Henny Hemlock, the Talking Christmas Tree
Unbeknownst to most people, Santa Claus had a small, but very close family. His Aunt Edna (on his mother’s side) loved Christmas as much as Santa himself.
Aunt Edna would be the first at the North Pole to decorate her Christmas Tree for the holiday. Whenever anyone would visit her, they would bring an ornament or a light for her tree. Soon, the tree became so big that Aunt Edna couldn’t keep it any longer. She gave it to her nephew, Santa Claus.
Santa, his reindeer and all of the elves moved the huge tree adorned with every kind of ornament and light one could imagine to Toyland. One of the elves felt sorry for the cold and shivering tree so he placed an extra-large Santa hat on its top to keep it warm. “Thank you”, said the tree. “My name is Henny — Henny Hemlock”.
Everyone was astonished. The magic of the Santa hat gave the 50 year old tree the gift of gab. “You see”, Henny explained. “Any tree can speak at the age of 50 with a little bit of magic”.
Santa knew that this tree was something very special. Many years later he brought the tree to Overly’s Country Christmas® for all to see and hear.
One day, Henny stopped talking. His pine limbs drooped. His lights dimmed and his ornaments appeared dull and tarnished. With much prodding, Henny finally whispered: “I am so sad. I miss my family at the North Pole”. A single tear fell to the ground and Henny went silent.
The folks at Overly’s pleaded with Santa for help. Henny delighted children of all ages for many years in Christmas Village. What would become of Overly’s Country Christmas® if Henny never spoke again?
Henny’s Favorite Jokes
The Legend of the Christmas Donkey
In February 2018, we lost our beloved Ditto He had been a part of our holiday manger for 22 years. Out of the pain of losing Ditto came healing in the form of Edgar, a rescue donkey, who came to join our Overly’s Family for the 2019 Season.
Each Christmas, these two endearing souls have provided us with the joy of innocence, putting smiles on our faces in the midst of holiday bustle. They’ve undoubtedly been the life-blood of our Overly’s Family, but more than that, their story runs deep. It’s a story not limited to Ditto or Edgar. It’s a story of what they are, of how important their role in Christianity has come to be known. They are a part of us, and part of a grander legend.
THE LEGEND OF THE DONKEY’S CROSS
A poor farmer near Jerusalem owned a donkey far too small to do much work at all. He felt that he couldn’t afford to feed a worthless animal like this, one that could do him no good whatsoever, so at the supper table he told his family that he was going to kill the donkey.
His children, who loved the little donkey, begged him to sell it rather than harm it. But the farmer said, “It’s wrong to sell an animal that can’t do a good day’s work.”
Then his oldest daughter suggested, “Father, tie the donkey to a tree on the road to town, and say whoever wants it may take it for nothing.” And the next morning, that’s what the farmer did.
Soon, two men approached and asked if they could have the donkey. “It can carry almost nothing,” the farmer warned them.
“Jesus of Nazareth has need of it,” replied one of the men. The farmer couldn’t imagine what a great teacher would want with such a worthless donkey, but he handed it over.
The men took the animal to Jesus, who stroked the grateful donkey’s face and then mounted it and rode away. So it was on the day we call Palm Sunday, Jesus led his followers into the city of Jerusalem riding on the back of a small, common donkey.
The donkey so loved his gentle master that he later followed him to Calvary. Grief-stricken by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but couldn’t leave. It was then that the shadow of the cross fell upon the shoulders and back of the donkey, and there it stayed. All donkeys have borne the sign of the cross on their backs since that very day.
(Posted with the author’s permission, Sue Weaver, The Donkey Companion, Storey Publishing, 2008.)
Lights and ‘Lectric
- For years, white lights were the signature of Overly’s Country Christmas®. Colored lights were used sparingly, for accent only. In 2013, LEDs were introduced and the use of more colored lights could be seen throughout Christmas Village. Each year since, 8 -13 new LED displays are added, designed by Overly’s and fabricated locally from steel melted and manufactured in the USA.
- The average home uses 11,000 kilowatt hours per year. During Overly’s operating season, the Walkway Castle and Canopy of Lights, before the conversion to LEDs in 2018, could light 21 homes for a year. Henny Hemlock, the Talking Christmas Tree, could light 15 homes for a year. Overall, the display draws enough electricity to light a small community of homes with every single light and electrical appliance turned on at the same time.
