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The magi return Richard Pena | Sat, Dec 01 2012 12:00 PM

In driving around the Pinery, Bonita’s Christmas Tree Farm, I noticed that the Halloween pumpkins had been replaced by dozens of Christmas trees, ready for sale.  A few days before I had been in one of Chula Vista’s eating establishments and noted that workers were putting the finishing touches on a twenty foot high pine, the central part of a Christmas decoration.  On top of that the television news featured hordes of shoppers at downtown stores, on a day dubbed Black Friday.  There was no denying it.  The 2012 Christmas Season was upon us.

Of all the special days set aside in the present day calendar there are none that have as many symbols as Christmas.  From the decorated evergreen tree to the many Santa Clauses, and in between, the signs of the season are many, one just as important as the other.  We thus, associate such mundane objects as snowflakes, mistletoe, holly, music and other traditional items as part of the season.  Many of the objects that we revere are of a religious nature.  And of these the items are those of choice.  You either sing “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night.”  It is up to the individual or unit.

As I have stated in past years my associations with the Christmas symbols are as many and as varied as one could have.  There is nothing about the season that I do not like.  It seems that I can associate most Christmas items with some occurrence in my life.  Some are pleasant.  Some not.  I recall, for example, the Christmas of 1943.  I was on a ship in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  The nearest thing we had to Christmas was a broken recording of Deanna Durbin singing Shubert’s “Ave Maria.”  We would set the record player needle just short of the broken part of the record and we had, at least, part of the recording.

I suppose that of all the Christmas symbols that we look up to the story of the Magi, or Three Kings if one prefers, is one of the most noted.  We bring this up because very shortly the Bonita Museum will, once more, display their vast collection of the Magi.  Back in the Christmas of 1994 a group of us got together with the late Dr. Harris Teller and started a museum tradition that is highly anticipated.  On that first time we had a collection of 200 sets.  Today they number more than 800.

Teller’s collection had a sort of a story-book beginning.  It was 1952.  We were in the midst of the Korean War.  Teller was a hospital corpsman on board a ship that was in Pusan Harbor.  There is nothing worse than being away from home at Christmas time, thought Teller.  And being sick at that time compounds the hurt.  So Teller thought he would decorate the sick bay in some kind of Christmas fashion.  He went ashore and in one of the small stores found a crèche set.  This, coupled with a small Christmas tree brightened up the compartment and for a few days made life a bit more bearable for some sick sailors.

Teller had a long and successful career as a teacher/psychologist with the Sweetwater School District.  He, however, never neglected his fixation with the Magi.  In the years that followed he collected sets that were of an expensive nature and others that had been hand made by children.  The exhibit at the museum this year will be its eighteenth time.  There will be a reception sometime before Christmas.  We will announce it in a later column.

By the way, some years ago, I found a copy of the Ave Maria by Deanna Durbin.  This one was not broken and I could hear the entire selection.  It, somehow, was not the same.

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