Letter to the editor: 'Christmastide' holds its allure
On Dec. 8, 2019, better known as Lessons and Carols Sunday, we headed for Mead Chapel, on the campus of Middlebury College. It was about 3 p.m. The traditional Christmas celebration was to start at 4 p.m. It is best to get there early for the best seats. Our arrival was planned for about 3:30, at which time we would head for the Choir Loft for best viewing. This would be the 48th Annual Celebration. To quote from the extremely well designed handout: “The overall format of this service provides such a rich opportunity to experience both the emotional resonance and familiarity of ‘Tradition,’ while each year stretching the congregation and the choir with music that is unfamiliar or new.”
While the Chapel was filling up, I wondered who would come and why. I knew that the young adults making up the choir would be there, but who else? As I began to survey the pews below I noticed: grandparents with their young grandchildren, a father holding an infant girl, people standing waiting for late friends or relatives to arrive, family groups, single individuals, groups from Middlebury’s senior residential communities, out-of-towners and so on. A very diverse group in many ways, to say the least. While the congregation was diverse in many ways, the majority of attendees were not young adults.
I began wondering to myself, why are these people here. Was it habit acquired over a number of years of attendance; was it a quiet diversion from shopping? Maybe they were invited by friends. Maybe they knew someone in the choir. Puzzling! One could visualize events, similar to this one, occurring in towns across this nation this time of year. But why?
Traditions make up part of the fabric of this country. Traditions in this day and age are being cast aside as irrelevant. To many, Christmastide’s real meaning has been lost to commercialization. It is all about making and spending money. It came to me that people attending services such as the one at Mead Chapel were taking a stand. They were saying that we understand full well that things change over time, but not this. This is our tradition. The music and thoughts presented provide solace in these times when many institutions in our country seem to be in disarray. It provides an anchor in stormy times. The attendees wish that the joyous feelings which come to the surface at this time of year would spread over the entire country for a year’s time, not an hour’s. Christmastide is very special for not so obvious reasons.
Brian J. Bauer