We are in the midst of a raging snowstorm. The kind with high winds, low temperatures, drifts and hollows, and howling in the chimney. The cat is the only one of us who was willing to venture out this morning. And that was surprising.
But there is a fire in the woodstove and the house is doing its best to fend off the drafts and chill. Still warm in my memory are the events of Christmas Eve. My extended family lives in a village a few miles from here. It’s a small village five miles from the paved road, where the townsfolk still wait for high speed internet, but otherwise live firmly in the 21st century, while living in a village that resembles a card from Currier and Ives. There is no other place I wish to be on the fourth of July or on Christmas Eve. This town knows how to celebrate and when I go there I am known and welcomed and love to feel part of the revelry.
This year Christmas Eve was crisp and starlit. The tall narrow windows of the small white church at the crossroads of this village cast trapezoidal golden shapes on the snow. Outside, Tina was lighting the candles in the dozens of ice lanterns she creates each year for the entrance of the church. Inside, Heather welcomed us into the vestibule and we followed Suzanne and Shona—carrying their instruments—into the sanctuary. Soon fiddles, cello and guitar filled the space with carols and jigs. The service commenced with music, stories, song and contemplation. We were challenged to think of arcs of meaning on this long dark night. We lit candles for those who couldn’t be with us, those just born, and those who had just left us.
Pouring out of the church into the night—our breath visible in the night air—we followed the crowds to the bonfires lit in the field below the church. Randy—who had shared his clever illustrations while singing “The January Man” during the service—was serving hot cider and adding generous tipples of bourbon for the grown ups. Around the fires, we warmed ourselves and chatted amicably. I realized that we were standing in the same spot of the summer greased pole contest, and just a few feet from the fire’s glow was the bank we scrambled down to go swimming in July. I could have stayed for hours, but dinner awaited at my parent’s house, only a quarter of a mile down the road. Christmas would dawn the next day and there was a child to tuck in, a stocking to fill, further toasts to make.
The January Man