Christmas. Just the word brings images to mind. For some, those images are precious and filled with joy. For others...not so much. For me, Christmas and Advent have always been a source of great joy, wonder, and delight. My mom was the queen of celebrations, and her talent for making every day special really shone this time of year. From the decorations and carols playing to the yearly "Christmas shopping night", where she took each of us 3 kids out on our own night to walk from one end of town to the other, helping us pick the perfect gift, then letting us choose where to eat dinner (oh, all those years she sat at the soda fountain at Newberry's with us!), she imbued our days with the purest sense of celebration in Christ's birth. Of course, my dad performed acrobatic feats extraordinaire to decorate the outside of the church, climbing ladders to the tippy-top to hang lights. The final effect was breathtaking!
Then there was the church family, with whom we shared such memorable times that they still make me smile today. The annual Christmas tree trek into the mountains. First we gathered at the home of Willard and Marie Clark,where hot chocolate and Anita's homemade donuts waited. Thus fortified, we loaded up in a flatbed wagon pulled by a bulldozer, ready for the slow ascent up the narrow mountain road. (That's my mom, in the picture below, with the blue scarf on her head.)
Laughter and singing joined the ever-present winter fog all around us. I still remember the feeling when we finally climbed above the fog and could look out at that thick, fluffy blanket cloaking the valley in Winter mystery. When everyone had found the perfect tree--including one for the church, often topped by the intrepid Clark brothers from a towering evergreen--we made our way back down the mountain, embraced by sweet friendships and the anticipation of decorating our beautiful trees. That's your's truly below on the right with Ann Clark Barnes. Clearly we were ready for hot chocolate! The next Sunday, after the service, we all gathered for decorating the sanctuary and church tree...
So many memories. Advent wreaths (okay Anita, which comes first, the Angel or Shepherd candle?); wrapping gifts; the sweet smells of cookies, oranges stuck with cloves, and pine swags; Christmas sharing night; Christmas Eve carol sing when the sanctuary was lit only by candlelight...I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. I can honestly say I have no negative childhood memories of Christmas. That's been such a gift, one I cherish.
How about you? What the things that say to you Advent is here? What fragrances, sounds, sights speak Christmas to you? What carols bring Christmas to life for you? What tradition says to you that Advent and Christmas are well and truly here?
Look forward to your thoughts!