The usual candles and greenery line the windows and doors at the First United Methodist Church of Thomson and many other churches in McDuffie County. The Christmas season always brings those kinds of decorations in most places.
First United Methodist Associate Pastor Brian Davis blows out a candle on the advent wreath.
But the seasonal decorations in houses of worship often differ from those found in the secular world. Santa, reindeer, snowmen and stockings rarely find their way into the church setting. What is present are symbols of Christ.
"We don't have Santa Claus," said George Freeman, pastor at FUMC. "We have Christian symbols: the Chrismon Tree, and the Advent Wreath ... so the emphasis is not on 'Jingle Bells' and 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and Santa Claus around the Church, it's on the coming of the Christ Child."
The Chrismon Tree, a common Christmas decoration for churches, is an evergreen tree that doesn't feature the normal ornaments. The word "Chrismon" is two words spliced together -- Christ and monogram.
The tree is filled with monograms or symbols of Christ such as the cross, a fish and the Greek letters Alpha and Omega. Most commonly these are white and gold in color.
"People notice that the ornaments on a Chrismon Tree are very different from what you typically see in people's homes," said FUMC Associate Pastor Brian Davis. "That can be fun because people wonder 'What does this mean?' And you can talk a little bit about the Christian faith from that."
Some Churches go all out to decorate for one of the biggest Christian celebrations of the year. Others are very reserved, not wanting to turn what they call a "Holy Day" in to a holiday.
"(The Chrismon Tree) focuses on Christ," said Springfield Baptist Pastor Frederick Favors. "But other than that we've been very conservative with the decorations, just the acknowledgement of the season and the Chrismon Tree. And that's essentially all we've done."
The Rev. Dr. Bobbie Fann talks about the real reason for the season in the pulpit at Springfield Baptist Chuch. The church is conservative in its decorating approach.
Jason B. Smith
Another common practice in churches is the Advent Wreath. Five candles are placed in a horizontal wreath, each symbolizing a piece of the Christmas story.
Candles represent Bethlehem, the prophets, the angels, the shepherds and Christ. Some have other symbolism for the candles such as peace, hope, preparation, joy and love. A candle is lit each of the four weeks prior to Christmas, and the center or Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
Despite the time and money spent one thing is certain, most churches shy away from what the world considers to be traditional Christmas decorations. That can present problems for some decorators.
"I was trying to find some mangers for my own house, but you can't find it in the stores because the secular decorations are up," said Federa Henderson, Pastor of Popular Springs Baptist Church. "We stay away from the reindeer and Santa Claus and all that kind of stuff. ... I've seen so many Santa Clauses, inflated ones everywhere. You don't see too many representations of what the season is all about."