Dec 062012
 

By Kathy Berken

Kathy Berken

One of my best Christmas memories is midnight Mass at Holy Hill, the Carmelite monastery that rises majestically from the highest point of the Kettle Moraine, 30 minutes northwest of Milwaukee. Nostalgia has its place, especially at Christmas. I can’t return to the days of my childhood when nuns in full habits introduced Advent calendars, prayers and wreaths, but my mind can go for a visit.
My dad bought our “Charlie Brown” tree on the 24th for $1, and we ate a meatless supper before trying to take a nap so we’d stay awake for Mass. We turned our noses up at anyone who celebrated anything Christ­mas before Dec. 24. Pagans, the nuns called them. Can’t they wait for Jesus like the rest of us? Apparently not. So, each year I say I’m not celebrating Christmas until the last possible moment, but I still go to parties, set up my tree, decorate and give gifts ahead of schedule.
My memories of Holy Hill on Christmas Eve remain intense. No fighting, my dad would announce. It’s Christmas. We’d drive out into the country and turn down the road that would finally give us a glimpse of the two lighted spires on the “mountain” eight miles away. We walked the gazillion steps to the upper church, and my dad’s “It’s good exercise!” drowned our complaints…

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