REALLY Celebrate Christmas Eve

I don’t remember which year it was, but I was still a full-time-mom-at-home with eight kids at the time. That year, Christmas fell on Monday. I hurried to make sure all the shopping was done on Saturday, of course, since we don’t shop on Sundays. And then, Christmas Eve on Sunday was a gift. The best kind of gift—unanticipated and a perfect fit. We went to Church and sang beautiful Christmas carols and heard a lovely choir program and nice Christmas messages. Then we went home and soaked up the spirit of the season as a family. We ended the day with the same Christmas story re-enactment so many families reserve for Christmas Eves. One of the most memorable re-enactments was the year one of our youngest daughter, Faith, played the donkey and carried that year’s Mary, our oldest daughter, Bethany, across the family room floor until the “donkey” coughed (she was kind of sick) and pitched Mary to the floor. I’m pretty sure we have that on film though just the memory makes me laugh. But I digress.

Anyway, the point is that I couldn’t get over how wonderful that year’s holiday was. Instead of the usual last-minute errands and deliveries that characterized Christmas Eves Past, our Sabbath Christmas Eve let us celebrate the meaning of Christmas so much better. So, I thought, why should we only get that opportunity once every seven years?

Since then, I have made a dedicated effort to complete all Christmas shopping, errands, gift-wrapping, and most of the cooking no later than December 23rd.  Then, no matter how the calendar falls, Christmas Eve can be a day at home, with the family, listening to wonderful Christmas music and feeling the spirit of the holiday in an entirely different way because I’m done, I’m ready. Of course, I haven’t been perfect at this plan. There is still sometimes a dash to the grocery store or last-minute wrapping to complete—it always seems to take longer than I think—and some years have come closer than others to my December 23rd deadline. But it’s MUCH BETTER than before.

This year (2022), I’m shooting for December 22nd.

10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…. How many other things are we missing?