Friday, December 24, 2010

The Sounds of Christmas Eve

Ok, yes it’s a cheesy title, but there are several sound-related traditions we have on Christmas Eve I wanted to share.
A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is one of my family’s long-standing Christmas traditions.  In my family, there’s only one Christmas Carol.  It’s an old radio drama starring Lionel Barrymore as Ebenezer Scrooge.  He reads the part with a distinctive, gruff voice.  He sounds like he’s chewing his consonants and then spitting them out, you can almost hear his jowls flapping (at least, that’s the way I like to image it.)   My mother used to listen to a record of the radio show when she was a girl.  Then, when my sister and I were little, we started listening to a tape recorded off the original record on the long car rides to Vermont to visit Grandma at Christmas.  Ever since those trips, we have listened to that recording every year.  The tape has since been replaced with a CD I triumphantly found on Amazon one Christmas.  We know all the words by heart and quote them at each other as we listen to the recording (in our best Lionel Barrymore impressions.)  We also add in our own versions of certain lines, most of them misinterpretations from childhood.  Miriam’s admonition “Don’t please do that” (an interpretation of Scrooge’s line, “Please don’t do that” in response to a “creepy” moan Marley attempts) is our favorite.

The King’s College Choir
Every Christmas Eve, I wake up to the sound of the King’s College Choir singing their nine lessons and carols service.  The service is broadcast on NPR (if you live in a place with two NPR stations, it’s probably broadcast on the classical music station.)  They always manage to sing my favorite arrangements of Christmas Carols like “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.”  It’s a bit of a mind trip waking up to the lessons and carols service, because in Cambridge, England, the service happens in the late afternoon.  Here, it’s always playing (live) on the radio when I first wake up on Christmas Eve.  The year I spent Christmas in Venezuela, I found the Kings College lessons and carols service on NPR’s website and streamed it into my little Venezuelan apartment while chatting with Mom and Dad on Skype.  The internet is a wonderful thing!

A Feast of Love... 

If you have read any of my previous Christmas entries, you know that story-telling and Christmas go hand in hand in my family.  Many of our traditions have family anecdotes attached to them.  I imagine its the same in most families.  Somehow, I never mind hearing them over and over again.  So here is one of my family’s favorite Holiday anecdotes.

One way or another, my family always seems to be headed off to church on Christmas Eve.  Here in Phoenix, this is because my father conducts the choir at a Methodist church in Scottsdale and they have a Christmas Eve service.  When we lived in Winston-Salem, NC, we loved to go to the Christmas Eve Moravian Lovefeast The Lovefeast is a really beautiful Christmas Service involving sharing coffee and these semi-sweet rolls called “Lovefeast buns” with the congregation.  At the end of the service, you sing a carol while holding lit candles decorated with red crepe paper to protect your hands. 

(Moravian Candle, Coffee, and Lovefeast bun)
Artist Unknown

This is a rather round-about way to explain one particular Moravian Lovefeast that will always stick in my memory.  It was probably our first or second year in North Carolina, and Miriam, my sister, was still quite young.  She had a taste for lovefeast buns, though, so she insisted we go to the Lovefeast.  At the very end of the service, she received her candle and proudly held it aloft as we sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”   Even then, Miriam had a powerful set of lungs, and so, when she sang “Peace on Earth and mercy mild, GOD DAMN SINNERS RECONCILED.”  The whole room heard it and broke into hysterical laughter.  Her comment became so immortal, the pastor at that particular Moravian church managed to work it into his sermon on subsequent Lovefeasts.

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