- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Red, green and gold normally reign supreme as the prime colors of Christmas. This year they have steep competition from red, white and blue, as people continue to show their patriotism well into the holiday season.
In neighborhoods all over the District and elsewhere, red, white and blue lights illuminate trees and bushes in front yards. The flags that have been adorning facades and windows of homes and cars since the September 11 terrorist attacks are staying.
In fact, America previously has never been Christmastime or not decorated with as much red, white and blue as now, says David Shayt, museum specialist at the National Museum of American History.
"This is unprecedented in sheer volume and intensity," Mr. Shayt says.
John Burke, 78, a World War II veteran and his wife Carolyn Burke, who live in Richmond, say they can't remember anything like the current display of patriotism back in the early and mid-1940s when the United States was at war during World War II.
"We didn't have any of it that I can recall," says Mr. Burke, who grew up in Northwest. "People just went about their business. They were committed to do anything they could to get the war over with But the commitment was not shown in decorations."
Wartime shortages may be a reason why the District was not more elaborately decorated with patriotic lights and ornaments during World War II. Also, there were often blackouts at night for security reasons, says Mr. Burke.
"This is the first time I see such a rallying behind the flag," he says. "And I like it."
But decorating with the American flag is not a new concept. For more than 100 years, people have used large flags as Christmas decorations, draping them or other patriotic symbols such as the Liberty Bell in garlands, Mr. Shayt says. That way the flag remained a centerpiece as opposed to being used in small ornaments to decorate a Christmas tree.
The miniature flag made out of paper to hang on a tree is a fairly recent concept, Mr. Shayt says.
"Some of it is a function of consumer interest in the flag," he says.

This season, consumer interest in patriotic Christmas ornaments and lights has been so intense, that some local stores are selling out.
"We have sold out of the ornaments that have the flag on them," says Jimmie Johnson, store manager at Wal-Mart in Clinton. But as of mid-December the store still had red, white and blue lights as well as fabrics that people can use to create their own ornaments, Mr. Johnson says.
While not giving out specific sales figures, Susanne Decker, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, headquartered in Bentonville, Ark., says the patriotic decorations are "selling very well" and "better than last year."
"It seems customers are really wanting to show their support at this time," Mrs. Decker says.
At Target, the patriotic Christmas ornament status was much the same as Wal-Mart's in mid-December.
"We have a few more [kinds of] patriotic decorations than we had last year and the red, white and blue lights and balls that we normally have, are selling better this year," says Doug Kline, spokesman for Target, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn.
At Made in America, a store at Union Station that is devoted to patriotic gift items, Christmas decorations comprise about 10 percent of the merchandise.
"One of our best-selling ornaments is the pewter wreath with the American flag in the middle," says Linda Gross, store manager at Made in America. On the back of the ornament it says "I love my country."
Another best seller is the official White House ornament, which portrays a horse carriage with a driver and passengers in red, white and blue against a White House backdrop.
Other patriotic decorations include star- and heart-shaped ceramic ornaments, painted with the stars and stripes of the flag, and cinnamon-scented, red, white and blue cloth-ornaments shaped like hearts and trees.
"One lady came in and bought 15 of the hearts," says Ms. Gross, as she points to the ceramic hearts.
"Overall the patriotic ornaments are moving excellently," Ms. Gross says. In fact, if it weren't for the patriotic Christmas ornaments, sales overall would be down compared to the same period last year since sales slowed considerably after September 11.
Many houses in Northwest, as is true in so many other neighborhoods, are adorned with regular American flags either as drapes or facade adornments. Chris Hughes, who owns restaurants in the District and Northern Virginia, has taken the concept one step further.
One day when he was out looking for patriotic Christmas decorations for his restaurants he found an American flag whose colors consisted of red, white and blue lights.
But instead of putting it in one of his restaurants as he had planned, he found a better place for it: his own roof.
"You can see it from a couple of blocks away," Mr. Hughes says. The flag, which is about 5 feet wide by 3 feet tall, has attracted a lot of attention in the neighborhood, and Mr. Hughes, who left Ireland for the United States 27 years ago, says he feels very proud.
"I love America and I want to show that," says Mr. Hughes with an accent that still carries traces of a brogue. "I hate what's been happening, but I guess the good thing that has come out of all this is that people are kinder toward each other. It's changed a lot of people."
In a neighborhood many miles away in Alexandria, Lloyd Thomas surprised his friend Dawn Overstreet by stringing 2,350 red, white and blue lights on her roof in the shape and pattern of a 40-foot wide and 15-foot tall American flag.
"People are blowing their horn and saying 'Go America' as they go by and that's a really good feeling," Mr. Thomas says.
He says the idea to make the "roof flag" came from Ms. Overstreet's 11-year old daughter, Justice.
"She just said, 'Let's do a flag,' and I thought it was a good idea," Mr. Thomas says.
The good idea took many hours to complete but was well worth the time, Mr. Thomas says. Ms. Overstreet liked it. And, Mr. Thomas muses, what better way to show strong feelings of patriotism than having a flag that people can see and enjoy from several blocks away, and maybe even from the sky?
"Why are we showing patriotism? I would say, to demonstrate that our way of life will continue. We are American and we will prevail. We will not let destruction win It's not in our spirit."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide