Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blog Caroling - The Carol of the Bells

My Christmas this year is filled with bells, and the carols playing are no different. The Carol of the Bells is based on a Ukrainian song and was adapted by Peter Wilhousky, who lived down the street from me when I was a child. He was long retired by that time, but it was a thrill to know he created the carol we were singing. 

The lyrics are layered - the carol is sung in under two minutes. But it is tremendous, tremendous fun. 

Blog Caroling is an annual tradition started by Footnote Maven. It is a joy to participate again this year. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Baubles, bangles and bells ~ Celebrating Christmas

As a family historian, a second generation American of Eastern European ancestry and long time lover of musicals, tradition - no - TRADITION means everything. Come Christmas, however, and traditions can overwhelm. 

I want it all. The Christmas of my childhood. The Christmas of my faith. The Christmases of our families' past. The Christmas of today.   What I end up with are layers and layers of moments, each a link to a Christmas past.  

The music playing references our heritage and our own lives. Slavonic, Latin and English hymns. Folk music and saxophones. Choirs and bells. When the Hallelujah Chorus plays I remember singing it myself for the first time, my daughter's choir, and my mother giggling as she told us of the time she "hallelujahed" a beat to soon. One unanticipated solo. 

This year I was able to spend several days decorating our tree. For the last few years we've traveled at Christmas, visiting family and celebrating afar. No trees put up at home. It was a luxury and joy to reflect on each ornament as I hung it on our mishmash tree. 

There are wheat ornaments from Kansas that remind me of our first home and daughter's birth - and of my husband's ancestors who settled there a century earlier. Tin instruments that make me think of the music we've played over the generations.

A straw ornament from my cousins in Slovakia reminds me of a stable. Lovely little birds make me think of my three mothers - birth, in-law and step. Birders all. 

There are stars that reflect beaches we've walked on. Stars that remind me of the Carpathian mountains. Stars because we remember a Star in the East. A lobster that reminds me of summer dinners and winter parties. 

Angels who herald or chime, angels that hung on trees of grandmothers and great-grandmothers decades ago. 

Our lady of the torch reminds me of a frantic visit decades ago and the earlier passages of my grandparents almost 100 years ago. Our Lady of the tree is an ornament I made 50 years ago. 

There are church spires from Frederick, Maryland and from farther east. And lighthouses from the coasts we've lived on to bring us safely home.

A small home or cabin covered in snow reminds me of growing up in Connecticut and of the many generations of my family who have lived in the mountains. 

A very old Santa from my parents' Air Force days in Europe still peeks out from behind Alice in Wonderland - one of the many children's book characters hiding in the tree because we read

My sister's carousel brings back the our early adult years, when money was tight but her love was shared. I remember rides with her in Binghamton at the carousels and watching my own children whirl round on ones at carnivals and even looking over the Grand River in Michigan.

But above all there are bells. Bells that remind me of church and choirs and songs ringing out across the fields. Bells that help me remember that time and those we love pass, traditions change, but the joy and beauty of Christmas can lift our spirits each winter.