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Roswell Christmas traditions offer taste of yesteryear

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Petting and feeding the animals are two popular reasons families visit the “Season of Bethlehem” each year. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

A few Christmas adventures still await for people willing to brave the colder night temperatures to take in some lights, some fellowship and some nostalgia.

“A Season of Bethlehem” wants to remind people about the reason why Christmas began from a Christian perspective.

“It all has the Christ aspect to it,” said Maureen McGinn, who has created the attraction at her property, the Gospel Village, at 2603 S. Eisenhower Road off of East Brasher Road.

“You know, Christmas is about the birth of Christ,” she said “and it got so commercialized that I thought, by gosh, we needed to tell the story about Christ.”

About 250 to 300 people typically come each year to the free attraction to pet and feed sheep, baby calves and a donkey, watch a video about the birth of Christ, sip on hot chocolate or hot wassail and munch on refreshments, and visit “New Mexico’s largest advent wreath,” which features giant candles about 15-feet high.

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There’s also a 27-piece lighted nativity scene, music and large display boards with messages about Christianity.

A secret also is in store for visitors that McGinn, who has been preparing for “A Season in Bethlehem” for three months, wants people to be surprised by.

The event started Friday and continues through Dec. 23, with the attraction open 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. A special veterans’ day is planned for Monday, with the night’s activities to include a candlelight vigil for former and current soldiers.

All activities occur outdoors, so McGinn tells people to bundle up warmly.

“When it gets really wintery, we don’t get very many people,” she said. “I think 135 people one year was the fewest we ever had.”

McGinn said her ultimate goal is to create a year-round, family-oriented amusement park to educate people about Christianity while entertaining them as well. That remains a project for the future, as she focuses now on the annual Christmas event and holds the occasional summer Bluegrass musical presentation or other event at the site.

Another local Christmas tradition with a taste of past years is the Wagon of Lights, now in its seventh year, which benefits the Roswell Mid-Day Lions Club.

The event is the sole fundraiser for the organization, and the $7,000 to $8,000 raised annually funds the group’s efforts to pay for eye exams and eyeglasses for youth in the community.

Often donors will reserve an entire wagon ride for a special group of kids, such as youth with the Boy Scouts, the Assurance Home or the Boys and Girls Club, said one of the organizers, Dr. Leandro Gutierrez.

He and Shelley Law, who handles scheduling, say that seats were left as of press time for tonight’s rides. Two rides are scheduled for 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and 12 to 14 seats were available on each ride on Thursday. More information is available on the Mid-Day Lions’ Facebook page.

“If they can’t get tickets this year, they will know for next year,” Law said.

The night starts with guests sitting around a fire at the S.P. Yates Scouting Center on North Aspen Avenue drinking hot cocoa as they wait for the horse-drawn wagon to arrive, said Gutierrez, president of the Mid-Day Lions Club.

Once on the wagon, the group sings carols and shares stories.

Those planning to attend are advised to dress warmly and, if possible, bring blankets.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310.