Last night David and I went to the Dennysville Congregational church for the same service we attended last year. Different people read a lesson from the Bible and a choir sings appropriate songs. The audience participates by singing carols off and on throughout the program. We both enjoy this nod toward the relgious aspect of Christmas. After all, to ignore it is to turn a blind eye to the history of our Christian culture, whether we believe it all to be true or not. Otherwise the wrapping of the package supercedes its contents.
Being a pushover for ceremony and ritual, I relish the candle lighting and the red robes, the hymn books and organ music. I love the processional and recessional, the holding of the Bible in the air, the solemn faces and bowed heads. I even love the staight-backed pews with their little doors and latches, the altar with its cross. The church is obviously in a celebratory mood, dressed up and polished. One can't help but join in the gladness. Even though I don't believe, I enjoy it like I might enjoy watching friends open gifts that I know will make them happy. It is a vicarious pleasure mixed with a little envy. It's joining an on-going party for a short time and taking pleasure in it, then leaving the others to it while you go back to your own life.
Other Christmas events so far have been somewhat low-key. The Festival of Lights drew only a small number of people downtown, but the mood was up-beat. Our gallery was open for the evening and actually seemed to be the biggest draw of all the shops. My theory about that is that the participants in the evening activities were mostly the same people who come to all the celebrations mostly initiated by those of us not-quite-natives and plain-out-foreigners. We like to play "Old-Fashioned Christmas." Eastport is our stage. Therefore, many people found friends in the gallery, drinking mulled cider and eating cookies. They gravitated there for conversation and warmth and camaraderie in a place where they felt comfortable. No matter what, it was fun to eat s'mores and sing Christmas songs before a flaming barrel, accompanied by three ancient, good-natured musicians in wool caps. I liked the parade of decorated boats, too, even though there were only two boats. We make our fun and have a good time. This is possible here.
Now our attention, David's and mine, is turned toward our Christmas dinner. It seems to have become legendary in town, as many people have asked about it, what the menu will be this year. They enjoy our enthusiasm for celebration, our attention to detail, our unconventional, almost irreverent food choices, all within the context of very traditional ideals and presentation. We have extracted the parts of Christmas we love from the muck and mire of extraneous duties and obligations. We have stripped it down to what is, for us, only the good parts. We have a wonderful time.