It is December 24. It is a day when families and friends gather to begin Christmas celebrations. Growing up, our family would gather on Christmas eve with friends. We would have oyster stew, cheese plates, and other hors d’oeuvres. Sometimes my parents would let me have a glass of wine or coke. Because my father was born on December 24, we also had a birthday cake and gave him presents. At the end of the evening, the kids could open one present before bed. We capped the evening off by opening ONE present. We always chose the gift from Grandma Harris because she ALWAYS bought us pajamas from the JC Penny in Aberdeen.
When my father passed away, Christmas eve became a painful reminder of what was lost when he passed. I didn’t really enjoy it much. However, there were two events that changed my view.
The first was Christmas eve 2001. It was the first Christmas of my marriage. My wife, our oldest son, and mother traveled to our cabin in the Black Hills. There is an incredible church in Lead, South Dakota. It was built in the late 19th/early 20th century. Its Christmas Eve service is amazing. In 2001, the music, the service, the faith, and the fellowship were special. Words can not adequately describe the experience. The church is small, old, and quaint. The pews are wood. The lighting is poor and it was even darker for the late evening service. The sermon gave a great message though I can’t remember what was said. What I do remember is the music. There were two professional musicians with local ties. They shared their gifts with us. Somewhere, I still have the bulletin. To share this experience with my new wife, mother, and oldest son was special. It was the first Christmas Eve after my father’s passing that was not painful. The second was Christmas eve 2018. I’ve written about this before so I won’t bore you with the details. Long story short, I am adopted. On Christmas eve 2018, after a long search, I received the first communication from my birth mother. It was an overwhelming feeling that I continue to process. Christmas eve is a time of new beginnings and connections.
Tonight, our family will gather. We have established our own traditions which include oyster stew and cheese plate. In recent years, I have purchased five different types of cheese at a local establishment. We all taste, critique, and vote for our favorite. We also enjoy each other’s company. Tomorrow, we will open gifts because it is our tradition to open gifts on Christmas day. From my house to yours, Merry Christmas.