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Christmas Past and Present



More than thirty years ago, my husband and I spent Christmas alone in a distant land—Senegal, West Africa. Knowing what our two-year-old daughter and one-year old were missing around their Grandmas’ Christmas trees, with cousins and packages galore, we were sort of bummed. But opening the packages we’d packed in a barrel six months earlier helped, and instituted a new holiday tradition.

It was only a cheap metal contraption, but when we put it together and lit the candles, the hot air caused movement and a chiming sound the children loved. So after we returned to the States, we kept unpacking the treasure every year so it could dance in the middle of our table.

At some point, Grandma gifted us with a wooden version—the real thing, straight from Germany, and our grandchildren enjoy it as much as their mom did. Interesting that such a small addition to our decorations has made such a big difference in the eyes of the little ones.

Kind of like the small things in the Nativity story—a stable, no room in the inn, shepherds posted nearby. Those shepherds became real for me in Senegal, where we worked with Pulaar herdsmen, and I wrote an essay about one of them when he visited our courtyard one day. This real shepherd, smelly and germy and culturally worlds apart from us, changed my view of the stable scene.

If you’d like to read more about him, you’ll find the story in a fresh anthology published by Little Cab Press.


About the Author


Gail loves Christmas because it’s all about people. From the manger scene in Bethlehem to the modern-day celebrations, people are front and center during this season. And that means STORY is bursting out all over. Gail writes women’s historical fiction, and her debut novel, IN THIS TOGETHER, released in November. Dottie Kyle, the heroine, experiences Christmas 1946, with people challenges galore. And Gail’s finding that even after publication, it’s still all about people.