A "white Christmas" was actually a fairly rare thing, once upon a time. Winter, after all, did not even begin until a few days before the Feast. All those deep snow, sleigh-ride infested, Currier and Ives Christmases date from the 1840s. when blizzards blanketed the Midwest and upstate New York. The 1930s and 1940s were a time of global warming and so, as in the movie "Holiday Inn", snow was a rarity in December. That's why Crosby could only dream about it. But it did chill off during the 50s and 60s and the snow came back, big time. Thereafter, it was declared a Constitutional Right and its absence taken as evidence of warmer winter nights. O Horrors!
It was the custom the Clan na Fhloinn to attend Midnight Mass, which in those halcyon days was held at -- wait for it --- midnight! This was preceded by the singing of carols like "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" by the Maennerchor. TOF suspects the whole thing a Plot to weary the Kinder so they would drop off in the arms of Morpheus as soon as they got home, if not well before, and not pester the folks as they assembled the toys and decorated the trees. So successful was this endeavor that for many years TOF was convinced that the toys once came fully assembled and only in later days did TOF as a new parent have to put them together. My father, of course, looked at TOF as if he had grown a second head and told him that he had done the Some Assembly is Required when TOF slept in the aforesaid Arms of Morpheus after Midnight mass.
"And a right fine job you did, too," sez TOF. "Professional quality."
Oh, and that was when the tree got decorated, too.
That Sinter Klaas is a clever putz. He inveigles all the parents in the world to work for him for free. No wonder he can hit all the houses in the world in a single night. He's a parallel processor!
There was one fine Christmas Eve, I forget which year, but all five brothers were there, so it was maybe early 60s. It had snowed deeply. Too deeply for the car to move. But St. Joe was only eight blocks away so we pulled on the snow boots -- you know the boots I mean, the ones with all the metal buckles up the front -- grabbed a couple snow shovels and we set forth, breasting the drifts and plowing our way forth. Outside, we encountered Sterling, a friend from school who lived in the public housing in the next block over. Bro Pat, a little guy, was over his head in the snow, so Sterling who was the biggest kid in school picked him up and put him on his shoulders and walked him like an icebreaker through the snows.
When we reached the church, there was an old lady who lived across the street from the church and she was trying to get out, but the snow covered her steps up to the door. So Sterling and Dennis and TOF the shovels to dig her out. Then we dug a path across the street to the church, only to discover that no one else had shown up and Midnight mass was canceled.There was a certain amount of astonishment at least on TOF's part that no one else in the neighborhood had made the effort. It didn't seem all that extraordinary to us.
|For the night is dark and full of hope and joy.|
There is a tag line in the TV show "Game of Thrones" used by one of the religions in that fantasy world: "For the night is dark, and full of terrors." Well, we called that the valley of the shadow of death, and it was. But for some of us, there is a light shining in the darkness and the sound of angels singing, and the night is dark and full of hope and joy.