Recently I felt a secret joy as I watched snowflakes fall like feathers from the sky. Soon a white blanket covered the scene outside my window. Through the snow I saw the colored lights decorating our neighbors homes, bringing a message of cheer and good will. It was an invitation to celebrate and revisit the past.
My favorite memories took place in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., in a three-story Victorian house set back from Second-street Pike. The walls were comprised of large grey stones and a veranda spanned the width of the front and sheltered the entrance. Inside was a hall and a stairway to the second floor. To the right was a living room facing north. On the left was another living room facing south. Both had fireplaces. Early Christmas morning my sisters and I would creep down the stairs. The early morning light was fused with the glow of colored tree lights. Both living rooms had spruce trees that reached from the floor to the ceiling and at their base, gifts were piled in abundance.
We eagerly claimed our stockings which were bulging with goodies, and spilled the contents onto the floor. By this time our parents had joined in the fun. Dad set a fire in the fire place in the south living room, where we gathered for the opening of the Representation, and Dad read aloud from the Bible.
My father fashioned a “stage” with strips of wood, raised on legs and about four feet in length. In November he would take a shopping basket from the shelf, grab a trowel, and invite my two older sisters and me to join him for a trek in the woods. We would walk along the railroad tracks between Huntingdon Valley and Bryn Athyn, collecting moss, green plants, ferns and rocks that we found of interest. On Christmas Eve while my sisters and I slept, Dad would artfully create the scene for the Christmas story. On the left, stones were piled and covered with moss. A flock of sheep were arranged coming down the “hill.” To the right, a stable was roughly constructed. Here Mary, Joseph and a couple of shepherds, dolls about six inches in height and dressed in scraps of material from my mother’s sewing box, took their places around a cardboard manger lined with hay. A tiny doll was placed in the manger, illuminated by a small light. The back wall was covered by a pastel painting of the city of Jerusalem done by my oldest sister. The center of this area was recessed to allow room for a small doll dressed in white with wings, the angel with her own light.
When we were settled around the room our father would pull back the paisley shawl that covered the Representation. In front of us was a table with the open “Word” (Bible) and a candle which we would light. I can still hear my father’s voice… “- and there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their sheep at night, when the Angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, ‘Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be for all people.’” Included in the story are the Three Wise Men from the East.
Each year at this time we are reminded of the power of love. We see the bright lights shining through the darkness. revel in the music created by orchestras and choirs, enjoy great food (eat lots of cookies!) and share cherished moments with friends and family. May the spirit of Christmas be with you now and in the coming year!