Chrismon tree to be lit Sunday for 40th year

Published 11:01 am Saturday, December 3, 2011

Milton Overby, from left, Cole Jarrett, Dee Drewry and Michael Jarrett haul the tree into Boykins United Methodist Church.

BOYKINS—A popular Boykins holiday tradition will be celebrated at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4.

Paul Edwards decorates the chrismon tree at Boykins United Methodist Church.

That’s when the chrismon tree at Boykins United Methodist Church will be lit. The one-hour ceremony before what’s normally a standing-room-only crowd, will include a cantata directed by Jean Drewry with choir members from Boykins, Barnes and Sedley United Methodist churches and Boykins Baptist Church. Afterwards a free meal will be served.

The tradition got its start in 1972, when the Woman’s Missionary Society for Boykins United Methodist Church held a bazaar, and with some of the proceeds purchased materials to make chrismons, said member Kitty Lassiter. A chrismon is one of a number of Christian symbols that represent aspects of the person, life or ministry of Jesus Christ and the life, ministry or history of the church through a single image, emblem or monogram.

That February, the likes of Lucy Drewry, Patience Britt, Kat White, Bert Ollie Schneider, Rosalyn Woodward, Mabel Draper, Jackie Clary, Claudia Hill, Ruby Fowler, Deaton Faucette and Madeline Barrett made chrismons, including a cross, crown, fish, star and more. Some were woven and some were made from Styrofoam with pearls and glitter, Lassiter said.

Others who donated chrismons over the years were Eleanor Barr, Melonie Johnson, Doris Ferguson, Tommy Herndon, Jean Bosch, Marie Sturdevant, Baptist Youth Group, Confirmation classes, Paul Edwards and Milton Overby.

The first chrismon tree — a 10-foot balsam fir — was lit that December, featuring 125 chrismons and 400 tiny lights, Lassiter said. In 1979, the late Cleo Edwards crocheted a white woolen tree skirts for the tree’s base, which is still used today.

As the tradition grew so did the tree. In the early years, Lassiter and her husband, Roy, would use their station wagon to get the tree. Today, it’s transported with Overby’s pickup.

The tallest tree over the years was 16 feet, said Edwards, who oversees the project. Using a 12-foot ladder, it normally takes 28 hours to decorate the tree with 7,000 lights. About 350 to 400 handmade chrismons are added.

“Each one has a meaning,” Drewry said.

In 1981, Shirley Connell and her late husband, Clayton, donated the tree. Connell has continued to do so for 30 years; she does it in memory of friends Mabel Draper and Jane Lassiter.

“I do it for selfish reasons,” Connell said. “It starts my season off and I just get so much out of looking at the tree. I’ve missed one (tree-lighting) in all the years.”