Posted by: HAT | December 19, 2008

Family Christmas Eve Service

Angel from 1958 service

Angel from 1958 service

OK, this has blessed little to do with utopia.

It has to do with memory, and its complexity, and its intertwined links to gender, and religion, and aesthetics, and desire, and the self, and the involuntariness of all that.

And it has to do with my mother.

My mother, Jo Caula Gregg Thiessen, who was remarkable in many ways, was in her later life an avid genealogist and internet afficionado. She created a great website (Thiessen’s Index) with links to loads of valuable genealogical information as well as various bits and pieces of personaliana. In a kind of typically familial tragic irony, my father and I, knowing nothing at all about The Internet, html, etc. when my mother died in 2004, just left everything in place, turned off the computer, and cancelled the earthlink account. In other words, the great website died with my mother.

But The Internet is forever. My mom’s ghost web site is still accessible, although it’s labeled suspicious, and most of the links are broken, and when I visited it yesterday I felt like I was searching through the attic, and finding too many things that made me want to cry.

I visited it because I thought “I wonder what ever happened to that Christmas Eve service we used to have . . .”

I cannot speak for my brother, but I loved this ritual. Our family would huddle up around the Christmas tree, we would read from the Bible (my mom’s, with cracked black leather binding and bright red ribbon marker), we would put ornaments on the tree that had a symbolic connection with the Christmas story, and we would sing Happy Birthday to Jesus — which made total sense to us kids, since “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.” (It was only later that I learned that in some circles, to admit that you have ever sung Happy Birthday to Jesus marks you as, well, one of Them. So, I can only talk about this little piece of my childhood if I accept that I will so mark myself.)

And lo, there were the source texts for the Christmas Eve service, in one of the few unbroken links.

I had totally forgotten that the sources inscribe and preserve the assumptions of 50s white middle class Protestant Christian culture, like that families will have mothers and fathers, and that fathers are the designated leaders of all worship, especially the family kind, and that all representations, even of supernatural figures, will automatically reflect back this hegemonically white picture.

And yet . . .

There is not much I wouldn’t give to have even one more of these family Christmas Eves.

These are the source texts:

Here is the Family Christmas Eve Service (Jo Thiessen’s Final Redaction)



  1. Christmas is that bond that holds our memories of loved family and friends. Your post is a great illustration of that. Visit me at and read “Claus and the Consultant,” Wear your lauging shoes and enjoy my canine gift to all my visitors and friends

  2. […] December 19, 2008 A Christmas Worship Memory Posted by Ha_Qohelet under Theology & Other Thoughts | Tags: Christianity, Christmas, Christmas Eve, family, gender, holiday prayers, patriarchy, religion, worship |   Some readers may be interested in this recollection of Christmas Eve worship past. […]

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