The day after Thanksgiving, known elsewhere as Black Friday, was “The Trampling of the Possums.” Although this seems like a gruesome event, it originates with Puddlegulch’s first and only true miracle.
The Christmas Possum is the reason for the Trampling of the Possums. In 1903, when the first mass-produced Christmas lights came out, Willard Johnson, the owner of Johnson’s Drugs, was up on a ladder putting up the lights of the town above his storefront 15 feet high. All of a sudden a strong gust of wind caused Johnson to fall backward. When he woke up a dead possum was under his head. The possum’s innards were all over the sidewalk. At first, Johnson thought the carnage was his own but he soon realized that this possum had darted out of nowhere to save his life. Henceforth it was referred to The Christmas Possum.
But that’s not the end. This next part is considered legendary by some, but there are many true believers. Several reports over the years have come out from citizens who fell off ladders while putting up lights who claimed that they woke up after the fall with no injuries to the faint smell of possum. It is believed that is the Spirit of the Christmas Possum who saved their lives.
The lights contest began in 1953 at the 50th anniversary of the selfless sacrificial possum’s death. Every qualifying entry must depict the Spirit of the Christmas Possum and his sacrifice. In 2003, at the 100-year anniversary when Black Friday was getting in full swing, the Puddlegulch Chamber of Commerce in an effort to increase interest in the downtown stores for Christmas began the Trampling of the Possums. They felt that having people falling off ladders onto papier-mache possums filled with red licorice was too dangerous so they went with trampling instead.
The winner of the lights decoration competition has the honor of the first ceremonial stomp. They then throw the red licorice (a Johnson’s Drugs favorite) into the air, symbolizing the Spirit of the Christmas Possum’s annual ascent back to Possum heaven.