When I think of reading traditions in our family, it’s not a single title or series of books that come to mind, it’s the tradition of reading. My sisters and I and our weekly visits to the library. The celebration that came with the Scholastic flyers that arrived at school four times a year. The nightly bedtime stories that my mother read to us when we were young, and the nightly story time that I shared with my own children, every night, for years. We had stories we loved, that we returned to over and over, but only one that I remember that became a regular tradition.
The book – more a story – was Raymond MacDonald Alden’s created folk tale, “Why the Chimes Rang”. It’s a Christmas story of Pedro, a little boy who gave up his dream in order to help a fallen traveler, and in the process, enabled a miracle. It’s a simple, touching tale demonstrating that purity of heart is more valuable than gold or jewels, and my father, a United Methodist minister, would read it from the pulpit at every Christmas Eve service.
Nestled amongst the carols and the scriptures and illuminated by candlelight, accompanied by the scent of pine and cinnamon and all the pageantry that marked the season, my father’s soothing voice would remind us that it is not what we bring to the altar that matters, but that we bring it with a loving and open heart. It was not only the epitome of the holiday season, but indeed, it was the way he and my mother lived their lives, every day.
I’d say it was a mighty fine tradition to have.