The setting is a little village near the North Sea in Holland.
Snow has blown in from the northwest overnight, reflecting brightly in the
light this Christmas morning.
Twins, Anneke and Hans are up early and will be heading to a church service with their parents. Fortunately, they'll only have to walk a few blocks as it would be too slippery to ride bikes.
[In Holland, Christmas is celebrated over two days, December 25th and 26th. Christmas Eve or the morning of the 25th is reserved for church services. Children receive most of their gifts on a separate day just for them - the eve or day of Sinterklaas, December 6th. This frees up the 24th and 25th for family visits with good food and many toasts.]
Hans and Anneke are each dressed in snow pants, jacket, cap, scarf and gloves; it takes a while to get ready for the trek. Ma and Pa are wearing their long heavy coats, each with a scarf wrapped several times around their neck; gloves completing their outfits.
Just when they step out the front door they see the surprise Pa has waiting for them: he's brought their sleds from the shed out back to the sidewalk in front, and both children will be getting a ride to church pulled by their parents. This is a real treat as on school days the kids must trudge through the snow in their boots.
Arriving at church, Ma and Pa stack the sleds next to the bike rack and the family enters the community church together to the sound of organ music playing George Frederick Handel's "Joy to the World."
"Joy to the world! The Lord is
come; Let earth receive her King …."
The twins feel reverent and happy listening to the uplifting and hopeful music. They reflect to each other that they wish every day could feel like Christmas, joyful and full of music. The choir continues with several more Christmas songs and the family joins in on each chorus.
Next, the minister gives a sermon on the meaning of Christmas: that it is meant to be a rebirth of loving kindness in our hearts every day. And that the innocence of the Babe of Bethlehem is a reminder to give purely and unselfishly in order to maintain peace of mind, and help family and neighbors when needed.
Then the congregation fold their hands and bow their heads for a few minutes of silent prayer and meditation, taking time to reflect on the message of caring and love and how it can be put into action. The twins feel peaceful during these moments, and decide that helping out and being kind is really what gives them their best feelings of happiness.
All the way home they think about how much fun it will be helping their parents get ready for their relatives' visit later in the day. Anneke will help set the table and bake cookies with Ma. Hans will help Pa bring in split logs to keep the fire stoked in the wood stove, which is along one wall in the large space that is both living and dining room. The wood stove, the sole source of heat, keeps the house toasty on cold days, as the warm air winds its way up the stairwell to the upper floors.
The day gets very busy, family arrives, everyone eats, their voices getting louder with tall tales and shared remembrances of past times. When they are finally tucked in to their beds, Anneke and Hans each make a promise to themselves to remember that showing kindness and care by helping out when they can gives them the priceless gift of happiness, not just at Christmas time, but every day of the year.
Story and photo of sledding in The Netherlands by Susan Helene Kramer
Note: The characters in this story are fictional.
The author, Susan Helene Kramer, has been teaching people of all ages and abilities meditation, yoga and dance for more than 30 years.
Anneke and Hans Meditation and Spiritual Stories as a 28 page E-Book
and Hans went to school