Robin's note: For these True Tales, I asked two of my nieces to give me their memories of Christmas. One tells us about Christmas near one of our nation's most beautiful mountain ranges, and the other of holidays as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Central Asian nation on the plains beneath the Himalayas.
St. James Lutheran Church in Golden Colorado is now a wedding chapel; but, you can see it is a beauty.
Christmas in Colorado by Robin's Niece "Alpha"
"Christmas always reminds me of St. James Lutheran in Golden, Colorado. It was such a picturesque church up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Closing my eyes I can see and feel the excitement as I stand in line with the rest of the Sunday Schoolers waiting in the cold basement for our cue to climb the stairs to the sanctuary, singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." We followed each other to stand in our places at the altar in front of a packed church. All of us had memorized this song along with several others songs and Bible verses in the weeks before Christmas Eve.
The Christmas program was the same every year--the Christmas Story from the Bible--and the children would step up to memorizing more songs and a harder verse as they moved up in school and age. It's a good thing, though! I can now recite the Christmas story from Luke:2 in the King James Bible, which always brings me back to St. James Lutheran Church.
The interior of old St. James. Both photos courtesy of foothillschapel.com.
One cold and snowy night after the service, my mom, sisters and I were driving home, and we heard the song "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." We must have been tired, because we laughed and laughed on our dark drive down the mountain.
Christmas morning was full of excitement and opening presents, and some years our grandparents or aunt were visiting us which added to the fun. But it was Christmas Eve at our little church in Golden, that, in my memories, is always most filled with magic."
Christmas in Uzbekistan by Robin's Niece "Omega"
"About seventy percent of Uzbeks are Sunnis and so December 25th comes and goes without any fanfare.
The first year that I was there, I tried to celebrate Christmas by going to visit my friend, Jill, who lived in Yangier. This was about a twenty-minute ride to Gulistan from my village and about thirty-five to forty-five minutes from there by bus.
I had only been in the country for about five months, so my language skills in Uzbek weren't the best. It was snowing that first Christmas, which shut down most of the taxi traffic, and my limited Uzbek made it difficult for me to explain to the few working drivers what I was trying to do.
I finally got a taxi into Gulistan, but missed the last bus into Yangier, so I just went to the post office (one of the few places a person could find a telephone back then) and called Jill to tell her I wouldn't be coming. That was my first Christmas.
My niece, making noodles with her host mother in Uzbekistan, 1999. If you look carefully you will notice the blur in the hands of the host mother: those are her noodles spinning so fast you can hardly see them. My niece is wearing a scarf, not for any reason required by Islam, but because, as she reported: "There wasn't enough extra water for us to wash our hair!"
"My second Christmas, I don't even remember, which means that I probably just taught my English classes and didn't worry about
it. Uzbek holidays were more interesting, by then, than trying to fabricate my own. Some volunteers did, mind you, but I was quite isolated, which made planning and logistics with other volunteers difficult.
A relatively large group of volunteers did meet up in Bukhara for the 1999/2000 New Year holiday. One of the female volunteers had an apartment that we all crammed into, and we rang in the new century by consuming far too much bad vodka and sharing the joy of speaking English--until the vodka got in the way.
The next day-ish we all went back to our host families and that was that."
Robin notes: Two very different stories of two very different Yuletide experiences. Yet each is memorable. Both girls are married now and both have their own families. One day, their children will enjoy hearing these memories, as, in their own lives, they write their own "True Tales of Christmas."
"True Tales of Christmas" ... To Be Continued ...