The Community Christmas Tree
by Beth Kozan
I’d love to be in Texas this Christmas Eve, but I won’t be, so let me tell you about Christmas Eve at Carr’s Chapel in the rural community of Harmony, on the South Plains of West Texas, a small farming community where I grew up in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.
Christmas Eve was the most important day of the year, especially if you were a child! The entire community was invited, and many gathered at the church for the Christmas tree and an evening of songs and gift exchange. After a brief program by the children of the church – the little ones reciting from memory a poem about Christmas, a story with a moral (my favorite sad story was Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl), then the scriptural reading of the first Christmas – the youngest children would stand together in their finery and sing “Away in a Manger,” followed by a few carols from the congregation, and ending with “Jingle Bells.” As the song faded away, if you listened carefully, the sound of sleigh bells could be heard outside, and Santa Claus himself would bound in with a hearty “Ho! Ho! HO!”
As Santa entered the church at the back, a curtain would be pulled back, revealing the tallest tree that could be found by the Decorating Committee that year. The youth of the church would have placed the lights and the tinsel on the tree the night before, and packages magically appeared in the hours before the gathering. At the sight before them, the eyes of the littlest ones would bug out. That little red wagon – is that for ME?
Everybody in attendance would get a bag of candies, fruit and nuts, and Santa soon announced he had to leave to deliver presents to all the girls and boys all over the world, so his helpers would pass out the gifts!
No longer a child, I long to return to that little church which meant so much to me in my formative years, even after I grew up and married. And divorced. And remarried. And divorced. And returned again, unmarried, but in a permanent relationship. All of us who grew up there return with our families as often as we can so our children and grandchildren can have memories of the Christmas tree at Carr’s Chapel. If I’ve counted right, 2017 is their 112th annual Christmas Eve celebration.
Beth Kozan is the author of the book Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Helping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.