The season of lights, as this time of year could be called, holds many holiday traditions and celebrations. In my home we combined my mother’s German heritage with my father’s American one. We opened our larger gifts from friends and family on Christmas eve, while the stockings that held presents from Santa were opened on Christmas morning.
My mother had played the violin since she was a young child. On Christmas Eve after a light supper of finger food and sweets we gathered around the piano and she played carols while we sang. Silent Night was always sung in German. To this day I more easily remember the German words to this familiar carol. I remember once as people knelt for Christmas eve communion in the Episcopal church I attended then, singing it as I played on my guitar.
Recently as I listened to the wonderful Holiday concert presented by the Claflin Hill orchestra in Milford a rush of remembrance from other times and places swept over me. An image of my mother with her violin tucked under her chin standing by the piano in our dining room playing Silent Night floated into my mind. I felt nostalgic tears prickle behind my eyelids. As the strains of the lovely music flowed on, so did the memories.
My mother loved the lights and other decorations people put on and around their homes for the holidays. I remember one year we drove around together looking at the sparkly holiday homes. I could feel her joy as well as my own as together we appreciated the colorful displays of lights. Another memory surfaced of when my eldest was nearly a year old. Whenever we were in the car on a December evening I would hold her up to the window to see the glowing lights. Her first words at almost a year were her version of mine: “Pitty Light.”
Holiday memories are often tied to music. One year I was to be in the Christmas Pageant at my school, and sing a solo. I had come down with a sore throat and could barely croak. Somehow I got through it. I remember squeezing my best friend Sally’s hand, tears streaming down my face as I sang the best I could. Too, I remember how in the 2nd grade I was to play a little angel in another pageant and my parents took me with them to Florida, leaving the day of the play. I was so sad. Happily I also remember sitting in another school auditorium listening as my own children sang solos in their concerts.
Now many years have gone by, and many things are different. Each year brings new traditions into the mix, new opportunities to add memories and images to be woven into my wreath of remembrance. Old and new merge into a timeless sense of inner joy that brightens and burnishes the present moment. Although many familiar faces may no longer be visible at my table, or certain traditions available to share in the same way, these remain part of my holidays, and they bring their share of joy to the celebration.
By Tasha Halpert