Friday, December 21, 2007

The Kerry Christmas Carol by Sigerson Clifford

The Kerry Christmas Carol

Brush the floor and clean the hearth,
And set the fire to keep,
For they might visit us tonight
When all the world's asleep.

Don't blow the tall white candle out
But leave it burning bright,
So that they'll know they're welcome here
This holy Christmas night.

Leave out the bread and meat for them,
And sweet milk for the Child,
And they will bless the fire, that baked
And, too, the hands that toiled.

For Joseph will be travel-tired,
And Mary pale and wan,
And they can sleep a little while
Before they journey on.

They will be weary of the roads,
And rest will comfort them,
For it must be many a lonely mile
From here to Bethlehem.

O long the road they have to go,
The bad mile with the good,
Till the journey ends on Calvary
Beneath a cross of wood.

Leave the door upon the latch,
And set the fire to keep,
And pray they'll rest with us tonight
When all the world's asleep.
--Sigerson Clifford

I picked this poem for today because it reminded me of a post on Gremhog's Blog where she tells about her family's Christmas tradition of opening the door at midnight on Christmas Eve to welcome the Christ Child in. It seems like a nice idea to me -- though I would probably find another time to do it (I think kids should be in bed (or at least their rooms) long before midnight on Christmas eve).

Our family has several Christmas traditions that have been adapted from older less convenient ones. I have no problem with the adaptation, since without it we probably wouldn't bother at all, and at least this way we can remember what it's meant to be. Probably the best example of this is our Santa Lucia tradition (which I'll write about tomorrow).

Today, I'll write about what our Christmas Eve traditions were. During the day, we'd put on Christmas music, and make last minute preparations for Christmas. There might be some baking -- the spritz cookies and toffee were probably made earlier in December -- but dough for cinnamon rolls ought to be made fresh. Most of the presents we made for each other with Daddy would have been finished by then too, but there might be finishing touches to put on. As the day progressed, Mom would call each of us into her bedroom to take a turn wrapping presents. She shopped for bargains and perfect gifts all year long, so there were always plenty of things to wrap dug out of her hiding places in the attic and top of her closet. The happy pile under the tree would grow and grow until there wasn't room anymore.

After dinner, we would gather in the living room for a Family Home Evening like reading of the Christmas story. Of course we sang some Christmas carols at appropriate times, and when we were younger, we acted it all out. I especially remember one year, I was being Mary (I usually was, being the only girl old enough for most of the years when it mattered), and I rode on the donkey's (Daddy's) back wearing a pillowcase on my head as a costume.

Then each person got to open one present. Mom generally picked out something that would be exciting to get on Christmas Eve. It was usually something like pajamas, or a puzzle, or book, or something that we could use and enjoy that night.

After family prayer, and hugs all around, we hung up our stockings. The stockings were tube socks with red or green stripes at the top. Mom had cross-stitched our initials on them, and each one had a wreath made of a pipe cleaner with those three sided beads strung on. We never had a fireplace, so the stockings got hung up in age order on the balusters -- the posts holding the handrail up -- on the stairs. After that, the kids were all banished to the upstairs until specifically called down in the morning. We were allowed to visit each other's rooms upstairs, but it was absolutely forbidden to come past the landing at the top of the stairs. When we were older, we did occasionally get together and talk or do a puzzle, but mostly, we just went to bed (thinking that the sooner we went to sleep, the sooner we'd wake up and it would be Christmas).

That's all for today, I'll talk about Santa Lucia, the Christmas Fairy, Christmas day, and other December traditions in the next few days.

P.S. We finally got the repair man to come out and look at the furnace today. He called just as I was leaving the house, and said, "I can come over right now, or sometime after New Years." Of course, I called and rearranged my day's appointments so he could come over right now. He arrived, turned on the heater, waited a while (longer than Peter or I had been waiting after the whole smoke filled house incident), and the fan came on. He said, "There's nothing wrong with this. It's working fine." When I asked him about the smoke and such, he said that there's oil inside to keep the parts from rusting during manufacturing. He said that generally the installer will burn that off when he tests the installation. Evidently, our installer never turned it on to see if it would work (I knew that from the gas man who came in July to turn on the oven. They didn't test ANYTHING).

He went to call in and report to the manufacturer and fill out his paperwork, then came back in and said that the manufacturer wouldn't pay for it as a warranty claim since there was nothing wrong with it, and that he should bill ME for his time. I just about died! The Gas company person said not to use it till it was looked at, and the company representative I spoke to agreed that it ought to be looked at. How am I supposed to know that my heater is fine when the experts tell me to get it fixed? I coughed and sputtered a bit, and suggested that he write up the bill and leave it so he wouldn't have to stand around and wait while I got on the phone and yelled at people. Eventually, it all got worked out, but I was mightily annoyed at the whole process.

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