In the Little House books, Laura Ingalls recalls how rich they felt on Christmas to open their stockings and have a few pieces of candy and an orange.  How things have changed!  But this always reminds me of my own nostalgic recollections of Christmas Eve when I was growing up. 

On Christmas Eve, our church held the children’s Christmas service.  The families of all the children braved the cold and crowded into the church, filling the many pews.  The racks filled with coats and the ends of the pews held piles of them. Light, and heat, streamed from the double doors each time they opened and excited yet hushed chatter filled the air until the organ music swelled, heralding the start of the service.

Most of us attended the school affiliated with and attached to the church and had been practicing daily, but there were always a few who didn’t know their lines.  Regardless of the school attended, each of us was expected to memorize his/her part.  No projections on the wall, no reading from a piece of paper. For some of those years , my mom was the teacher for the lower grades and sat in the front pew, directly in front of her munchkins, mouthing the words with them.  Their eyes were fixed unwaveringly on her, following every word  her mouth formed as they chanted their lines together.

Singing could be problematic.  A number of participants, mostly girls, could and did sing but there were always a few boys who droned on in a monotonous monotone, like the buzzing of large bees.   During the recitation of the Christmas story, word by word from the Bible, some disengaged children looked every which way and some, having searched out their families, waved frantically, as if no one had seen them at the front of the church.  Proud parents would stand to take pictures or rush to the front to catch just the right moment.

At the end of the service, in the mellow light from a combination of candles and bulbs, everyone relaxed and high spirits ensued.  Congratulations, deserved or not, were the order of the day and people lingered, reluctant to end the evening and go out into the cold.  As each child, participant or not, walked out past the ushers at the doorway, he or she received a brown paper lunch bag.  Inside were nuts of various types (in the shell), candy, and apple and an orange.  None of us felt short-changed.  We only felt the blessed magic of Christmas Eve and the joy in the birth of a Savior those many years ago in Bethlehem.

  1. Nice warm memories… a simpler, closer, accepting time

  2. My church has a Halloween “beggars” night in which children in costume along with their parents (sometimes without) can come in from the chill and have some candy, donuts, and a drink, including coffee or hot chocolate. We have dropped in attendance at church, but this tradition usually sees at least 200 people through the few hours served. In our small community of about 3500, this is a good number and it is always fun to see everyone. I am not very active anymore in the church and this is the first year in awhile that I missed. Holidays are wonderful for people to just meet and talk…I hope that never goes entirely out of the picture.

  3. Sweet memories, Janet. Thank you for sharing them.