- Where do they all come from, my sons are asking me this Christmas morning.
The little white wooden church in my village close to Umeå is temporary awakened from its hibernation. It’s filled with people up very early for the Christmas morning service, the traditional “julotta”. So where do they all come from?
I am the seventh generation on my mother’s side in my village, my sons the eighth. That’s as far as the family tree takes us. Once this church was a bride. Born and built in the late twenties by my grandfather and the farmers of the village, dressed in white by their women. Every Sunday they greeted her. They filled her soul with hymns and dignified rest of the seventh day. 70 years later her body is still solid but mostly cold, empty and forgotten.
Except for the Christmas mornings. My sons question is legitimate, for there are more people in the church this morning than inhabitants of the village. The room is warm from the electrical stove. The light is shut down, replaced by flickering candles. People gather in the pews, shaking hands, nodding, smiling, scooting after to let everybody have a seat.
I am a grand daughter of these Christmas mornings and I am sitting on the front row with my sons and their cousin ready for our contribution, the music. The people of my village has been known for being musical, and my grandfather Carl had the most beautiful voice. He had been told that putting reed in the wooden walls of the church would make a wonderful acoustics, so he did, and it was proven to be true. Through the years Carl had enclosed the Christmas morning ceremony with singing the song that to parts of the western world was the most powerful one, Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night”. It was sung in churches and cathedrals in capitols and cities, and it was sung in a white wooden church with the sound of a concert hall in a tiny village in the woods.
Carl died before he got to know that his voice was carried on to his son and his grandchildren. This morning O Holy Night was sung by his great grandson, who at the age of 26 has already carried that tradition for more than a decade.
I feel like I am standing in the middle of a time line. On one side; the generations behind me. My mother and her siblings, my grandparents, great grandparents, that is as far as the stories go. On the other side; my children and their children and grandchildren to come. And the stories they will be told. And that’s why the wooden church is filled with people on the Christmas morning. To be a part of this. To be a part of the big story.