I wrote a story for Sunday's paper about a new book called “Christmas in Illinois,” edited by James Ballowe.
You can read all about the book in Sunday's paper, but in short, it's an extensive collection of essays, poems, recipes, newspaper articles and many other items that describe Christmas throughout the state. Ballowe told me he wants people to be able to see themselves and their geography in the book, and then get a look at how Christmas is celebrated in other areas.
One particular poem included in it stood out at me. It reminds me of Paxton's Christmas Tree Lighting, which happens the Friday after Thanksgiving each year. High school kids sing, essay contest winners are announced and best of all, community members light the giant tree that presides over Paxton's downtown each year.
It's not the most glamorous celebration, but I wouldn't miss it for anything.
Some Words for the Lighting of the Christmas Tree in Auburn, Illinois Town Square
this tree will be our own
rising star it will sparkle
even if there are clouds in the sky
this soft-needled fur
glowing with light
the greens blues reds
the yellows all
the good colors these
tinsel cheers in a dark evening
the winter wearing to that cold
hour when the snow swirls
may hide the solstice
and we will find once more the
vast dark of the first breaking
from which all the light
gleaming in our eyes was drawn
and so for those who will
come by and share these lights
and for those who have
lived here in our time
or back as far as the generations will go
and for those who will yet
move here in some other season
of flickering lights
let us ask a blessing
a blessing for all of them
and for ourselves – for everyone
as we stand in the privilege
of this one instant prepared for us
on this small planet
this manger of reflecting light
in the freedom of the heavens
What about you? What's the holiday tradition you wouldn't skip for the world?
Photo is courtesy of Paxton Record Editor Will Brumleve.