Over-the-top holiday decorations can be found throughout several D.C. neighborhoods. (Courtesy photo)
Over-the-top holiday decorations can be found throughout several D.C. neighborhoods. (Courtesy photo)

From the thousands of lights that adorn  The United House of Prayer for All People Bishop’s residence, to a sculpture of Mary holding the body of Jesus in and around homes, to wreaths hanging on doors across the District, Maryland and Virginia, decorations represent decades of holiday traditions. 

Be it outside light shows, live trees adorned with ornaments in a home, or candles burning on dining room tables, holiday traditions connect people, families and institutions to the past, particularly at a time when so many have dealt with distance due to COVID-19, political strife and hard personal, local, national and international news. 

“The Pieta is a sculpture that represents the grief of Mary over the loss of her son Jesus,” said Jane Johnson, 80, who with her husband Richard has one 41-year-old son, Richard Jr. 

Johnson said her living room has the Pieta because “I was born to a young minister and his 16-year-old wife on Christmas Day and all of my brothers were named after prophets.” 

The Johnsons’ home in Northwest is not far from 1600 block of N. Portal Drive, a brilliantly lit home adorned with thousands of lights in a tradition that was started by Bishop Walter “Sweet Daddy” McCollough and has continued by current Bishop C.M. “Sweet Daddy” Bailey

Willis and Denise Johnson, no relation to Jane and Richard, live across the District in Northeast, D.C. She said her home is filled with trees and holiday items centered around the theme of love,  peace and joy. 

“It is all about family,” said Denise Johnson. “ Even though we don’t believe Jesus was born on Dec. 25 The world seems to be more loving this time of year.” 

Cara Williams, a resident of Baltimore County,  said her tree in Reisterstown is about the things that she enjoyed growing up.   

“I have roller skates and ice skates because I loved to skate growing up,” Williams said. “I also have baby booties on my tree because I had three children.” 

Williams, who loves attending church and singing,  also has small pocketbooks on the tree because she loves both purses and footwear and said, “handbags and shoes go hand in hand.” 

When Allison Prince is not working as  an educational liaison or taking care of her parents, she is making wreaths. 

“I love making wreaths because it is an expression of creativity and love,”. I do themes such as celebrations, seasonal themes, music themes,  remembrance of loved ones.” 

Daisy Whitner was one of seven children who was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Whitner said even though she and her siblings didn’t get many toys, what they got was invaluable. “ 

“We had all types of food, we would laugh and sing and talk, ” Whitner said, adding that one of her mother’s most popular items was fudge. She said she still makes fudge for the holidays. 

For many years. Whitner was the first lady and her husband Apostle Herbert Whitner was the pastor of God’s White House of the United House of Prayer. There are four other UHOP congregations. 

The tradition of decorating the Bishop’s House dates back to the early 1960s. with Bishop Walter McCullough and continued with Bishop S.C. Madison and now Bishop Bailey. 

The United House of Prayer was founded in 1919 by Bishop C.M. Grace. The house on Portal Drive NW is the corporate headquarters for the United House of Prayer, which has several million members and  congregations across the country. 

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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