Today was a wonderful Sunday-before-Christmas, which is actually starting to be my favorite day of the year. It’s turning out to be a lot more fun than Christmas itself. It’s ranking right up there with Thanksgiving for best, most relaxing, most family-filled days of the year. Plus there are fewer dishes and lots more treats.
For example, we made a full-sized piano keyboard out of Kit Kats. And it was so good that we ate almost all the black keys and a bunch of the white ones before we remembered to take a picture of it.
We woke up early to practice singing with our church choir. Unfortunately we didn’t wake up early enough or get ready fast enough, so we missed most of the practice. Plus Wendy and I had an eruptive fight about what time the practice actually started. She was right about the time. She won the fight. I’m sorry I was wrong. I’m sorry I didn’t believe her. I’m sorry I was argumentative. Seriously, I’m sorry, OK? Let’s move on.
Then we sang a full hour at church for our Christmas program. These were fun songs that were challenging (for us) and which we (mostly) pulled off. My favorite was Fill My Soul, which we didn’t record. But here is a really beautiful rendition of it.
After church, we ate a quick snack and went to sing at a local retirement home with several other people from our congregation. This was fun because that kind of thing is always fun. A few of the residents sang along. Several had huge smiles and swayed with the music. A couple just fell asleep, but I think it was a restful, happy sleep.
We sang a whole lot of songs there. At least 10. We finished with my singing a solo of my very favorite Christmas hymn, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. My son accompanied me, which was his first time playing the piano live with singing. We were both nervous, but he did great. Unfortunately, my voice by then was really shot, so I was dry and crackly. But the audience was kind and forgiving and also probably fairly hard of hearing. So it was fine.
After a quick (too quick) nap, we cleaned our house top to bottom to prepare for our new tradition that we started last year. We have over as much of the family as happens to be in town, we eat yummy food, and we sing together. This was incredibly fun and uplifting.
We sang old folk songs from our childhood like Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie. We sang quirky hymns from the early Mormon days like In our Lovely Deseret by the beloved Eliza R. Snow:
That the children may live long
And be beautiful and strong,
Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise.
Drink no liquor and they eat
But a very little meat.
They are striving to be great and good and wise.
We also sang lots of Christmas music. We sang reverent classics like the First Noel and Silent Night. We sang kids songs. And, following a week of my pestering, Wendy graced us with a gorgeous rendition of Joy to the World sung as a grungy folk song to the tune of The House of the Rising Sun. (Stop reading for a minute and try it. You’ll love it.)
Like I did last year, I also sang a solo to Wendy of Roger Whitaker’s Last Farewell. This was a song her late father used to sing to her when she was a little girl, and the last few words of the song are engraved on his headstone. After he passed 11 years ago, we stopped listening to or singing this song because it made Wendy so sad. But now I sing it to her once a year on Christmas Sunday, and it’s a wonderful way to pay tribute to her late father while still keeping his music alive in our family.
Finally, when this was all done and we had eaten all we could stand and we had sung our guts out, we drove down the street to a local Evangelical church to see their well-advertised “live nativity.” A few years ago we went to a different live nativity here in Boise, and it had sheep and donkeys and even camels. A choir dressed like angels sang to us as we stood by a fire and drank hot chocolate. It was magical.
But this live nativity was totally different. It was a 20-minute rendition of the Christmas story played out by tired teenagers in homemade costumes. There were no animals at all. I felt totally punked and didn’t want to stay.
But then the singing started.
And man, oh man, was it singing…
Because it was an evangelical church, the singing was loud and had some drums. The words were less formal than most Mormon versions of the same songs. Plus there were songs we’d never heard before. Because the lyrics were always displayed across huge monitors on the walls, and because the volume was cranked way, way, way up on the keyboard, it was easy to sing with reckless abandon. Even after having sung all day long, we belted out full throttle through the entire program.
It was a perfect way to end the day.
We didn’t take any pictures today. The memories of the day will be locked in my mind and heart, but I won’t be able to show them off on Facebook or print them for an album. In fact, the only pictures I took were of the mostly-eaten Kit Kat keyboard and this picture of me and Wendy resting by the fireplace once it was all over.
But I will say that, as I lay there by the fireplace, feeling its warmth and reflecting on this nearly-perfect day, I was incredibly grateful for Christmas, for family, and for music. Even with no pictures to remind me, I knew that I would always remember today.