Christmas in 1954 was fast approaching, and the nuns at St. Mark Catholic Grade School were making plans for midnight Mass.
I was a slender eighth-grader who loved to sing. The nuns were teaching us new Christmas songs and had given our mothers a preview of the event to unfold: 20 eighth-grade girls dressed in long white gowns (made from sheets by our mothers) and wearing tinsel halos while carrying white lit candles, walking down the aisle of the darkened church while singing the opening hymn: “Angels We Have Heard on High.”
I recall being so excited that I had no trouble staying awake. My dad and mom dropped me off with my classmates and found seats in the pews. We assembled for Mass; gowns were arranged, tinsel halos formed on our heads and our candles were deposited into nervous little hands. We were only lacking wings.
We formed lines, two by two, and assembled for our walk down the aisle. We waited for the sound of the organ to begin, and our feet marched slowly in step as we sang:
“Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their glorious strains.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo! Gloria, in excelsis Deo!”
Something happened, both overwhelming and wonderful at the same time. I trembled, singing with my classmates in unison about joyous angels greeting the baby Jesus. Indeed these were glorious strains echoing in the quiet dark church, full of people. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I felt lifted to another dimension, one of never-ending joy, light and love. It was indeed a magical and spiritual experience.
After that night, Christmas became a miraculous time for me, a time when wishes are granted, God’s love visits and covers the earth, and little candles can illuminate the winter darkness.
Tess Baker grew up on the Southside. She is retired from IUPUI and enjoys writing prose and poetry, which has been a lifelong interest. She’s married to JB Baker.