Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Candlelight Service, 1949

I was very surprised when you invited me to the Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve.  I thought you would be ushering in Southampton and I wouldn’t see you that night.”
                                                               June Anderson
                                                               Letter to Art Price, Dec. 19, 1949

Draft of newsletter design for the
Southampton United Methodist Church
by Art Price.
Art and his parents were very busy with activities at the church throughout the year but especially at Christmas.  One of the letters refers to how Art helped his father put up the two huge Christmas trees that dominated the front of the sanctuary during the Advent season.

The Southampton United Methodist Church had one Christmas Eve service, beginning at 11 p.m. and ending at midnight.  In the 1940s, you’d dress up for the service.  Men would be in suits and women in dresses.  Art would have picked June up at her house in Riverhead that evening and brought her to Southampton.  They would have sat with his parents in the pews on the left side, near the front.

Candles were handed out at the beginning of the service.  At the Christmas Eve service, there was more singing than usual – nearly all of the traditional Christmas carols.  The Christmas story was read from the Gospel of Luke.  The minister’s sermon was kept blessedly short.

Near the end of the service, the ushers came forward to light their candles from the Christ candle at the altar.  Then they proceeded back through the church, pew by pew, lighting the first candle in each row.  Down the pew, each candle would light the next until the church was filled with shimmering candles.  The main lights were turned off and the congregation sang “Silent Night” in a church glittering with candlelight.  Then, still in candlelit darkness, the organist tolled twelve notes signifying midnight.  There was a moment of silence and then the service ended with a rousing “Joy to the World.”

June and Art would have blown out their candles before venturing out into the cold December night.  He still had to return June to Riverhead for Christmas at home with the family, probably not getting home himself until well after 1 a.m.

(Tomorrow – Christmas art.)

© 2010 Lee Price

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