Celebrating a Simple Season with a Rural Community Gathering – Agweek

The snow was falling and swirling in gusts. In a season where we really hadn’t had much snow, this seemed like an omen.

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

Immediate howls of disapproval rang out from my backseat. The two girls in my car just had to get to the first tree lighting in town. End of the story.

I wouldn’t have peace if I turned the car home, even though in my bones that’s what I wanted to do. December had just begun and had already flown by at a somewhat frantic pace. We had spent some precious moments at home that day, and the following weekend seemed to be – and would turn out to be – even busier. Every weekend and many weekdays had something planned in addition to normal work and school and farm necessities. Coming home just half an hour early, cooking supper, and curling up in a chair sounded like a delightful idea.

A delightful idea, unless you’re a bright-eyed, enthusiastic 9 or 5-year-old girl excited to be a part of something special, even with the wind, snow and sudden cold.

We passed the tree to be lit, a tall and somewhat sparse thing with a few simple decorations. The backdrop was an old gas station, long since used as such. It was 20 minutes before show time and no one was there.

“Come on, guys. There’s no one here. Can’t we just go home?”

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

And so we drove around town looking at the lights until we realized the cafe in front of the tree was lit up. It was not open on Saturday 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 like an abundance for our small town on such a windy evening. We counted and the colorful twinkling lights illuminated 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 that I remember was a western theme, and it all felt special and magical, and in all honesty, very simple. No year after has lived up to that first memory. Floats have become more conspicuous or more commercialized. Eventually we stopped going. And I think, eventually, I stopped looking for something as enjoyable as that first experience.

I felt a little of that joy at that tree lighting. Maybe it was the joy on my daughters’ faces as they stood with their friends and sang along. 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 simple and ours don’t have to be and maybe shouldn’t be glitzy, glamorous things.

One of the organizers of the day’s events told me that they were planning to make the Christmas party an annual thing. I sincerely hope that they will and that it will remain a simple, relaxed and unifying event. 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 read more about the columns of The Sorting Pen by Jenny Schlecht, click here.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek’s editor-in-chief. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, ND, 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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