Christmas has become watered down like weak tea, warm water in a ceramic cup without the usual flavor. It could be that it begins in July at many hobby stores that fill the shelves with reminders that Christmas is only six months away and you need to start decorating now. Black Friday, Gray Thursday, shopping shopping shopping and what are we buying for folks that have everything at their fingertips?
Remembering what Christmas used to be like; full of anticipation and waiting and family and quiet. There was never a holiday that we did not make that obligatory trip to visit the grandparents on Christmas Day. A chance to visit and feast.
But it was the night before that made the greatest impression on my memory.
Christmas Eve, a silent night. I don’t recall that we had a traditional dinner. I don’t recall we had a dinner at all. We so wanted to open Christmas gifts, however meager the offerings under the tree. But first, there was church.
We walked to church because we only lived about a block away. I’m sure we always had new dresses, maybe new shoes to wear. Our dresses were crafted by my mother’s hand many times from my grandmother’s very large castoff skirts. Without a regular job, money was scarce, but mother made up for it by gardening, sewing, painting other people’s barns and cleaning. She cleaned the church, my father rang the bell. We survived with time to spare for the things that money can’t buy.
Walking to church as a family on a snow-covered gravel road, I followed my mother’s footsteps. Her feet made a funny impression in the snow. A pointy triangle like an over-sized guitar pick punctuated by the dot of her slender heel. When we arrived at the church, those lovely high heel shoes clicked on the concrete. What a wonderful sound.
Brushing off snow and stamping off feet, the church was lit with the yellow light of candles. The church was old and ornate back then not like the smooth square lines of churches today. There were wooden pews and the pulpit had a position of power elevated from the main stage of the altar.
There the little children of the congregation reenacted the story of Christ’s birth followed by Silent Night or rather Stille Nacht in candlelight. The slender white candles were slipped through an X in a round paper holder and no one but the very youngest was denied the opportunity to carry the light of the Lord.
Exiting the church on this most silent of nights each child was handed a bag of nuts with fruit and a few small candies. To us that bag was worth so much more than its content.
It’s hard to find that small brown sack filled with goodies amongst the piles of ribbon and paper and countless dinners and parties and eating and drinking and multiple family obligations. Shopping, texting, posting sharing every Christmas event with every one online….
Yet, there are some of us that mourn the loss of richness and flavor that Christmas used to bring to families in a more silent time.
Here’s wishing you a week of quiet and calm in preparation for the birth of Jesus.