I found this old book at the library while under orders from my daughters to seek out every available copy of the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. The title captured my attention immediately. All the jingle and tinsel that we manufacture to celebrate Christmas is well and good, but my heart yearns for an earthier response something so miraculous as the birth of the Creator. Having a fondness for folklore that hints at nature’s participation in God’s plan, I added the book to the overstuffed canvas bag.
It’s not a long book, and I read it aloud to my munchkins over two evenings. In its worn first-edition pages, we found the story of an extended Syrian family living in a Brooklyn apartment in the early 1950s. Proud of their new home in America, they are all trying to assimilate. But at Christmas, they bake the traditional pastries and Grandmother tells beautiful stories from their homeland: how the bells ring by themselves, wild animals become tame, rivers run pure, and the very trees kneel in homage at the hour of Our Lord’s birth.
Little Afify asks if the trees kneel in America too, and her grandmother sadly indicates that she has never seen it. Afify makes up her mind that, while the elder members of the family are all at Midnight Mass, she will sneak to Prospect Park to see whether this miracle is possible in the New World, too.
We loved this story of a little girl’s budding faith, of a whole family’s example, of the richness of a culture that is steeped in the faith. I will not tell you whether the trees kneel at Christmas in America; but whatever your own customs might be, I hope they will bring as much honor to the Infant Jesus on His Birthday.
(As this book is long out of print, I would suggest requesting a copy through your local library.)