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White Christmas? Maybe.

The Spirit of Tehachapi


My memories of a white Christmas in Tehachapi are scarce although last year our diaries may have listed, "snow on Christmas Eve." Usually the weather is cold, crisp and clear. That was always a plus for me as traveling to Midnight Mass in a snow storm is not something I look forward to.

Each Christmas we listen to Bing Crosby's vibrant tones wafting through most store intercoms about his dreaming of a white Christmas, but one cannot fail to notice that he was a California resident and Southern California at that. If it snows in that area it hits the newspapers. He was dreaming, all right.

The winter of 1941, the year we entered into World War II, was a pretty wet year with over twenty inches of precipitation. My eldest brother had already been inducted into the Army and my other brother was soon to follow. The war had been declared on Dec. 8 against Japan and on Dec. 11 against Germany. We were a country ill prepared and its citizens, with their lives changing before their very eyes, were anxious about the future but were solidly united to face the emergency. I was a mere thirteen years of age and was just wondering what would happen next.

That Dec. 24 evening, about eleven o'clock, large, soft flakes started coming down. They fell straight without a hint of wind. It was almost as if it were trying to make up for the turmoil in the world and attempting to restore peace on earth. The days seem to blend into one another as do the years but the beautiful scene of the silent flakes coming down on that December eve I remember to this day.

Shifting the scene to the late 1970s finds this writer driving to church to direct a choir at Midnight Mass. I started from home before eleven in the evening. Snow was imminent but was holding off and I was grateful and hoped it would forget the whole thing for I also had to return the next day to make more music for another Mass. At midnight as we were singing the opening hymn, probably "O Come All Ye Faithful" a latecomer opened the door to enter and I saw heavy snow blowing outside. "Geez!" I thought. "Who thought up Midnight Mass, anyway?"

In the Old Church it was a beautiful way to begin Christmas Day worship. Actually, it still is a wonderful idea. Also, for centuries the fasting laws in the Catholic Church were very strict and one had to fast from midnight until receiving Holy Communion some hours later. The Midnight Mass eliminated the long wait and each Christmas the church always had standing room only. It was a good time and a good feeling to begin Christmas in that manner; people still love the old tradition.

Later on, when I worked as a secretary at St. Malachy Church we would get phone calls asking, "What time is Midnight Mass?" That's a little bit like asking, who's buried in Grant's tomb. However, today many late evening Christmas services begin a little earlier and it would serve folks well to inquire what time "Midnight Mass" is for it's still known by that name. Still, it's a good feeling to begin Christmas Day coming from church about one o'clock in the early morning.

In the heat of preparations for the big day, we tend to begin to stress out a bit and mentally wring our hands for fear of not getting the baking, shopping, cards, etc. finished. Sort of losing the reason for the season. In the grocery store one late December day I heard a lady tell another person, "You're in the Express Line and you have too many articles!" The reply was, "So?" I thought I was going to have to referee for a few seconds but that ended it.

Still and all, if those same two people were to step outside and find flakes of our California snow coming down they would shift gears and be trading smiles with the people they met. Probably calling out, "Merry Christmas!". It seems our California "Here today and gone tomorrow " snow, has a different effect on most folk.

But when Mother Nature pulls one of her rare white Christmases, we meet one another with a "Peace on earth, good will to all" greeting. (And) when coming home from Midnight Mass I think of Clement Moore's poem which goes: "...and Mama in her kerchief and I, in my cap, had just settled down for a long winter's nap..." at least until the kids wake up at six a.m. to see what Santa brought them.


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