By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
What has become a Christmas tradition for many started in 1984 when the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix in Carthage lit up its “Way of Salvation” for the first time.
The display on the congregation’s campus at Fairview and Grand avenues grew over the years, as have the crowds it attracts.
The campus was settled in the mid-1970s by CMC priests and brothers from Vietnam. They started the display as an appreciation to residents for welcoming them to the area.
The real goal, said Father Dominic Nguyen, “is to give people the meaning of Christmas — that Christ came to save us.”
The “Way of Salvation” features tens of thousands of lights that depict the Nativity and other events leading up to the birth of Christ, as well as numerous Old Testament scenes such as David slaying Goliath and Jonah being swallowed by the large fish.
At one point the crowds were so large the city of Carthage had to provide traffic control, said Lt. Bill Barksdale, of the Carthage Police Department.
“It stretched for blocks; we had our Civil Defense people come in and help,” he said.
His family is among those devoted to the display.
“It’s a family tradition; we go through it every Thanksgiving night, and we have since our kids were little,” Barksdale said.
The same is true for Wendi Douglas, now executive director of the Carthage Convention and Visitors Bureau. She said she and her family have been visiting the display since her daughter Alyce, now 16, was only a year old.
“Now we have a 2-year-old. I wanted to take her this year, and Alyce wouldn’t let us until she could go, too,” she said. “We’ve gone maybe three times already.”
Driving through the display takes about 15 minutes, and those visiting can enter from Fairview Avenue east of Grand, said Father Dominic. Hours of operation are 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, from Thanksgiving to Dec. 25.
The congregation has cut back on the days of operation because of the cost of electricity. It’s also a bigger challenge to erect each year because there are fewer brothers on the CMC campus, said Father Dominic, “and there’s always something that needs to be fixed.”
Admission to the display is free, but donations are accepted.
A light tunnel and other parts of the display suffered some damage from an ice storm several years ago. Most of it is back in place, “but we did shorten it a little,” he said.
On the radio: Christmas songs that became popular during the 1980s included covers of classics such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Bruce Springsteen, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by U2 and “Santa Baby” by Madonna. Some of the originals of the period include “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” written by Bob Geldof and performed by Band Aid, and “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg.
At the toy store: Many of the toys that were popular during the 1980s, including My Little Pony, Rubik’s Cube and Transformers, are still around today.