(The Panama Canal Review...December 7, 1951)

Christmas -anywhere- means music and lights and families together, and gifts and Christmas dinners. It means just the same things in the Canal Zone.

Last year Christmas activities were restricted because of the outbreak of polio. This year plans are under way all over the Isthmus for a rousing, holiday celebration.

This Christmas, for the first time in many years, a community chorus will make its appearance. This group of 80 men and women was organized under the direction of Neil Branstetter, Music Supervisor of the Canal Zone schools, late in October and has been holding regular practice sessions since the last week of October.

Known as the Canal Zone Junior Community Chorus, 80 per cent of the singers are under 26 years of age and many of them are former students in the Canal Zone schools.

On December 12 they will present the Christmas music from Handel's "Messiah" at the Balboa High School Library.


The Canal Zone's official Christmas tree is not a fir or spruce but the pyramidal pandanus tree near the Balboa railroad station. This will be decorated by the Electrical Division with the customary some 350 lights. The Hotel Tivoli's big Christmas tree will also be lighted again and decorations are planned for the facade of the Civil Affairs Building.

The locks are already working on their Christmas decoration plans, but the greeting card to be given to ships transiting during the holidays is still a deep secret.

Practically every church on the Canal Zone always has some sort of Christmas decoration and some sort of Christmas program. For many years the Scottish Rite Temple on Balboa Road had a string of floodlighted reindeer around its top, but this year the reindeer will move to the lawn on the Balboa side of the building.


The most elaborate community decoration is that provided annually by the 14 families living on "Santa Claus Lane," Balboa's Oleander Place. The reindeer which make their annual appearance there are being given a fresh coat of paint and some new decorations have been ordered to supplement the Santa Clauses, snow man and woman and the fireplace which are features of the Oleander Place decoration.

Working on the Oleander Place project are the families of D.M. Eggleston, W.F.Cunningham, Wesley Townsend, Earl Unruh, Mack Bailey, Robert H. McCoy, T.J. Wilber, Craig Neville, H.J. Zierten, Theodore Henter, Vendrize Foster, Richard Potter, Walter Hobby, and William Price.

And of course the Christmas celebration doesn't end with Christmas Day. There are always the neighborhood Christmas tree burnings that are held sometime after Twelth Night. Their origin is obscure - old-timers here, like A.C. Medinger, say there was nothing of the sort when they were growing up - but the burnings have been features of Isthmian life for at least 15 years.

Compiled by CZAngel

December 5, 1999

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