Spending Christmas With Friends

On a recent Sunday, I witnessed a wonderful children’s service at our Church in the morning, attended a terrific holiday musical concert at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts in the afternoon, and wrapped up the day with a magnificent dinner with friends in Lakewood.

To be honest, two days earlier I had been complaining to my wife about being “over-booked” and being too socially engaged. I was scheduled to be at some type of outing or party for three days in a row!

I am quite a home-body and usually prefer to stay home around a wood fire if given the choice.

Yet, I must admit that she was right–I needed to get out and be with friends, especially at this time of the year.

It is the Winter Solstice, days are short but Christmas reminds us that longer days are coming. It is also a time when families gather and most of our discussions with friends are focused on kids and grandchildren coming home for the holidays.

I may be prejudiced about this, but I have always felt that this nook we call Chautauqua County is a special place when it comes to making life-long friends. Some of our friends now go to Florida in the winter. Others, have left to live closer to their kids. Yet, when they talk of “home,” they mean here, around this town with its rolling hills and the lake.

Is it something in the water? Is it because the winters confine us a bit and force us to live closer together? Maybe it is because we have fewer social options, and so we need each other more. Whatever the reason, the sense of community is very real. Many of our friends who have moved away still remark about the life-long friendships they made while they were living here.

But, to get back to Christmas: have you ever experienced the end of a Christmas Eve service where the lights are turned low in the sanctuary, a candle is lit, and after a moment of silence the minister proclaims: “a light shined in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it!?”

These powerful words say a lot about the mystery and meaning of Christmas. They also describe the light you feel when you gather with friends around the Solstice, this darkest time of the year, and celebrate the beauty and warmth of this special place where we live.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.