Silver Bell

When I was a kid, my mom, sister, and I would meet up at my grandma’s house with my aunts and cousins and we’d all go caroling around grandma’s neighborhood. Sometimes, it was so cold I swore my nose would fall off. Other years, we’d get a warm front and marvel at the stars.

No matter the weather, everyone knew we’d be out smiling and singing, laughing and swaying. That sense of community gave me so much love.

Grandma loved the song, “Silver Bells.” It didn’t matter what time of year it was, when she did the dishes, she’d be singing about that “ring-a-ling.” The heat of summer…a rainy spring day…same song, same happy grin.

As her health failed, everyone got busy taking care of her and starting their own lives. After she died, her voice still sang to me, but the words grew softer. “Children laughing…people passing…meeting smile after smile…”

I missed caroling, but that seemed like a thing of the past. No one seemed to do it anymore. It was hard enough to get to know my neighbors in general. Everyone was so busy with work, play dates, this event and that. Plus, not everyone celebrates a holiday this time of year. Having found my spiritual home in Paganism, I love marveling at the start of winter on Yule and know how annoying it can be when people just assume that someone celebrates Christmas.

Instead of going door-to-door, I volunteered to bell ring for charity and sang the most universal carols during my shifts. It was impossible to keep from bouncing around, dancing like a wreath about to fall when singing Winter Wonderland, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bell Rock, and more.

The response was full of the same warmth and love I missed from my grandma’s neighborhood. The smiles and donations I received reminded me that celebrating the season is about sharing in life’s love no matter what our differences may be.
Then, when I became a mother, my children encouraged more singing. Whether quietly crooning lullabies or making up our own silly songs about stinky socks and trying not to sleep at bedtime, the music carried us through the worst of their earliest struggles and the best of their happy little cuddles.

So, we created our own new family tradition to sing to our neighbors without knocking on their doors and interrupting their lives. Every year, on the first day of winter (during our Yule celebration), we light a bonfire in the backyard. We circle around it and sing songs celebrating the season.

We belt Yuletide carols for everyone to hear, and dance around the flames in the cold. Thankfully, so far, no one has complained, and we keep it short and sweet. Sometimes people even open their windows and join in.

This keeps my grandmother’s tradition alive in our own way. After having lived in our neighborhood for a few years now, we’re set on inviting some neighbors this year because there is something about singing together that unleashes the true holiday spirit. It’s an inviting activity, raising your voice with others, that has become my “silver bell.”

2 Comments

  1. I agree. Singing the songs of the season is spreading the cheer, hope, and wonder of this time of year. My son-in-law did not grow up with the traditions because he’s from Egypt and has a different religion. Yet, he loves the tinsel, the tree, the food, the gifts, the decorations, the gathering of our family, and the songs! The message can be appreciated even if one doesn’t follow the New Testament scripture.

  2. It takes about a month to get Christmas music out of my head. Singing along with the songs lulls me into a happy place. Your tradition is special—would love neighbors like you!

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