It's only the 11th Day of Christmas* (can you hear the Pipers Piping?) so I figure it's better late than never!
We had terrible weather on Christmas Eve in Minnesota. Several of our southwestern rural congregations had no choice but to cancel worship as scheduled. I usually help with a tradition at my own congregation of surrounding the property with luminaries constructed of paper bags anchored with bird seed and lit by a votive candle. The combination of wind, snow, and rain made it a futile effort and we abandoned our treasured tradition.
But we did not sacrifice all!
Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is a big deal; I'm sure you already know. My own congregation experienced a devastating Christmas Eve fire back in the 1860's. The current 1871 building is constructed of less flammable bricks as a direct result of that tragedy. No lives were lost nor was any expense spared when rebuilding. The Episcopal Church, right in the center of this little river town, is the oldest continuously worshipping congregation in the community, and the fifth oldest congregation in the diocese.
In 1986 my husband proposed marriage to me on December 24. We drove to his folks' farm in southern Minnesota to share our news. I then flew (in my 1970's vintage AMC Pacer) down the Great River Road to historic Galena, Illinois, to join my sister for Midnight Mass at Grace Episcopal Church. No longer responsible for the prelude music playing our flutes and trying not to giggle, I was able to whisper my good news to her and ask her to be my Maid of Honor. She agreed upon one condition, that her title could be Best Woman instead!
Another tradition we have at St. Luke's in Hastings, Minnesota, is ringing in Christmas at the stroke of Midnight. Miraculously we always seem to finish up the Recessional Hymn just in time. I've taught many an acolyte how to ride the bell rope up and down while coaxing that great iron instrument to ring twelve times. The neighbors never complain. They know the Episcopalians have just wished them a Merry Christmas.
What Christmas traditions do you treasure with your family and congregation? Feel free to share by posting here.
Blessings to you and yours in the New Year!
* Just in case you're interested in entering the great debate about the Secular vs. Christian carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, I recommend this site, http://www.crivoice.org/cy12days.html. Enjoy!