Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Simple Things

I realize it's a little bit early to be thinking about caroling and twinkling lights, but I came across this story I copied down many years ago from a book called, "Simplify Your Christmas", by Elaine St. James.  I didn't really get as much out of the book as I hoped, but the imagery of this story touched me greatly and made it worth reading. I hope it touches you as much as it did me!

Dear Elaine,

I've always loved the lights and music of Christmas.  For years my husband and I made the trek into New York City to see the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and listen to the carolers.

But It's reached a point where bundling the kids into the car and fighting traffic and crowds for four hours has gotten to be too much, especially with all the other stresses of the holidays.  So this year we decided not to make the trip.

Even though I was happy with our decision, part of me missed the lights and Christmas music.  As it turned out, we were sitting around the dinner table one night just before Christmas when we heard carolers in the next block.  Just for fun we put on our coats and hats and went out to see if we could find them.

We walked one block, then another, then another.  Finally we saw other people out, as we were, heading toward the sound of music.  Some had steaming mugs of coffee or hot chocolate---they'd obviously done this before.

In the next block we found it.  The members of a neighborhood church choir stood on the steps of the church, accompanied by a small electronic organ, singing their hearts out.

Dozens of people from the neighborhood gathered on the front lawn of the church with kids and dogs.  Someone from the congregation handed out sheet music with candles braced with tin foil so we could read the lyrics and sing along.

We sang all the carols, but no one wanted to leave, so we started over.  We stood there for more than an hour singing every Christmas song we could think of.  When we couldn't sing another word, the pastor gave a brief blessing of the creche.  Then we all wandered back to our homes, exchanging heartfelt holiday greetings with friends and strangers, and softly humming our favorite Christmas melodies.

I found out later that the choir does this every year, and I was struck by how much we have complicated our tradition of listening to Christmas music while this simple holiday celebration was going on right in our own backyard.

Yes, it was fun to do the big holiday musical event for a while, and I'm sure we'll think back fondly on those times.  But almost by accident we discovered that we could modify our holiday tradition and have a new experience that's just as wonderful as the old one...and a whole lot simpler.

Cynthia Wright
Danbury, Connecticut


Kristin said...

That sounds like us! Just the simple, home-town stuff (though I would like to get to NYC sometime.)

Jakki said...

I think those unexpected, simple moments can produce the best memories! Also, when it comes to Christmas, sometimes there is just too much hoopla and we need to get back to the basics of what it's all about.