This is the time of year where morning comes slowly and evening quickly.
I feel melancholy as I wake up far before the sun rises over the Atlantic ocean, just a few miles to the east of us. As much as I want to embrace these days and all they hold, I am a woman who loves light and sun. I love it when sunlight floods my living room and bright light and warmth comfort me beyond my bones to my soul. As soon as I rise, I go to the kitchen and turn on the lights of the newly decorated Christmas tree and light a single candle. Somehow these small acts are enough to comfort; enough to calm my anxious soul and bring light into life.
It was during days like this that we began our favorite Christmas tradition, something we call “Candle Time”. It began in Cairo with my sister-in-law, Carol. We had the joy of having them live just a few blocks from us during our second year in Cairo. During the Christmas season we found ourselves back and forth at each other’s homes a lot. Together we had five children – three belonged to us, two belonged to them. One evening as our children were winding down after dinner we started “Candle Time”.
We began by turning off every light in the flat. Clad in their onesie pajamas, their toddler fat still squeezable, they sat still in wonder as we lit a candle and began singing Christmas carols. Then we walked each of them off to bed and looked at each other in amazement. We had never had this calm a bedtime routine.
And so began a tradition. Beginning soon after Thanksgiving we started Candle Time. By candle light we sang Christmas carols, talked, and prayed. By candle light we ate frosted sugar cookies. By candle light we drank rich, hot cocoa. By candle light we then walked each child to their beds, kissed them good night to the sound of Silent Night.
It became a favorite part of our holiday season.
Candle time became a treasured tradition, a time of quiet and connection during what is often the busiest time of the year. As the kids grew, guitar music accompanied our candle time, initially clumsy with chords but soon playing confidently and leading our singing. At times our time became less sacred and funnier as we tried to harmonize, laughing at those who could never quite find the right note.
Sometimes I would beg to keep one hall light on but the kids would have none of it. It was all lights off except the Christmas tree lights, one candle lit, all of us together. There was no talk of presents. No mention of Santa Claus. Just singing carols and quietly closing the day.
We no longer have little kids and candle time has had to evolve with our family growing up and away. But every year, once the tree is decorated, we try to have candle time during the season with who ever happens to be home.
Because no matter how old we get, it helps to stop. It helps to turn out all the lights, light a single candle and, with the glow of the Christmas tree lights creating magic and joy, reflect on the season as we wait for the One who has already come.