Christmas Eve

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In late afternoon on Christmas Eve, after the farm chores were finished, the family had an early supper and the four girls took their baths in front of the warm kitchen stove. Each girl put on her own new dress which Mama had made for Christmas, then waited together for Papa and Mama to get ready.

The Christmas Eve service at Grand Prairie Evangelical Church was a high point of the year. The girls had parts to recite in the Sunday School children' s program along with their classmates. They had practiced their recitations for weeks while Mama listened to them.

Papa hitched the horses, Bessie and Queen, to the surrey. He tucked carriage robes around the girls for warmth. Mama was the last to leave the house, because she had to open a kitchen window for Santa to come in while they were away.

The surrey wheels creaked as they traveled over the light snow, through the winter darkness, to the little church three miles away. Grand Prairie church was located by itself, on a little rise among the farm fields, close by a well-traveled road. The family could see the glowing stained glass windows in the distance long before they got there.

As more families arrived at the church, Papa tied his team of horses to a hitching rail and carefully covered them with wool blankets to keep them warm while they waited for the family.

Inside, the church service was filled with carols, the children' s program, a Christmas sermon and prayer. At last, the tall, decorated evergreen tree, in front of the sanctuary, was lighted. The faces of the congregation were illuminated in its glow. At the end of the evening, everyone, even grown-ups, received a paper sack containing rare treats... an apple, an orange, nuts and hard candy.

The sacks rustled in the back seat of the surrey as the girls held tightly to them under the carriage robes on their way home. They listened carefully, to see if they could hear Santa' s sleigh bells in the night sky, and hoped they had been good enough all year to deserve a present.