Christmas Eve

What is your very favorite holiday? Recount the specific memory or memories that have made that holiday special to you.

Christmas eve. December 24th was a magic day. My older sister arrived home from Madrid where she was working. We were finally all together. We missed her so much! My parents got separated by force during twelve years after she was born. So there is a big gap between her and the rest of us. We, “the four small ones” adored her. When she left us to go to work in Madrid it was a complete tragedy. Every time she returned home we celebrated as a great festivity. But the day had to begin without her.

Early in the morning we began to decorate the house with the little things we had crafted with mom’s direction the precedent Sundays. Mom was the decorator in chief. She made us feel we were the important ones in all the process, but she was the one doing the job before going to the kitchen to fix dinner. It was an exhausting day for her. Then we all went to help dad trimming the tree full of lights and candles and setting the scene of the grotto.

According to the tradition we set the scene under the tree. The tree represent the life and the light that emanates from Bethlehem, so our “little Bethlehem” representation was always under the tree. Every year our “little Bethlehem” was different. Dad made a little grotto with clay or wood pieces painted by him and set an elaborate landscape made with sand and little pebbles to mark paths and moss to represent fields of grass with figurines of sheep grazing here and there. There was even a river with real water in it and a clay made bridge over. In the grotto we set carefully the clay statuettes of the Virgin, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, and around the shepherds, the Wise Men with their presents and the angel. The angel was a statuette my dad liked very much. It was beautifully done, delicate.

When we were finishing and my mom was busy in the kitchen, my sister arrived. Big joy and excitement. She usually took us out for a walk. Wen we came back my dad was at the main room “talking with the angel” about us and our gifts. Closed doors. We waited impatiently outside, excited. When the angel had left the presents and was gone, my dad began to light the candles on the tree and the “little Bethlehem”. We could see the lights lighting one by one through the door’s crystal panels” It was the sign that we could enter. The room was only illuminated by the candles. We could see in the twilight our beautifully wrapped gifts, but we knew we had to wait to see what the angel had brought us. It was a magic. The twilight, the shiny parcels, the smell of moss, clay and candles, the excitement. My dad read the Gospel and we prayed. Then we all sang an ancient beautiful Croatian carol and only after that we turned on the lights to finally open our presents.

We all had late dinner and plenty of time after dinner to play with our new toys before was time to go to midnight Mass. It was a very solemn celebration with a beautiful liturgy and music. We met there all the other families, our friends and neighbors and wished them Merry Christmas.  When we arrived home we were ready for bed after such a long and exciting day.

 

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