December 24, 2010

Live Nativity

We took Hamilton to the live nativity at First Presbyterian Church in Clinton last night. He was "memorized," as Claire would say, by the braying donkey. The night was also way too cold for him to want to be anywhere else but Mimi's warm lap during the program.
After the short production, Hamilton got to view the donkey up close. After a few seconds, he tentatively reached out to pet him.

I wrote a vignette about Christmas Eve with the Taylors, which includes a reference to the same live nativity we took Hamilton to last night.

Christmas Eve Then and Now

Though the physical manifestations of Christmas Eve’s excitement have lessened as I’ve gotten older—the fluttery stomach and too-fast chatting, I’m reminded by the chilly air, the layers of warm clothing, the early arrival of night’s darkness, and the time together with friends and family of my childhood anticipation for the holiday.

Our family has attended a Christmas Eve service most years. How exciting it was a child to hold the small, white candle surrounded by the wax-catching, paper ring as Dad lit my wick from his flame. We’d sing Silent Night, Holy Night as everyone’s candle was lit illuminating the whole church. I still enjoy the candlelight portion of the service; however, holding fire in my hands is not the most exciting thing I do now as it was when I was nine.

After the service, we usually head to the live nativity production at the local Presbyterian church where the youth group tells the Christmas story in costume while the audience freezes on cold, metal bleachers. I never paid much attention to the requisite sheep or donkey at the live nativity, but I knew live animals were somewhere.

As a child, on the way home was when I’d usually ask if we could open just one present. Dad would always say, “Open as many as you want tonight. But then you won’t have any left to open tomorrow.” We never did open any presents on Christmas Eve. After pondering the alternatives of opening gifts now or anticipating opening them later, we always saved them all for Christmas Day. Nowadays Dad’s the one who jokes about opening all our presents on Christmas Eve and “getting it over with.”

As children Travis and I would wake up on Christmas morning and discuss how much longer we needed to wait before we could go wake up Mom and Dad. As the minutes slowly ticked by, we’d finally hear them stirring; or Dad’s preapproved time for wake-up would arrive, and we’d run in their room to greet them. With the pretense of Santa, Travis and I would wait upstairs before Dad would holler up to us, giving us the all-clear to come down and see what Santa brought. We’d rush to our stockings and other unwrapped gifts, exploring the bounty and exclaiming over everything.

Now we wake to Mom and Dad’s banging around in the kitchen as they prepare a delicious Christmas-morning brunch served on Mom’s best china. We enjoy a big brunch of eggs, cheese grits, and sausage, cleaning up before the first stocking is even opened. We spend lots of time opening presents one by one, and we spend the afternoon napping, watching TV, or playing games.

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