Questions of the Week – Readers ask about Christmas lights, water testing, decorations, elves and air guns

The following questions were asked recently by inquiring readers:


Q: What happened to the Christmas lights that used to run along the skyline of the downtown buildings in York?

A: Those were purchased by the Chamber of Commerce in 2012. A few years ago, it was determined it would be very costly to repair the lights as many were no longer working, thanks to weather and deterioration. Then subsequent hail storms wreaked havoc on the lights as well.


Q: My family recently purchased a property in the country and we now have our own well. Before, we were always on a municipal water system. How can we make sure our well water is safe and not high in nitrates? 

A: The Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District (NRD) offers testing services.

If your water comes from a private well, they recommend having it tested annually for nitrates and bacteria to make sure it is safe to consume.

You can bring in a water sample to the NRD office for free testing or request a simple at-home test by calling the office at (402)362-6601 or emailing


Q: When did the tradition start of having Christmas themes for decorations at the White House?

A: It was 1961 when First Lady Jackie Kennedy started the tradition of choosing themes for the White House Christmas decorations each year. In that years, she decorated the official tree with ornaments depicting characters from the Nutcracker Suite ballet.

Prior to that year, the White House Christmas decorations had consisted of simple Christmas trees covered in pounds of silver tinsel.

In 1966, Lady Bird Johnson had the White House Christmas tree decorated with popcorn strands. But the tree in 1967 had her ordering up colorful flowers and mutli-colored baubles which were popular at that time.

In 1969, the Nixons asked for their dogs to have their own Christmas tree – which they got. And in 1970, the Nixons went with all glass ornaments.

In 1974, Betty Ford went with ribbons and classic decorations for Christmas. In 1975, she chose paper chains and wooden ornaments.

In 1977, Rosalynn Carter only used ornaments made by members of the National Association of Disabled Citizens. And in 1978, she used antique toys loaned out by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum.

In 1982, Nancy Reagan chose to pair white lights with gold and angel ornaments.

In 1989, Barbara Bush decorated her first Christmas tree in the White house with different dolls from popular children’s books. And in 1991, she had the tree decorated with 1,200 needlepoint ornaments – three of which she herself made.

In 1993, Hillary Clinton had the tree decorated with what she called “a mix of classic and funky ornaments.” Her tree in 1994 was trimmed with decorations created by American artists and school children. Her theme in 1997 was “Santa’s Workshop.”

In 2003, Laura Bush paid homage to her mother-in-law with her Season of Stories theme, similarly decorating the tree with children’s storybook characters. It was a White Christmas in 2006 for Laura Bush as she had the tree decorated with red ribbons, silver ornaments and fake snow on the branches. The 2007 tree paid tribute to the country’s national parks with ornaments depicting America’s parks, memorials, seashores, historic sites and monuments.

In 2009, Michelle Obama made sure to have all LED lights and in 2011, the tree honored military families. The tree in 2015 was in red, white and blue to continue support for military families.

In 2017, Melania Trump’s theme was Time Honored Traditions and in 2018, the theme of American Treasurers included a hallway of red trees. The tree in 2020 was in the theme of America The Beautiful, featuring yellow bows and red ornaments.

In 2021, Jill Biden chose white doves featuring the names of each of the 50 states. And this year, the theme is “Magic, Wonder and Joy” with many decorations inspired by how “children experience the festive season.”


Q: It appears some neighbors got air rifles for Christmas and have been shooting them in their yard which is in the city of York. Is that legal?

A: It’s not legal to discharge any sort of firearm in the city limits of York, according to the municipal code.


Q: I get how Santa represents St. Nicklaus. My question is where did the tradition of Santa having elves come from?

A: Santa’s elves were first introduced in literature by Louisa May Alcott in 1856, according to numerous sources.

Then, it was made popular in a publication cover as the illustration in 1873 showed Santa surrounded by toys and elves in a workshop.

And in the 1800s, Santa himself was often referred to as an elf, including in the poem Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Then in 1932, a Disney animation short film called “Santa’s Workshop” featured Santa and his elves preparing for Christmas.


Q: I was so saddened to hear of the passing of Woody Ziegler. He was a great educator and was doing a really good job as a county commissioner. My question is what happens now regarding the open seat on the county board.

A: At some point, interested persons will be asked to send in their applications and then the applicants will be interviewed by the York County Treasurer, York County Clerk and York County Attorney who will choose the next person to fulfill that term, which will run through the end of 2024.




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