For years we did pretty much the same thing each Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, expanding the traditions as our circle of friends expanded:
Christmas Eve church service(s) and a party at a friend's before and/or after, depending upon which service(s) we attended. Last night at church in St. Augustine I found myself thinking of some of the best memories of those years, but I'll include only two here, both of Josh and me:
When he was one and one-half, he simply could not settle down during the Christmas Eve service, and so I found myself walking the halls with him, me all dressed up and Josh wearing a fuzzy footed sleeper. "Come here," waved one of the older men of the church, who was out in the hallway himself as the candle-lighting began. He escorted me into the back of the chancel, behind the lectern, so that we could watch the candles being lit from the front to the back of the cavernous sanctuary from the best vantage point in the house. Josh was spellbound (finally!).
Many years later, a teen-aged Josh agreed to go with me to a midnight service. Everyone else thought that the one we had attended earlier was enough. After church we drove around for a bit, looking at the streets lined with luminarias in the snow, and as we headed home, we passed a Baptist church, still alight and with its parking lot full at nearly 1:00 a.m. "Well, Mom, we've been to the Methodists and the Presbies; do you think we should try the Baptists?" he joked.
Back to our traditions, the same year after year:
Christmas morning at home opening our presents.
Christmas afternoon cleaning and cooking.
Christmas evening hosting friends and occasionally family ~ over 40 people some years. There were years in which there were eight or nine children ~ two of them our boys ~ the same age (plus all the others) and two trees and Hanukkah lighting and other lights and candles all over the place.
After Josh died, we decided to go for completely different.
In 2008 we went to Key West. We tried the Episcopal Church midnight service and ended up in tears outside the front entrance. We grilled seafood kabobs and ate an evening Christmas Dinner on our deck, just the four of us, and that was peaceful and quiet and about what we could bear.
Last year we went to Marathon, also in the Keys. Christmas Eve found The Quiet Husband and The Lovely Daughter driving south, me participating numbly in worship leadership in my field ed church, and The Gregarious Son and I heading for the airport at 3:30 a.m. On New Year's Eve the Quiet Husband landed in the hospital overnight and two days later we all drove home, abandoning two return plane tickets, because he couldn't. Not an auspicious year for family healing.
This year we may have found some balance.
To be continued . . . and in the meantime, I hope that you are all recalling wonderful times past today.