Christmas of candle glow
With Christmas being a week away, I thought I’d share one of my favorite Christmas memories, from Christmas of ’77. I’d just turned 10 and I was very excited to be spending Christmas at my grandparents’ house. As the oldest grandchild, I’d get to sleep on the living room couch and would get the privilege of falling asleep looking at the beautiful Christmas tree in front of the window.
We never had “silent nights” during Christmas at my grandparents’ house in South Hadley , Mass. Gagnons always celebrate large and loud—just like any good French Canadian family. Lights blazed in every room (occupied or not). The Christmas tree glowed with lights in front of the picture window with its view of snow-covered Mt. Tom beyond.
On Christmas night, we were finishing up a day of stuffing ourselves with goodies and had spent the day enjoying the snow outside, passing around my five-month-old baby sister, and somehow assembling the whole mob of us into a group for a family photo.
Someone had cranked up the hi-fi stereo until it blasted out Christmas tunes as we continued to visit. Then a helpful someone turned on the dishwasher to give Grandma a hand with the dishes.
A few seconds later, we were plunged into darkness and silence. Grandpa Armand began his growling rant and went to rummage in the dark for a fuse.
Someone else rummaged for candles, and soon a soft glow filled the living room. Then we began to sing Christmas carols.
“Let’s pass a candle around,” one of the great-aunts said. “Whoever holds the candle has to start a new song!”
The house grew warmer as we sang. Everyone took a turn to lead a song and hold the special candle. My grandfather and one of my uncles worked on the fuses, but the delay didn’t concern the singers. Without a lit tree and without recorded music, the spirit of the season united us.
One photo remains from that night. My great-grandmother Pearl Majeau-Gagnon-Ringuette-Misek had buried three husbands in her lifetime, yet she still found it a merry Christmas. She held the candlestick in one hand, the other hand raised in song, her mouth forming an “O” as she sang.
We were almost a little disappointed when the lights came back on.
Electric lights and extra trimmings and digital music don’t make Christmas special. Take those away and what do you have? The silence of candle glow, the simplicity of voices singing age-old carols. An imperfect family, celebrating the joy of the season in a perfect way.
Death, divorce, and distance have touched our family through the years. The old house on Parkview Drive was sold in the 80s. Time spread us farther apart, from Massachusetts , to Texas and California and other states in between. We’ve never been together that way since, but I will always hold the memories of Christmas ’77 close to my heart.
I’m married with my own family now. For years, each Christmas Eve we lit a candle and filled the house with friends. We still celebrate the Light that came into the world long ago at Christmas. We make memories that will not fade, just like the Christmas when the lights went out.