Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent Calendar - December 20: Religious Services

This is the 20th of 24 posts for the 2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, a Geneablogger tradition.

On the 5th Day before Christmas,
my true love reminded me
Of the reason for the season.

1) Did your family attend religious services together during the Christmas season?

As a child, my family did not attend any religious services. Neither of my parents had a religious tradition, although we boys were baptized. My brother Stan and I attended the Presbyterian church two blocks down 30th Street when we were young teens, but I don't recall Christmas traditions.

Linda and I married in and joined the Chula Vista Presbyterian Church in 1970, and have been members, and have served as elder and deacon, ever since. We have always attended religious services at Christmas, and participated in them as I noted in the Arts post.

When the girls were young, we would usually attend the Family Christmas Eve service (usually at 6 or 7 PM) with the Christmas Story and Christmas carols (and sometimes I was a wise man in a tableau). After the girls left home, we usually attended either the family service or the late evening communion service which was more solemn.

Now that our girls have families, we are not always at home - usually we are at one of their homes to celebrate Christmas.

2) What were the customs and traditions involved?

The really outstanding (literally, as you'll understand!) tradition, in my mind, is the parade of parishioners with lighted candles proceeding, after the service, from the sanctuary outside to gather around the cross, and singing Silent Night until everyone has gathered around the cross. Initially, the cross was in the patio next to the sanctuary, but now it's down in the parking lot in the center of a traffic circle. It is usually cold (for Chula Vista, that means the 40s or 50s) on Christmas Eve, but rarely wet, so everybody is in their Christmas finery and coats. After the song ends, the pastor gives a benediction, and everybody hugs and wishes "Merry Christmas" to their friends and colleagues. It is a solemn, mystical and inspirational end to the evening. It was usually the highlight to my Christmas season... well, except for the excitement of Christmas Day watching the little ones discover gifts and trying them out.

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