(HOST) Some holiday traditions are cultural, involving many people. Others are more individual. Commentator Alan Boye has a Christmas Eve tradition that falls into the personal category.
(BOYE) Tonight I’m going for a walk. I’m going for a walk in order to fulfill a silly kind of tradition. You see I have taken a Christmas Evening’s walk every Christmas Eve of my adult life. No matter where I have found myself, I’ve walked out into the winter’s night so that – well – I go walking each Christmas Eve so that I can listen to Santa’s sleigh bells. Don’t laugh, because on every single Christmas Eve I’ve heard those sleigh bells!
So tonight, I’ll step from my warm, love-filled house into the silent dark. The streetlights will turn the snow into a deep, mystical blue. All over town children will be fast asleep – or will be at the edge of sleep – their firm resolve to stay awake being melted by the sleepy blanket of a mother’s warm embrace.
I know about such nights, for on a Christmas Eve long ago a young boy sat on the edge of his own bed, sleepless. I was six years old, and I had discovered doubt. Yes, I pondered the existence of a jolly old elf, but also the recent passing of my grandfather had taught me about death. On that Christmas Eve, I was wide awake with the emptiness of forever.
It was at that precise moment, nearly a half-century ago, that the sound of sleigh bells jingled in the night air. Someone on that long-passed Christmas Eve must have been going for a walk. I collapsed back into the cradle of innocence, and I drifted into perhaps the most peaceful sleep of my life, for it was a sleep where I believed dreams could come true.
Since then there have been countless nights where doubt and despair have left me sleepless. During those times I try to remember the sound of those bells I heard as a child, for they remind me that – despite the blackest of nights – there is love in the world.
So when I walk tonight I’ll carry an old set of sleigh bells with me. Call me a shameless sower of the seeds of mystery, but what else is there in our lives – no matter what our beliefs – what else is there but hope that the young shall go forth with love in their hearts?
Tonight, as I walk through these Vermont village streets I’ll lean back my head and shout "Ho Ho Ho," and shake those old bells.
O, ring, ring bells of love and hope and belief in the great mysteries of life!
This is jolly old Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.
Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury.