, so I had to settle for snowflakes. Norris Beavers, the wonderful Middleburg postmaster, quickly got more Madonna and Child stamps to meet the huge demand for religiously-oriented Christmas postage.
Religious faith believers have been victims of intolerant attacks on religiosity and Christmas by the leftist American Civil Liberties Union (how´s that for a name opposite of what they do to deny civil liberties); People for the American Way (huh?); and the Rev. Barry Lynn´s Americans for Separation of Church and State -- which really work to separate religion from everything possible and attack people of faith in a most intolerant way.
Ben Stein, highly successful entrepreneur and broadcaster -- son of the late chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford -- recently wrote in his "Today´s World" column a marvelous piece that ripped the secularist anti-Christmas parade:
"Herewith at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart: I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important?
"I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's wife.
"Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are.
"If this is what it means to be no longer young, it's not so bad.
"Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.
"It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
"I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that "America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution, and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.
"Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?
"I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.
"But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.
"In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.
"Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this Happen?" (regarding Katrina).
"Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.
"And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"
"In light of recent events -- terrorists attack, school shootings, etc., I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said okay.
"Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school . The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said okay.
"Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.
"Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
"Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "We reap what we sew."
"Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.
"Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.
"Funny how you can send "jokes" through email and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.
"Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
"Are you laughing?
"Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.
"Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.
"Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it. No one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in."
God bless Ben Stein. Happy Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all.