For this most magical day (and night!) of Christmas Eve, we wanted to share one of our all-time favorite memories with you. It was sent to us from Susan Maxhimer in Gales Ferry, Connecticut, and it appears in our book, Farmhouse Christmas. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Among my growing up memories of Christmas are the never-ending hunt for the perfect Christmas tree, turkey stuffing, elaborate once-a-year cookie recipes and visiting with relatives. However, the memory that remains the warmest in my heart is my mother's bayberry candle.
At dusk, every Christmas Eve, my mother would light a single bayberry candle in our front window. When I asked why, she explained the tradition of a light in the window to welcome the weary traveler. She told me lighting the candle was an especially important tradition for her because her mother also lit a bayberry candle in her window at that same moment of dusk. No matter how far apart they were, it was a moment of connection that brought them close, both to each other and to the true meaning of Christmas.
Each year as the holiday season arrived again, I would take notice as my mother tucked a bayberry candle in the Christmas package to my grandparents. I watched that candle being sent on its way and later, I would watch my mother light her candle. I, too, would then let my thoughts travel to my grandmother.
The first year I lived away from home and opened my long-awaited Christmas package I found, much to my delight, a bayberry candle tucked between all the goodies. At the first moment of dusk, I lit the candle. As I gazed at the flame, I imagined my mother's and my grandmother's smiles and I sent my Christmas wishes to them.
I have been away from home many years now. My grandmother passed away several years ago and Christmas these days seems more of a test of stamina rather than a joyous holiday.
But when I take a moment to light my Christmas Eve candle, I always travel back to the warmth and closeness that is Christmas for me.