A CHRISTMAS SEASON. Two choral concerts, one in Winston-Salem, the other in Rocky Mount. Two parties, an annual open house in Durham, and a community party in Greensboro. Delivering gifts and good visits with friends in Statesville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham, Smithfield, LaGrange. Mailing gifts to Japan, Norway, California, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Georgia, New York, Massachusetts. Mailing and receiving Christmas cards and season greetings. Good, festive, traditional things to do to celebrate the season.
CHRISTMAS EVE. The five o’clock service at Mebane United Methodist Church. I am welcomed by warm smiles, greeting by name, good handshakes, greetings of “Merry Christmas,” a Christian church being the appropriate place for this greeting. I receive a candle. The church filled, including the balcony. Organ prelude, “Gesu Bambino.” Two traditional , magnificent carols, “Angels We Have Heart on High,” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” With all the angel imagery, I am expecting a pastoral message on angels. A hymn I’ve never liked, “Away in a Manger,” but appropriate for the good number of children present. Solos, “O Holy Night,” and “Song of Mary.” Communion service. A homily on what to do with Jesus. It’s one of the best sermons I’ve heard here. I will ask for a copy. The minister sings a stanza of “Silent Night” in German; the congregation responds with two stanzas in English while the church lights are closed off and we light candles and pass the flame.
I stop by home to leave pretzels and beer for Santa. I think he will have visited before I return.
I drive to the country for a Christmas Eve celebration with friends. The miles reveal the countryside as town-arrived-in-country by the pole lights in each yard. Conversation with shrimp cocktail, pistachios, and Guiness. Then to the dining room, where we enjoyed homemade tomato soup, green salad with homemade blue cheese dressing, and cheese fondue. Music on the keyboard with beginning student Edith and I playing duets from her primer collection of holiday songs. Exchange of gifts. Hugs and good wishes.
When I arrive home, Santa had indeed arrived, and he had taken the beer and pretzels, which I had not really put out. I am home in time to watch the St. Olaf College Christmas Celebration, mostly anthems not familiar. I particularly enjoyed an arragement of “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree,” with a tune I had not heard before, the last movement of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s HODIE, “Ring Out, Ye Crystal Spheres,” a magnificient composition. The penultimate piece was a joyful hymn, “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Hearts.” The choirs ended the concert with their traditional closing hymn, “Beautiful Savior,” simply and beautifully done. And with that experience, I went to bed.
CHRISTMAS DAY. This is the first Christmas I decided to be alone. It worked well. I slept until 9:00. I opened gifts from Santa and friends. I made breakfast of cereal, French toast with friend Irma’s incomparable blackberry wine jelly, sent from Denver, bacon, grapefruit, coffee. I watched the recording of “The Nutcracker,” from the NC School of the Arts. I particularly liked the Arabian Dance, done with one of the dancers behind a screen as a shadow dance, the overtly athletic Russian Dance, and my favorite, The Merlitons, in which a male dancer attempts unsuccessfully but with great happy spirit to capture on of the four women dancers. At intermission, I set my minestrone soup to cook.
After the ballet, I read several pieces for Christmas: Frank O’Conoor’s short story, “Christmas Morning,” Adrian Rich’s poem, “Landscape of the Star,” Jan Brett’s beautiful art book of “The Twelve Days of Christmas, Emily Dickinson’s poem, “The Savior must have been / A docile Gentleman– / to come so far so cold a Day / For little Fellowmen– (etc.)”
I took a long walk through the town. The weather was cool; I needed only a light jacket for cover. The town, both in the business district and in the residential sections was quiet. All of the inflatable decorations were lying pitifully collapsed in yard, except in one, where a man was sanding a sill of a door. A couple was walking a dog, obviously a Christmas dog. The man said, “We can’t walk far. He’s stopping to smell everything.” The woman said, “If not that, he’s peeing on everything.” I said, “Merry Christmas” and thought, Learn to train your dog.
I came home for a bowl of minestrone, which had been simmering for hours. I enjoyed a long telephone conversation with a cousin who called. I wrote thank you notes, and then ended the day with watching “Ghost Busters II” and made a list of John Ford films to watch in the New Year.
At night I took a night walk back through the business district to enjoy the minicipal and merchant decorations. There were only two business establishments open, both bars. They were doing good business. I’m glad that they provided a place for those who needed to be with friends in bars on Christmas Day.
At the Christmas Eve service, at “A Time with Young Disciples,” when the minister asked what Christmas was all about, a young disciple said, “Presents!” I laughed in agreement. There’s nothing I like better than giving, receiving, and acknowledging gifts, tokens of love and esteen of friends. I gave and received more this year than in any year past, and I hope to continue to do so in coming years.
And now the advent of the New Year. Time for evaluation and celebration of 2012 in preparation for making plans, not resolutions, for 2013.
Thank you for reading. I hope your Christmas season brought you blessings and happiness.