With my siblings and significant others spread all over kingdom come, it is at this time of year that I am particularly grateful for one tradition we grew up with and one that each of us chooses to carry on in his/her own home. We tune in to public radio (9am central time) on Christmas Eve morning and listen to A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols live from King's College in Cambridge, England.
It is a moment that unites us as we hear the lone voice of the young boy chosen only minutes before the event begins to open the festival with the chorus of "Once In Royal David's City." He is later joined by the full choir and organ (and us!).
It has been shared and sung by our family from across thousands of miles including one phone call that connected Tim and my parents two years ago while he was serving in Iraq.
From the official website, here is a brief history of this event:
The service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, has been broadcast annually, even during the Second World War, when the ancient glass (and also all heat) had been removed from the Chapel. Sometime in the early 1930's the BBC began broadcasting the service on the World Service. It is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide, including those to Radio Four in the United Kingdom. In recent years it has become the practice to broadcast a digital recording on Christmas Day on Radio Three, and since 1963, a shorter service, which uses different music and readings, has been filmed periodically for television.
For our family it also signifies the beginning of decorating! We wait until this moment to trim the tree and put up all our Christmas decorations around the house.
It is a moment of unity across states and countries. It is a wonderful way to usher in this most glorious feast.