It may seem to start a little earlier every year, and it may fatten our waistlines while it thins our wallets, but there really is no time more special than the holidays.
That is especially true here in the Commonwealth, where there is always something to do to get in the spirit of the season, from Christmas parades and concerts to numerous events at our churches, schools and state parks.
It is worth noting that some of our communities have truly taken this time of year to heart. You can find Christmas every day in Lawrence County, for example, and Henry County has Bethlehem. No matter the weather, Clinton County is never without Snow, and in Owsley County, couples can always find Mistletoe.
Many of the traditions we now take for granted weren’t always with us. In the country’s early years, for example, some families celebrated the holiday on January 6th, since that marked the anniversary of the feast held by the wise men of the Bible.
Christmas trees also weren’t common in Kentucky at first, and gifts were often modest. Guns and ammunition were among the most popular, which is a reason why the day was one of the busiest of the year for hunting.
Today, there are some unique holiday activities not found anywhere else. Louisville’s Mega Cavern has the only underground light show where visitors can actually drive their vehicle through, while the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington is now celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Southern Lights.
Since food has such an integral role during the holidays, it is worth noting that Kentucky plays a prominent role here, too. According to the Cabinet for Economic Development, food manufacturing contributes $5 billion to our economy, and is responsible for about 14 percent of our manufacturing workforce. No surrounding state has a higher percentage of workers in this industry, and we outpace the national average as well.
All told, there 150 food manufacturers and 56 others that produce non-alcoholic beverages. Some of the more well-known companies here range from Coca-Cola and Pepsi to Smuckers, Laura’s Lean Beef and Kellogg’s.
Our farmers, of course, play a role in providing the raw material these companies use. Earlier this month, we learned they’re on track to have another record year, with commodity sales potentially topping $6 billion.
Just as we can be thankful for this extra bounty, we should also recognize the many others who never fail to do more than their fair share during this time of year. That includes those who are always there whenever we need them – from emergency and utility workers to hospital staffs – and those who may not be able to be with their families because they are serving their country overseas.
We must also look for ways to help those who are facing difficult times, which can be doubly tough as we ready for the brunt of winter. Kentuckians have always received high marks for charity, and with that in mind, I encourage you to donate whatever you can to those in need.
On a personal note, I hope you and your family are enjoying the holidays. With the new year just days away, it will soon be time for another legislative session. I will of course keep you updated as that moves ahead and look forward to hearing your views.
For now, Merry Christmas, and I wish you the best in 2014.