We’ve been sharing Christmas memories from writers online all this week, but here’s a memory—a family Christmas tradition, in fact—that appeared in the printed pages of Christian Standard in 1972.
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One Little Bell
December 24, 1972; p. 12
By Blanche Claycomb
A memory I shall always treasure is a mental picture of our eldest son. Jim was about fifteen months old, and the sights and sounds of Christmas filled his little eyes and heart with joy. A busy little toddler, he was especially drawn to the Christmas tree and all its decorations.
. . . My husband and I decided to teach Jim the real meaning of Christmas. I bought and hung a little golden bell on the lower branch of the tree, right where Jim could see and touch it. The bell sounded with a lovely tinkle which made our son laugh with glee.
His daddy or I would ask him to ring the bell, which he loved to do. When he did so we would sit down and look at a picture of the nativity scene and read a story of the first Christmas. Sometimes he rang the bell just as I would be my busiest with the dishes or sewing, but we always found the time for our little ritual. I thank God we took the time, for we have been richly blessed.
This simple action became a real joy and pleasure for the children. The time of teaching has helped us, as a family, to keep our mind on the real meaning of Christmas.
Our tree now has three bells. Each of our children received his or her own bell when they were old enough to understand. When we asked, the child would run to the tree and ring his own bell. Our second son, Philip, was given his bell by his Grandma on his first birthday. Our youngest, Annette, has a hand-made ceramic bell given to her by Mrs. Zinn, an adopted “Grandma.” She was a member of the congregation with which we ministered in Topeka, Kans. She had been almost a part of our family and had heard of our little tradition, so she wanted to do something for her adopted granddaughter.
The bells bring back many memories as we unpack and hang them each year. With lots of “do you remember?” statements, memories come flooding back as my husband and I watch the children hang their bells. Jim’s is now at the top of the tree. Philip’s is somewhere around the middle and Annette’s is just below his.
Alone, the bells have no meaning. But combined with the love we have for one another as a family, the love of God, the story of Christmas shared from the Word of God, and prayers, we feel our children have a better chance of understanding what God did for us that night about two thousand years ago.
I am looking forward each year to trimming the tree. Amidst bowls of popcorn and mugs of hot cocoa, we unpack the bells, and try to be more aware of what Christmas really is. We want to appreciate the greatest gift ever given: God’s Son whom we love, and especially remember this time of the year.
Blanche Claycomb is a freelance writer who lives in Joplin, Mo.