Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Memories of a "Germans from Russia" Christmas

There are dozens of ways to celebrate Christmas. Families have their own traditions passed down for generations. In my small North Dakota town, home to many German-French emigrants from Ukraine, we had several traditions which I treasure. The tree was decorated on December 24 and stayed up until February 2. After dark on Christmas Eve, we gathered around the tree listening for the sound of melodious bells signaling the arrival of the angels. Magically, they appeared in flowing robes, shiny tiaras and wings covered with sparkling stars. They blessed the tree, sang Silent Night in German and English, and presented each child with a gift from Jesus. I can still feel the anticipation in my child’s heart and the sheer joy of that evening.

I experienced a similar joy when I received the following prayer-poem from a dear friend. It expresses the reason for that lovely family tradition and the deepest source of our Christmas joy! With permission, I include it here.

“A Christmas Eve Prayer”

Why is this night
Different from all other nights?
On this night the fevered world lets go,
Closes its doors early, calls enough enough,
Honors other claims,
And a Sabbath stillness settles,
To muffle the heart like falling snow;
And while nothing has changed,
All problems remain, all bombs wired,
All griefs grievous to the last,
The world catches a kind of second wind;
We read our stories by starlight,
And open again the gift of hope
Born when God came down
The stairs of heaven
With a child in his arms,
On this night long ago.

-- Peter Fribley

submitted by Katherine Kraft, OSB

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