While the Holidays may mean different things to different people, many of us share common experiences – Christmas Carols, Santa Claus, the Nativity scene, or the simple act of giving. In most cases, the joys of seasons past still permeate the present.
My own childhood memories of Christmas include the never-ending rehearsals for school concerts, decorating the tree, Midnight Mass, and the opening of gifts on Christmas morning. Even today, decades later, I can still recall the scent of my mother’s cooking wafting through our home.
These are but a few highlights among many unforgettable – and magical – experiences.
One of my earliest recollections was an unexpected sleigh ride. In the 1950s, living in the country had its fair share of hardships. Following mid-winter blizzards, it often took days to clear the roads of snowdrifts. Such was the case one year, when a heavy snow fell on Christmas Eve. As attending Midnight Mass was a must, out came a long-retired sleigh for a trek through the winter wonderland. I vividly recall being tucked warmly between my parents, and marveling in the delight of travelling by horse and sleigh. On leaving the church, we were greeted by rows of horses attached to sleighs, their breath a fog in the freezing air, each stomping at the bit in anticipation of the trip home. The sound of the bells jangling from their harnesses is a memory I will forever cherish.
Like most, music and song have been a part of our family’s Christmas experience for generations. Two seasonal jewels that still resonate with me today are Christmas in Killarney – “with all of the folks at home” – rekindling happy memories of kin, friends, and a house filled with melodies. Silent Night reminds me that the Holidays are a time for heavenly peace and goodwill to others. That particular piece also brings to mind the WWI Christmas Eve tale of German and Allied troops crawling out of the trenches in “no man’s land” to exchange gifts of cigarettes and food in a moment of harmony amidst a war that was to claim over 15 million lives. It is believed that the short truce began that night with the Allies singing Christmas Carols. When they sang Oh Come All Ye Faithful the Germans joined in with the Latin words Adeste Fideles. As they emerged from the trenches, soldiers from both sides put down their arms in a rare show of solidarity.
Sadly, today, war remains and poverty reigns. More than 3 billion people still live in poverty, with an estimated 387 million children bearing the brunt of this global atrocity.
Mother Theresa said that while not all of us can do great things, each of us can do small things with great love. She added that even if we cannot feed 100 people, we can still feed one. As such, we have a responsibility to abide by her words. Oxfam International is a global organization working to end the injustice of extreme poverty, and even a small donation will save lives; www.oxfam.org
From the management and staff of Celtic Life International, we would like to wish you and your family peace on earth, goodwill to others, and a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Enjoy and May God Bless!
Angus M. Macquarrie, Publisher