- The electricity used during our season could turn on 150,000 100 watt light bulbs – all at the same time.
- Christmas Village and the light display features roughly 1 million+ lights. If all the strands of lights were put end-to-end, it would stretch to Mars! (That’s Mars, PA).
- Over 4 miles of audio cable are put down each year to connect all the speakers to a central sound system.
- It takes up to 45 volunteers on some nights to run the display and Christmas Village.
- Overly’s Country Christmas® has more than 300 volunteers committed throughout the year to carry on the tradition Harry Overly created more than half a century ago.
- Every display viewed at Overly’s Country Christmas® is conceived, designed and constructed on site, usually by volunteers. Art clubs, school groups and individuals contribute their ideas and talent each year.
- 7,595 feet (that’s over 1.5 miles) of fencing guide visitors through the lights and around Christmas Village. This fence, which is one of the simplest displays at Overly’s Country Christmas®, is the most time consuming to erect. The fence was rebuilt in 2011 by volunteers from the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, Local 354 and has more than 16,000 LED lights.
- 65 bows and swags surround the display. These bows were initially built by the students at the Central Westmoreland Vo-Tech School and are illuminated with 6,600 C7 bulbs.
- The gigantic snowman was designed and fabricated in 2014 by the American Welders Society Student Chapter at the Westmoreland County Community College Technology Center. It is 21.5 feet high and weighs 1,100 pounds. The students completed their Snowman Project concept in 2015 with the creation of the Snowman Family, two additional gigantic metal sculptures — Mrs. Snowman and Junior. 2016, the students designed and fabricated, the Overly’s Express which was showcased at various events throughout Westmoreland County during the summer. This unique collaboration continues with plans to expand the metal sculpture garden in 2019.
- Galliker’s Milking Parlor. One of our favorites. Each year Galliker’s Dairy transforms the Westmoreland Fair’s milking barn into a magical place. Look closely — sometimes, the lights get mystically changed where the lighted “milk” flows into the cows rather than in to the milk jug.
In Christmas Village
- For 22 years, Ditto, a highly opinionated donkey, was the star of the Overly’s Country Christmas® manger. Sadly, February 2018, Ditto died. The community, knowing we had lost our beloved Ditto, called to tell us of a shy little donkey who had been left behind when his owners moved to Florida. Without hesitation, we hooked into a livestock trailer and went to rescue Edgar. We hope you will welcome Edgar and love him as much as we do in his role to carry on Ditto’s legacy and the role of the donkey at the manger.
Each night, a cord or more of wood is burnt at our fire. Our bonfire serves as the heart of our Christmas Village and is a gathering place of friends and family to sip hot chocolate or roast marshmallows, sing along with the Christmas carols and reminisce of Christmas’ past. A cord of wood is a stack 8’ x 4’ x 4’.
Mr. Waterheater Lends a Hand to Make Santa’s Dream Come True
One summer day, far away at the North Pole, Santa looked down with delight. He saw children playing in sandboxes, swinging on swings and climbing on play-sets, stretching their imaginations to be whatever they wanted. Santa smiled and wondered why kids couldn’t do the same thing in the winter. “We need a Winter Fun-derland”, Santa shouted with glee!
Santa visited his friend, Henny Hemlock and asked for his advice. Henny told Santa he should go visit Mr. Waterheater because he might have a solution and was always willing to help.
You see…many, many years ago, water heaters were packed on wooden pallets. Mr. Waterheater saved those pallets because he thought one day he could recycle them into something useful.
That day arrived when Santa went to visit Mr. Waterheater. Santa was more than happy to see his collection of pallets that could be turned into wooden play sets for the children. His heart melted with the thought of creating a Winter Fun-derland and watching it come to life.
Santa returned to the North Pole and discussed the project with the elves. They were delighted to build something for the kids, so that they had a winter playground.
Late one night in September, Santa loaded all the elves into his sleigh and brought them here to Christmas Village to build wooden winter play sets. It was a delightful evening. The sound of wood being cut, the hammering of nails and elves singing could be heard for miles. When they were finished, Santa was overjoyed by the play area; he even let the elves play for a while before heading back to the North Pole. Then, before boarding the sleigh, Santa shook Mr. Waterheater’s hand and thanked him for all the help, they together named the play area — The Mr. Waterheater Winter “FUN”-derland.