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Tradition lights way for the Christ child
Christmas celebration is a neighborhood event
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For nearly 40 years, Kevin and Sam McAvoy have lugged Christmas with them as they trotted from Heidelberg, Germany, to Miami to El Paso, Texas, and finally to North Hall.

Kevin McAvoy, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has lived with his wife, Sam, on Shoreline Drive off Mount Vernon Road for 18 years. The couple is often responsible for igniting the Christmas spirit in the neighborhood, and Kevin McAvoy dresses as Santa on Christmas Eve - just as he has done for the past 39 years.

For four years now, Sam and Kevin prepare and set out 1,000 luminarias along their street. They enlist the help of neighbors, and what started out as a way to get the kids involved has become a family tradition.

"In 1969, I was a second lieutenant and the battalion commander wanted a volunteer to play Santa for the battalion's Christmas party," he said. "So 2nd Lt. Kevin McAvoy's arm shot up and said, ‘Yes sir, I'll handle that.' I've been Santa ever since, everywhere we've been."

Each year, Kevin McAvoy has donned the jolly red suit and black boots, climbed in the back of a truck his wife drives around the neighborhood - which has included communities in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Hebron, Conn., and Hampton, Va., - and tossed candy into the yards for the kids.

While stationed in Germany during the Christmas of 1986, Kevin McAvoy had the privilege of visiting 32 remote Army outposts in Northern Germany, traversing the skies in the passenger seat of a helicopter. He flew to all the outposts in two nights and three days, and visited more than 300 American children.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing," Kevin McEvoy said.

"He came home with laryngitis because he ho-hoed so much," Sam McEvoy said.

This year, the McAvoys have built a much more grounded wooden sleigh in their front yard, trimmed with lights and large enough to seat two adults.

Sam McAvoy said the group of neighborhood kids who volunteer to set up the luminarias are known as the "Loop Troops." They range in age from 11 to college age, and spent Christmas Eve lining both sides of Shoreline Drive and Herold Whelchel Road.

As the stillness of Christmas Eve sets in, neighbors light all 1,000 little candles at 6 p.m.

"The candles, when they're lit, it's an awesome drive around," Sam McEvoy said. "It's so serene. Everyone likes it, so we've done it for the past four years."

Sam Mcavoy said she and her husband learned of the Southwestern luminary tradition while living in El Paso, Texas.

"They're placed on the side of the roads to light the way for the Christ child," she said.

In addition to the Santa candy ride, Sam Mcavoy said they have also organized the luminaries in several communities over the years.

"It makes us happy, and it makes others happy," she said. "Christmas is a magic time. You just have to believe in the birth of Christ and Santa, too."

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