Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Robert and I don't go to church on a regular basis. He was brought up attending the Church of England and I was raised as a Presbyterian. Both of us have read the Bible and have faith, but don't feel the urge to attend church in order to practice that faith. Christmas eve is a different story, though.
When I was a little girl, Christmas eve was a magical time. Our entire family would gather together and go to a restaurant for dinner. Afterwards, we'd head back home, read The Night Before Christmas and set cookies and milk out for Santa. Then, late in the evening, we'd head to church and attend a candlelight Christmas service.
Candlelight Christmas service at our church was like nothing you've ever seen. Everyone was dressed for Christmas and in the best of spirits. The church was adorned with garlands and wreaths. A white-lighted Christmas tree sat in place at the front of the pews. Attendees sang Christmas tunes (including the German version of "Oh Christmas Tree") along with the choir. The preacher read verse from the Christmas story in the Bible and delivered a 15-minute litany on peace and love. But the topping on the cake ... the event I always waited for ... was the singing of "Silent Night" in candlelight.
Ushers lit candles at the front of the church then stopped at every pew to light a church-goer's candle. That church-goer would turn around and light his neighbor's candle. One by one, all of the candles were lit to the tune of Silent Night. At first, the organ player tapped along but by the last verse, the hall was quiet except for the voices of the church goers and the light of those beautiful candles. Magic. That's all I have to say about it.
This year we attended the candlelight service at my parents' church. It's an old church, erected gothic-style in the 1700s, and has the feel of my childhood. Everyone in my family attended, young and old. Sure, my sister and her son were playing hangman on the program and my sister refused to take communion ... modern ways avail. But by the time we sang "Silent Night," everyone joined in.
Creating traditions is what creates family. We have a lot of traditions in my family but one I hope will never go away, and that's the candlelight service on Christmas eve. Of course, after we adopt, we'll create new traditions. For Christmas, Robert says we are doing away with leaving out a glass of milk for Santa. In England, Santa gets a glass of sherry and a mince pie ... that sounds like a great new tradition to me!