Prompt: Did your family attend religious services during the Christmas season? What were the customs and traditions involved?
As a young child we attended church fairly regularly and went to church during the Christmas season. I don’t actually remember any sort of pageants or much at all about the services from way back then. We did have our school Christmas concerts in the local United Church and I remember those much better.
When I was older, we went to church much less regularly but at some point we did start going to the Christmas Eve evening service. These were usually held around 10 or 11pm on Christmas Eve. My favourite services were always the candlelit ones. A dimly lit church and beautiful music makes for a wonderful Christmas tradition. Having very young children, however, has taken the Christmas Eve service out of my usual Christmas traditions for the time being.
This year, however, we did get a bit of “church” at Christmas. The baby was baptized on Sunday. In addition to the baptism – there were three babies being baptized this time – the service included a rather unique Christmas pageant with plenty of audience participation. I don’t think I really got the full impact of the service as I was holding a squirmy baby and trying to keep a preschooler under control. The baby behaved beautifully, the preschooler spent part of the service running around the church with a cousin. Not exactly the service of my dreams but the music was pretty good!!
Excerpt from Where the Saints Have Trod, Judith St. John, 1974 (Oxford University Press). The book is based on the author’s childhood memories (ca 1914-1924). She was my great-aunt.
“Christmas Sunday was a joyous, holy day. In the afternoon, my mother told the Christmas Story to the whole Sunday School. She drew on the big blackboard the quiet town of Nazareth, and Joseph’s house with the flat roof, where the angel visited Mary. She drew the long, weary road to Bethlehem. With a few strokes of the chalk, she pictured the shepherds and the angelic, heavenly host. Away down in the corner, she drew the camels and Wise Men who were journeying to worship the Christ Child in the manger. It seemed to me that we were really in the Holy Land, that those crude figures were alive and breathing, and that we went with them to the stable. My mother could make stories seem more real than real living.”