‘Tis Christmas Eve…
Giving Joy for Christmas
My parents are college professors and were never very religious. But they had grown up going to church, and Christmas and all its trappings seemed normal to them. Despite the fact that we lived in the country and didn’t belong to a church, every December my family went out caroling. We learned to sing carols from old Unitarian hymnals we had on the bookshelf, and even now I sing “good will to all” or similar PC lines when I’m at church while the rest of the congregation sings “Good will to man.”
There was a ritual to caroling. We would dress warmly, and gather the hymnals and flashlights. And then we would all pile into our poorly heated VW bus. Our first stop: one of the farming families on our dirt road. We would figure out what to sing at each stop, usually two or three songs. I learned to sing “Joy to the World” when I was three, and it is still my favorite carol. It has a cheerful tune (as opposed to songs like “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”), a happy message and a gorgeous harmony.
One Christmas our neighbor down the road, Mrs. Johnson, had been very ill. We stopped at her house and knocked tentatively at the door. When her husband answered, we asked if Mrs. Johnson would like us to sing for her. He said that she would, and requested that we sing her favorite carol “Silent Night.” He opened the window in the bedroom so she could hear us down in the front yard. The sky was full of stars, and our voices lifted and soared into the heavens. We could probably never repeat the beauty of our singing that night as we helped her celebrate her last Christmas. When the last note died away, Mr. Johnson was crying and so were we.
My goal this Christmas is to find a way to give joy to my family, friends and neighbors. May we all find a way to give the perfect gift, and may we all a holiday full of peace and happiness.
Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water coming May 11, 2010)
We didn’t have a fireplace in the home I grew up in, but on Christmas Eve my father would turn the television to a channel that displayed a faux fireplace. The wood crackled and the flames danced as I cozied up in blankets, listened to Christmas music, and drifted off to sleep. It probably sounds hokey, but it was such a comfort.
Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy)
Trimming the Tree
I always got each of my boys a new ornament every year, and my mom always made one for each of them, too. I’d date them and when we’d decorate the tree, it was always fun to remember where and when and why we’d gotten each one. One year, when my older son was about 11 (he’s now 23), he made an off-hand comment that this one ornament that didn’t really belong to anyone in particular, a tiny cuckoo clock, was his very favorite and he looked forward to putting it up on the tree every year. I’d never known (and was amazed it hadn’t been inadvertently tossed one year . . . it’s that small). Well, ever since that year, it’s always the very last ornament he puts on the tree, and even now, when he’s living away form home, so he’s not always home when we put the tree up, I save it for him, so that when he gets home for Christmas he still has that one tiny ornament to hang. He loves it and so do I. Last year, he flew home on the 24th, and I had it waiting for him. He found the perfect place to hang it, turned and hugged me and said, “Now, it’s Christmas.”
Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers)