Associate Rector Ann Whitaker at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is a special individual that Oxford is so blessed to have. Here are some of her reflections on Christmas.
HottyToddy.com: Ann, tell us about your role at St. Peter’s.
Ann Whitaker: I am the Associate Rector which has as my primary duty pastoral care. I also share in all other priestly duties.
HottyToddy.com: You were raised in Mississippi?
Ann Whitaker: No. I was born in New Orleans and lived in Mississippi briefly as a child. I moved to Oxford in 2011 arriving here from Clinton.
HottyToddy.com: Where does Christmas fall (or should fall) in level of importance for Christians?
Ann Whitaker: Easter is only higher in importance in my opinion.
HottyToddy.com: When you hear Christmas mentioned, what immediately comes to mind?
Ann Whitaker: “By the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man.” (Personally, Christmas means “family time” to me.)
HottyToddy.com: Ann, how can Christians best prepare for Christmas?
Ann Whitaker: In the season we call Advent the emphasis within Liturgical churches is preparing our hearts.
HottyToddy.com: When you reflect on the birth of Christ, what is your opinion on the star in the east?
Ann Whitaker: Both an astrological and astronomical event. This sign in the east was a symbol of a most significant happening.
HottyToddy.com: Christmas has a significant commercial influence. Is this a positive?
Ann Whitaker: No. In recent years (I believe) Christmas has become over commercialized. Gift giving is better such as the Feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6th which includes reaching out to needy individuals. January 6th is also very significant as a celebration of the three wise men presenting their gifts.
HottyToddy.com: Your favorite Christmas carol/hymn?
Ann Whitaker: What Child Is This? From a more modern perspective…Mary, Did You Know?
HottyToddy.com: What is your most favorite tradition concerning Christmas going back to your childhood?
Ann Whitaker: Spritz cookies. These are pressed out. I still make these for friends and family.
HottyToddy.com: Yesterday, I wrote a story entitled “The Mysterious Mary Magdalene.” Who do you believe she was?
Ann Whitaker: The apostle to the apostles!
HottyToddy.com: Throughout the United States, is Christmas increasing in importance or declining?
Ann Whitaker: From the secular, Christmas is increasing. From a religious significance, there is a tragic state of decline.
HottyToddy.com: Does the greeting “Happy Holidays” offend you when it is used instead of “Merry Christmas”?
Ann Whitaker: No, not at all. Primarily because my brother is Jewish. However, I should say it depends upon the context which it is used.
HottyToddy.com: Are there any unique Christmas traditions within the Episcopal Church that are highlighted during the Christmas services?
Ann Whitaker: We save our Christmas carols until Christmas Eve. We pull out all stops for Christmas music during our Christmas services.
HottyToddy.com: Describe the most ideal Christmas for you personally.
Ann Whitaker: Attending the midnight mass (11 pm) following going home and opening gifts. This is a more traditional service including Holy Communion. We invite each and all to join us. On another note, my bucket list includes trips to Israel (including Bethlehem) and Assisi in Italy where St. Francis around 1221 recreated Christmas.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is one block west of the Square. Rosie and I are members. I also attended regularly as a student in the late 60s. Ann Whitaker is one of many, many reasons why St. Peter’s is so special!
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 985-852-7745.