Editor’s Note: This year, the VisionAware peers, all of whom have vision loss, wanted to share their favorite traditions, either from childhood or ones developed with their own children. During this pandemic, these stories remind us that we can still celebrate and enjoy; we have to be a bit more creative. Stay tuned for Part Two of this affirming series. You might also want to read Mary Hiland’s post on singing in a Christmas cantata as a blind person.
Lynda Jones – Continuing the Caroling Tradition
When I was young, my family (my dad, mom, and I, and sometimes a dog) had several Christmas traditions. Since moving to Florida and no longer having my parents, most traditions have faded into the background. One tradition, however, will always be a part of my Christmas—caroling!
Singing has always been a part of my life. I began my singing career at age four, but that is a story for another post! Children’s choir at church, and experiences like singing solos from the Messiah in high school, eventually led to a degree in vocal performance. Still, I would have enjoyed Christmas caroling even if I could only croak like a frog.
Six years ago, I gathered a group of friends, and off we went from house to house, caroling and handing out candy canes in my little neighborhood. We even received goodies from a few houses! Some years we have had seven or eight carolers, other years fifteen! We now have songbooks, crudely hand-made musical instruments, and Christmas hats to borrow for carolers who do not have their own. Six years ago, two members of the group were ten and twelve. They are now driving and taller than me by several inches, but still enjoy caroling with the old folks!
This year I almost canceled the event. But the need to spread Christmas cheer more than ever led to an altered plan! The number of participants was limited to eight healthy, experienced carolers wearing colorful Christmas masks! The candy canes were left at home, and no goodies were accepted.
Neighbors stood in their doorways laughing and cheering us on while Santa Claus, with his genuine white hair and beard, shouted Merry Christmas! One of our Jewish neighbors sang the Dreidel song for us, and her sister lit the fifth candle of the Menorah while we sang. As we wandered back home, I could hear Tiny Tim saying, “God bless us everyone–neighbors and carolers alike.”
Sandra Burgess – Candlelight Braille
As a young child, my parents and I spent part of Christmas Eve basking in the glow of candlelight and our Christmas tree lights while I read the Christmas story from my braille Bible. I could open one present. We kept the tradition of filling Christmas stockings for one another past my belief in Santa Claus. We spent Christmas with relatives each year until the extended family grew and went in separate directions. At that point, my little family always invited someone who would be alone to spend the day with us, even if we hardly knew that person. Now alone, I still keep the tradition of sharing the holiday with others in those years when I am on my own.
Elizabeth Sammons – Touching the Magic
My mother realized it was important to teach me about art and beauty early, especially since I could not pick up such concepts visually. She made me a Christmas stocking in different kinds of materials, complete with stars and an angel. My favorite part was the lacey slip beneath the angel’s skirt. Back then, I thought it was my special secret that other people could not see, but I would always know about it. Now that my mother is gone, I still admire her craftiness, and yes, every year my finger goes under the skirt to touch the magic of her creation and love.
DeAnna Noriega – Christmas Is for Giving
When my children were small, I began teaching them that Christmas was for giving presents, not receiving them. I helped them make small things to give to their teachers, and best friends, and each could choose a person they thought might be surprised with a gift. Sometimes the gifts were plates of Christmas cookies or some homemade gift. I was delighted to watch my grown daughter picking a star from the Christmas tree at Walmart to buy presents for a needy child before she started on her Black Friday shopping for her children. I prepared seven bags of candy, cookies, gum, and toiletries with a pair of socks and a toothbrush for the homeless. Sometimes, I make more, but I managed seven Christmas bags full of valuable items and treats this year. I have done this since my teen years.