It was Christmas Eve at our house, which, according to our family traditions, begins our celebration of Christmas. We had all ten of our family members present, along with a pair of overseas guests, one from Scotland, one from Lebanon.
We started with our traditional Christmas dinner of Chicken Kiev, with asparagus and brown/wild rice.
After dinner, we got in our cars and hurried across town to where a small church puts on a 'Live Nativity' - a short dramatization of the Christmas story, complete with angels (wearing mittens and earmuffs, to protect them from the 20F cold), live sheep/goats (the shepherds have got to have something to tend, right?) and even a donkey (I don't even want to think about what it took to get the permit for the live critters out of City Hall). The part of Baby Jesus was played by a realistic-looking rubber doll (not a hidden 40-watt bulb).
Returning home, we gathered around the tree in the living room for our annual reading of O. Henry's short story, 'The Gift of the Magi', after which we handed out the presents under the tree, and opened them. Most everyone seemed to enjoy their gifts. After a few rounds, all that remained were a few envelopes, mainly containing cards promising Gifts to be Delivered Later. One of the cards pointed 8M (who is eight years old) to a fishbowl surreptitiously stashed at the neighbors' house, containing six goldfish, five of which had died by the time he got to them. The sixth died by the time we left for Midnight Mass, so there was much teasing of the poor boy, on the order of, "On the Sixth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me. . . Six Dead Goldfish. . ."
One of the last to be opened was an envelope marked for 6F, from 8M. At this point, I should mention that 6F is hoping to go on a mission trip next summer, either in Costa Rica or Honduras, and she is just getting ready to gear up her fundraising campaign of letters to various relatives and friends. When 4M went on a similar trip a couple years ago, to the Dominican Republic, we were stunned by people's generosity.
6F opened the envelope, which contained a few dollar bills and a small handwritten note. Her upper lip quivered briefly, and she passed the envelope and its contents to Jen, who read the note and dabbed at her eyes, passing the note along. In short order, it was passed to me, and I beheld four $1 bills, with a note from 8M saying, "It's not much, but this is for your mission trip. Love, 8M."
There was nary a dry eye in the house by the time the envelope finished circulating.
After that, we went to Midnight Mass, which ended with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah (one can never sing the Hallelujah Chorus too often), after which we returned home to indulge in some celebratory treats.
All in all, a most satisfactory celebration of Our Lord's Incarnation. And that note from 8M will stay with me for a long time. . .