Friday, December 23, 2011

In Dulci Jubilio

The solstice marks the shortest day and darkest night of the year. The sun has been deserting us for months now, slowly edging south to skip along South American beaches and drink mate with the Argentines. I miss the sun and the Argentinos at this time of year, no matter how cheerful the twinkle lights.

I only spent one Christmas south of the equator, and I spent it mostly wishing away the heat and humidity. The giant Christmas tree outside the only Mall in Rosario seemed ludicrous to me as I walked by in drenched in sweat, nut brown from the glaring sun. But even so, it was a good Christmas. My tree was a paper cutout, taped to the wall next to my bed and decorated with drawings sent by primary children from my home ward with notes like "Merry Christmas, and if your birthday is around Christmas, Happy Birthday too!" We ate juicy grilled meat and fresh crusty bread for dinner on Christmas eve, with members who were missing their own missionary that year. I cannot think of a less appropriate time to sing "Silent Night" than the Noche Buena. The revelry lasted all through the short night and into the dawn. At one point the booming fireworks drove my companion and I out onto the roof where we watched the small rockets shooting perilously close to us and lighting the sky with color in short, giddy spurts. We tried to spend the night sleeping, as behooves hard working missionaries, but the revelry outside our little shed seeped under the doors and through the thin walls and into our failed attempts at slumber.

That year, like this, Christmas fell on a Sunday. We saw no other people as we walked the streets that early sabbath morning amid the bright remains of a hundred Christmas parties. The streets were generally strewn with trash but today it was brighter, festive trash that spoke of streamers and fireworks and dancing all night long. It could not have been a more different scene than the snow laced Christmas mornings I was used to spending where medieval carols and twinkling candles stood in for the raucous cheering and midnight fireworks here. I had spent the last six months in that ward, and knew somehow that this would be my last among the members I had come to love so dearly. I will always remember that day as a bittersweet time of parting and goodbyes, amid the joy of Christmas.

Now, several years later, the night-long revelry and dizzying explosions of Noche Buena mean just as much to me as the quieter vigils here on the night when the darkness halts and turns back, banished by the light of the sun on it's return, for we are celebrating the same thing:


Good Christian men rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say
News! News!
Jesus Christ is born today! 
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today! 


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