A White Christmas In Hanford

Dec 5, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Community, Pat Browning

by Pat Browning

One of our editors, Pat Browning, wanted to share with KRL readers a story she wrote in 2004 about a Christmas in Hanford. Since we have no movie reviews this week, seemed like the perfect time to share a bit more Christmas!

Christmas Day, 2004: That white stuff is ground fog, not snow. But this is Christmas Day, so the town was pretty much closed down anyway.

This World War I cannon, a reminder of the "war to end all wars," sits in front of the Veterans Memorial Building in Hanford, California, wrapped in dense fog on Christmas morning.

There are interesting Christmas stories in the papers, both print and online.

From the war in Iraq:
An online Washington Post headline: Fear Dims Christmas Eve in Baghdad. Steel barricades are up at the Virgin Mary Church of Palestine. Iraq’s 800,000 Christians have lived peacefully among Muslims for centuries, but now they are afraid to come to church. Ah, Babylon …

From World War I:
The Post also has an interesting story on the Christmas Truce of 1914, when British, French, Belgian and German soldiers came out of their trenches to sing, exchange food and tobacco, play soccer, bury their dead. Cultural historian Modris Eksteins is quoted as calling it “the last expression of that 19th-century world of manners and morals, where the opponent was a gentleman.”

From World War II:
In The Hanford Sentinel, local businessman and Sentinel columnist Bob Case tells the special stories of two local people.

One, now a retired teacher, was in the first wave of Marines to hit the beach at Guadalcanal in 1942. He spent Christmas Eve in a jungle hospital, under blackout conditions. But after the patients had sung carols, the C.O. allowed them to light one match for just a moment as they sang “Silent Night.”

In the second story, a local woman recalls Christmas Eve 1943, when a Hanford church group went to a nearby POW camp to sing carols to Germans who had been captured in North Africa. After the church group finished singing, there was momentary silence behind the barbed wire fence, and then the sound of 400 German prisoners of war singing “Silent Night” in the original language … “Stille Nacht! Hiel’ge Nacht! Alles schlaft … ”

Small, bright lights in the darkest of times.

Pat Browning spent many years in the Valley working at various newspapers. Also a mystery writer, and contributor to our Mysteryrat’s Maze mystery section, and on the editorial staff, you can visit her blog.

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