Christmas at Chez Loebrich South is usually a low-key affair. It always begins the same way, on Christmas Eve morning I put the last character (the Star of Hope) on my advent calendar and then log in to NORAD's Santa Tracker to follow the Jolly Old Elf in flight. This year was no exception. After those two key items were taken care of, I did some laundry and finished baking cookies; we also talked to some of our relatives back in the Midwest to share holiday greetings.
Then it was time to get ready for church. In years past, we've occasionally attended Christmas Eve service at Duke Chapel and I definitely recommend it if you're looking for a beautiful, traditional service in one of the most gorgeous gothic church buildings around (you can even it watch it live online nowadays). One year we left the chapel, after lighting candles and hearing the North Carolina Boys Choir sing "O Holy Night" in their clear boy sopranos, and it was snowing gently. It was like being in a Currier and Ives Christmas card or an old movie - just perfect.
Our own church, in fact, has long since stopped doing multiple Christmas Eve services because everybody in the area goes to Duke. The one service at First Presbyterian is at 5pm and it combines the Children's Pageant with communion and the lighting of candles. Since we don't have children in the pageant, we don't usually go, but this year I am on the Worship Committee and was the Communion Assistant for the month of December. So we got there an hour early so I could help fill the elements and set them up in the sanctuary.
The service was lovely. The children perform a living nativity while readings and carols go on around them. They had a real baby playing the role of Jesus. At one point all the children, led by our associate pastor, performed a dance to represent the shepherds' joy at the good news. My favorite part was that three of the children representing animals in the stable were dressed as a shark, an elephant, and a cheetah! Well, why not? I have all sorts of extra figures in my nativity scenes at the apartment - the good tidings are for everyone, surely that includes sharks, elephants, and cheetahs!
I had to clean up after service as well. It took almost an hour just because the service was so crowded and everyone was passing greetings of the season in the lobby so it was really difficult to navigate through the masses while carrying trays and chalices back and forth from the sanctuary to the kitchen. It was nearly 7pm when we finally left.
We had this total 80's sitcom moment afterward. As we were driving home, Bruce said "what do you want to do for dinner?" I said, "Chinese?" So we went over to Orient Garden, a restaurant near our first apartment in Durham. It was packed! Everyone there was wearing red and green, or Christmas tree earrings, or Santa hats - it was obvious that they'd all come from church and were now having the obligatory Dinner at a Chinese Restaurant that everyone does on Christmas! Additionally, we needed to get a few things - most notably, aluminum foil so we can cover the turkey we'll bake tomorrow - but all the stores were closed and we ended up shopping at Walgreens. Got what we needed, but still darned funny.
We returned home and I frosted all the cookies I'd baked, finishing up just about 11. Imagine my surprise when I checked in with NORAD at that point and discovered Santa was in South America and making great time! Before I'd even finished checking my email, St. Nick was in South Carolina and it was definitely bedtime!
Christmas Day began with us deciding to sleep in a little longer. Then we lounged about in our pj's and opened presents while enjoying the cookies I'd made. We got lots of lovely and fun gifts and are looking forward to playing with them in the coming year! Phone calls to friends and family back home wrapped up the morning beautifully.
Then we heated up our left-overs from the Chinese restaurant, had lunch, and headed out to the movies. We saw True Grit, which was very good and I'll try to get another compilation-of-reviews post up soon. Now we're home, alternating between the Doctor Who marathon and the Weather Channel as we try to monitor the winter storm approaching the southeast.
Bruce's folks will be driving down tomorrow and we are hoping for safe roads for their journey. We wish all of you days filled with love and laughter, warm and snug in your homes surrounded by all those who are dear to you, and safe travels wherever you may go this holiday season!