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Christmas Memories, Part Two: Blackout Fairy Tale

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Growing up, my Christmases consisted of two traditions each Christmas Eve.

First, after dinner we would go to church where us kids would perform a play for all the adults. Second, my family would head home where we would gather in the living room to open our presents.

One particular year, my most memorable Christmas, was when I was roughly ten years old. I took to the stage in our little Mennonite church with my fellow Sunday school class to put on a little production of Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem. When I was younger, the production always seemed to be so long, which I enjoyed. In hindsight, the plays probably lasted a total of twenty minutes.

After the play, I felt a swell of joy having reminded myself of the true meaning of Christmas as I sat back in the pew to sing a few carols.

In the midst of singing one of the beloved hymns, the power went out. No one screamed as the floodlights shone dimly, the generator having kicked in. But it was clear to the congregation, the evening’s event was finished after everyone stood around for a few minutes in the dark.

I’m not quite sure why, but I’ll never forget the drive home that night. The streets of Niverville were pitch black, other than the headlights illuminating the snow that softly fell. It was eerie yet serene at the same time, beckoning each of us to be still on this truly silent night.

When we got home, my parents talked about what to do next. On that December evening, even though we live in one of the coldest places in the world, there was no panic in their talk. They decided that we would continue our tradition anyway. My dad went and got his kerosene lantern from the garage, lit it, and then we took turns opening gifts by the flicker of a single flame.

I’m not sure what I opened as a present that year. It didn’t really matter, as we had an unforgettable Christmas in the dark. In my mind, as a child, the evening felt like a fairy tale.

This Christmas during the pandemic will no doubt be different than ever before. But as citizens of this town, we have the opportunity to find the light in the darkness and make it one we won’t forget—sort of like the first Christmas, a holy night so calm and bright.

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