When I was a child, and well into adulthood in fact, 364 days a year were merely a build-up to Christmas. When school started in September, I began planning, although it wasn't until after Thanksgiving that my mother allowed me to actually bother anyone else with my planning.
When at last everyone else recognized that it was time to begin preparing, there were the batches and batches of almond and chocolate spritz and gingerbread cookies to be made and decorated, russian teacakes and bourbon balls to be rolled, fudge to be cooked and tested with the candy thermometer to make sure it was at the right stage to be poured.
There were presents to be made as art projects in school, and Christmas assemblies to attend - although my elementary school was 90 percent Jewish, we sang half Christmas songs and half Hannukah songs, although I do remember dancing the horah in a huge circle one year - and school would be let out for the holidays, children running outside with their winter coats open and positively feverish with excitement.
There was the shopping to do, hours and hours spent choosing presents bought with my 25-cent-a-week allowance saved up over the year.
There was the tree to buy, and then decorating it with the ornaments pulled from boxes that were kept in the basement during the year, a collection that grew so much over time that they no longer all fit on my parents' Christmas tree.
At last, all my anticipation would come to a head when my mother would pack us all up and off to church. The children's choir I sang in had already been rehearsing for months by then, learning complicated and sublime Britten and Kodaly and Buxtehude and Haydn carols and anthems and anonymous spirituals for the Christmas Eve service at church, and we would sit in the choir stalls in our red robes, standing for the six or seven times we were allowed to let loose our pure vibrato-less voices. It was the absolute crowning of the year. In retrospect, bigger even than Christmas day itself with all its presents and turkey with stuffing.
And so it feels nice to be singing Christmas carols in a choir again at last, after four years of sabbatical. Of course, I've only had two rehearsals and the concert is on Saturday, but it brings it all back to me.
The Swedish word for the day is kör. Pronounced with a hard k, it means choir; pronounced with a soft k, which sounds like an sh, it means drive as in to drive a car.
- by Francis S.