Celebrate a Simple Season with a Rural Community Gathering

“Guys, I think we should just go home.”

Immediate howls of disapproval rang out from my back seat. The two girls in my car just had to get to the first light in the trees in town. End of the story.

I wouldn’t have peace if I turned the car towards the house, even though in my bones that’s what I wanted to do. December had just started and had already gone at a rather frantic pace. We had spent a few precious moments at home that day, and the following weekend seemed to be – and would turn out to be – even more eventful. Every weekend and many weekdays had something planned in addition to normal work and school and farming necessities. Coming home half an hour early, cooking dinner and curling up in a chair seemed like a delicious idea.

A delicious idea, unless you are a 9 or 5 year old girl with bright eyes and enthusiasm, excited to be a part of something special, even with the wind, snow and sudden cold.

We walked past the tree to be lit, something tall and somewhat sparse with some simple decorations. The backdrop was an old gas station, long after its use as such. There were 20 minutes left before the show time and there was no one there.

” Come on guys. Nobody is here. Can’t we go home? “

I don’t think the answers were in correct English, but the meaning was clear. No, we couldn’t go home. And the people would be there, just watch.

So we walked around the city looking at the lights until we realized the cafe in front of the tree was lit up. It hadn’t been open on Saturdays lately. We found a group waiting for the event and the owner was filling the kids with hot chocolate.

When the time came, we dragged ourselves outside. Crowds of all ages seemed to be in abundance for our small town on such a windy evening. We counted and the colorful twinkling lights lit up the tree. It wasn’t perfect. The songs we sang were probably a little out of tune and out of tune. My hands were cold after giving my gloves to my youngest daughter, who constantly loses hers.

But it was beautiful.

When I was a kid, we used to go to our town’s Christmas parade. The first year I remember was a western theme, and it all felt special and magical, and in all fairness, very simple. No year after has ever lived up to this first memory. The floats have become more gaudier or more marketed. Finally, we stopped going. And I think, in the end, I stopped looking for something as pleasant as this first experience.

I felt a little of this joy in the lighting of this tree. Maybe it was the fun on my daughters’ faces as they stood with their friends and sang at the top of their lungs. Maybe it was the feeling of familiarity and community in our cozy little town. Maybe it was just the sheer simplicity of the event, a reminder that the first Christmas was pretty straightforward and ours shouldn’t be and maybe shouldn’t be glitzy and glamorous things.

One of the organizers of the day’s events told me that they plan to make the Christmas celebration an annual thing. I sincerely hope that they will and that it remains a simple and relaxed event that brings people together. It’s my favorite genre. And I’m sure my kids will make sure we’re there.

May you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

To learn more about Jenny Schlecht’s The Sorting Pen columns, click here.

Jenny Schlecht is the editor-in-chief of Agweek. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at [email protected] or 701-595-0425.

About Keneth T. Graves

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