Lego My Messiah!

Behold! In Belleville, the glory of the Lord shines 'round about...lots of blocks.

Every year more than a million lights adorn the mile-and-a-half-long Way of Lights trail at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville. You can ride through this blazing path of "electro-art sculptures" in your own car, in a heated trolley or in a horse-drawn carriage. The annual light show is something of a tradition, really, much in the same way your neighbor's inflatable snowman and plastic reindeer remind you it's time to find some money and buy your sister that Peter Tosh CD.

This year, though, there's more to do than drive through electric Bethlehem. In the Shrine's Visitors' Center you'll find a life-size nativity scene with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, joined by friends Frosty the Snowman and Winnie the Pooh, as well as other familiar faces both religious and secular -- all built as large as life with Lego blocks. And you thought www.thebricktestament.com was hot. (If you don't know about this, you should check it out.)

Wondering what Pooh and Jesus have to do with each other? Knock it off -- it's all about the kids. There are puppet shows and storytelling in the kids' area (inevitably named Christmas Village), and outside they can ride camels and donkeys. You can too, actually -- rides are open to adults. But you can't ride the camel to Bethlehem.

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Experiencing the Lego-powered plastic Jesus costs $2.50 to $4, depending on your age, but the Way of Lights is free. Call 618-476-7800 for information or visit www.snows.org. The Shrine is open from 5 to 9 p.m. seven days a week, through December 30.
442 South Demazenod Drive in Belleville, Illinois

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On top of all this, there's caroling, a Christmas tree display, a menagerie of various live animals and a buffet if you run out of energy. The place is loaded with enough American-style Christmas cheer and winter wonder to make you forget that the whole thing is about a guy who probably never saw a single snowflake in a life spent cruising the Middle East.

 
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