With the holiday travel season fast approaching, we’re sure you’ve your checklist ready to make sure everything on your holiday road trip goes as smoothly as possible. Tires? Check. Fluids? Check. Pecan Log Rolls? Check. Dashboard Jesus? Check.

Wait. Dashboard Jesus?

Yes. Dashboard Jesus. Because even if you don’t believe, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it?

Besides, if it wasn’t for Jesus, December would be just another long boring winter month with only New Year’s Eve to look forward to. No Christmas trees with presents under it. No stockings hung by the chimney with care. No caroling and no wassailing (whatever that is). No week off from school until summer and definitely no Santa Claus coming down the chimney.

Still, we have to wonder – where did the idea of a putting Jesus on the dashboard of our cars come from anyway?

The Origins of Dashboard Jesus

Though a lot of people put a plastic wobbly Jesus on their dashboard purely for the religious kitsch these days, Dashboard Jesus actually has some rather solemn beginnings.

Image: Stuckey’s Corp/Stephanie Stuckey

The Sacred Heart Church is located in Walls, Mississippi, which itself lies just outside of Memphis, Tennessee in the northwest corner of the Magnolia State. Built in 1944 to serve the needs of the local Catholic community, today it also reaches out to help the poor in the South with food, clothing and housing.

In 1955, Father Gregory Bezy, SCJ, started the Sacred Heart Auto League to encourage safe driving at a time when an increase in traffic and speed also led to an increase in accidents. To encourage safe driving, Father Bezy would give out small statues of Jesus exposing His sacred heart that members of the Sacred Heart Auto League could stick on their dashboards.

Today, the Sacred Heart Auto League is still going strong and still promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart as a way to encourage safe driving. Unfortunately, members don’t get a statue of Jesus to put on their dashboard nowadays; instead, they get an image to put in any place of honor they see fit.

“Long as I Got My Plastic Jesus”

Dashboard Jesus proved popular among both Catholics and non-Catholic Christians as well. Perhaps it’s because of the whole idea of having some sort of mascot or lucky charm to help you have a safe journey, much like the image of a mermaid or other nautical figure brings luck to a ship. Regardless, alongside the Hula Girl, Dashboard Jesus remains one of the most popular dashboard figures in America today. In fact, the figure is so well known, somebody even wrote a song about it.

“I don’t care if it rains or freezes
Long as I got my Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car.

Through my trials and tribulations
And my travels through the nations
With my Plastic Jesus I’ll go far.”

Written by Ed Rush and George Cromarty in 1957, “Plastic Jesus” was recorded by the duo as a humorous ad parody in 1962.  However, it too had humble beginnings as an advertisement for the real thing.

The song would also find itself into other pop culture including the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, where

Paul Newman, as the titular character Luke Jackson, strums on his banjo and sings:

“I got my little plastic Jesus

Sitting on the dashboard of my car;

He don’t slip, and he don’t slide;

His little feet are magnetized. . . .”

Image: Stuckey’s. Corp. /Stephanie Stuckey

(Ok, so maybe his lyrics aren’t necessarily correct, but it’s the spirit behind the song that counts, isn’t it?)

So, you see, Dashboard Jesus might not be such a bad thing, after all. Besides, in the end, isn’t he really the reason you’re driving this holiday season?

Whether you’re traveling with your plastic Jesus or not, Stuckey’s would like to wish you all safe travels during this holiday season. Merry Christmas everyone!

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again.

www.stuckeysgifts.com