moments of majesty and resonance
December 24, 2017 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Why I prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas Day - an emotional story from the Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan
posted by fearfulsymmetry (10 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
That's beautiful, thanks.
posted by salvia at 9:43 AM on December 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

One of my best memories from childhood is a Christmas Eve trip to a park with my Dad, I guess a couple of years before he died, and my brother and another child from our street. I suppose I was about 5. There was nothing special about it, we didn't do anything extraordinary, but I was somehow just transported into an epiphany, feeling directly that the world was beautiful and filled with wonder. That this was one of the last Christmases for him now makes that ancient memory more potent for me.
posted by thelonius at 9:50 AM on December 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

My parents moved to this town in Cape Cod after my brother and I had both grown. My brother moved around a lot in his 20s, living on the West Coast for a while, so he didn't always make it home; and I knew nobody here, so sometimes I would get bored and antsy on Christmas Eve with no one to talk to, while my mother was taking care of last-minute fussing of things and my father was napping, and offer to run on random car errands. My parents live on a little development just off the Cape Cod Highway, and any last-minute needs for tape or cream or anything else required a quick drive to town, so I'd do that.

And that's how I discovered, on my way back from such an errand one year, that all the houses on another street about 5 minutes' down the Cape Cod Highway had lined their street with luminarias made of gallon milk jugs and candles and sand. I took a detour and drove the length of the street - each of the houses had their own decorations, but each and every lawn was edged with the jug luminiaras, creating a lit path the whole length of the street; even the two little dead-ends had their own jugs. The whole block had obviously collaborated on it.

I excitedly raced home and told my parents, and on our way out to dinner that night we detoured so I could show them. We tried taking a drive after dinner on Christmas Day to see if they were still out - but no, the street apparently only does this on Christmas Eve. For the next few Christmases, when I was home, we would make that a part of our routine on Christmas Eve - head out to the childrens' mass at 3 (because it was early, short, and filled with cute kids), then dinner, and then on the way home, detouring down that street to see the milk jug luminiaras.

My brother has since moved back to the east coast with his family (ironically, he's in our grandfather's house). Every other Christmas he's with his in-laws, and when he does stay with them, my parents and I have started doing Christmas in each of our own houses instead. And when my brother is spending Christmas with us, lately he's asked that my parents and I stay with his family, so we can see the kids on Christmas morning. Which is great - but this means we're not in my parents' town, and we miss out on the jug luminiaras.

This year my brother is with his in-laws - but since Christmas is a long weekend, my parents decided that you know what, how about we gather again. So tonight is going to be the first Christmas Eve in about 5 years now that we've gone on the milk jug luminiara hunt and I am honestly looking forward to it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on December 24, 2017 [16 favorites]

Lovely, thank you.
posted by merriment at 12:53 PM on December 24, 2017

"Once a tradition is broken it can't be fixed." I just never . . . it's so true and obvious and yet it seems like a revelation to read this simple statement, and I feel like this is a lesson we should all be taught explicitly, because it's so easy to let things go that one time when you're sick or tired or have something better to do, and maybe you can go back to doing it again the next year, but it will never have the same strength again.
posted by HotToddy at 1:40 PM on December 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm the atheist atheist that ever athied a theist, but I love the BBC broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Ever since I came down with the ADD I forget what I like, but my Reason for Living remembered this morning and I have been giddy ever since. Something about the hopeful message in these troubled times warms my heart. I love you all, and that's not just the beer talking. I've had some gin, too.
posted by Floydd at 4:48 PM on December 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

I miss driving around with my parents looking at all the Christmas lights. And I kind of miss putting them up as well. We used to live in the first house on the right just after a shopping center, with a long, long fence, so even a simple zigzag of lights looked fairly dramatic. My father also made some large snowflakes, as described here, that hung from one of the big oak trees in the front yard. Now I'm thinking about pawing through the giant bin of LEGOs and opening new LEGOs on Christmas while "Jingle Bell Rock" played...or about the bubble lights a friend whose parents had rather retro sensibilities always had on their tree, and how magical they seemed when I'd sleep over there. Now I'm definitely feeling a bit wistful.

EmpressCallipygos, if you take photos of the milk-jug luminarias tonight, I'd love to see 'em. Cape Cod and its environs are beautiful this time of year.
posted by limeonaire at 5:51 PM on December 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Rain maybe turning into snow on the Cape tonight, too. WE WANTS PICTURES!

(My family did paper bag luminaria on the front sidewalk every year but my wife isn’t onboard with it. It’s a tradition that I really miss, along with lighted candles in the windows, because of the message of welcome to a family with nowhere to go. Maybe I will do it ynilaterally next year.)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:09 PM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

We moved to a different part of South St. Louis a couple years ago. "Bellerive," I tell people, and when their eyes bug out I follow up with, "No, not those mansions. We're on the 'poor' side of Grand." Poor side or mansion side, Bellerive is a true Boulevard - the mansion side has about a 40-foot grassy median in the middle, and we have a 20-foot median.

On Christmas eve, we discovered our first winter here, the neighbors meet up and one lady brings the 2-liter soda bottles with sand in the bottom out of storage. Luminarias, all up and down the border of the median! I just looked out and they're starting to light 'em for this year. It's the first year since we moved here that there's actual snow, so the lights, and the snow, and the first real cold snap of the season team up to make it really feel special.
(evidently I didn't hit "post" on this because guests arrived...)
posted by notsnot at 8:06 AM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

No pictures of the luminiaras, sorry. We swung by later than usual - or they were set out earlier - and most of them were on their last flickers by the time we came along. And it didn't snow until about 8 this morning, and only for about 20 minutes during a small - and brief - nor'easter that actually had my father muttering that "now watch, we're gonna lose power". But we didn't lose power, and we got a decent little dusting of snow that stuck for a couple hours; but now the sun's out (it wasn't supposed to be) and it's starting to melt already. We're far enough out on the Cape that usually it just rains and is too warm for snow, so even just that is impressive.

Dad is now frowning over how to install the Roku I got them, Mom is catching up on some Christmas cards and we're listening to The Band (I think we're all thoroughly sick of Christmas music, earlier I asked Alexa to play Jabba Flow and Mom was REALLY getting into it). In a couple hours we're going to go see The Last Jedi and then come home for some late night ravioli or osmething.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

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