I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

One of my favorite Christmas carols originates from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. English nerds like myself know the poem “Christmas Bells” but everyone else will know the song as “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.”

Longfellow penned this poem in the depths of another American crisis, during some of the darkest days of the Civil War.

It was a dark time for him personally as well – his wife of 18 years had succumbed to burns sustained in an accident. His son had also joined the Union Army without his consent and was subsequently injured.

I tell you this depressing story to tell you something else. History has proven time and again that this too shall pass. While we may struggle and hurt and suffer right now, brighter days lie ahead.

Read the poem below and listen to the carol if you have a favorite recording. Oddly enough, I’m partial to the Harry Belafonte rendition because he sings it with such reverence that it’s almost like a prayer set to music.

Wherever you are in this world and whatever your holiday looks like, Scout and I wish you a safe, happy and very MERRY Christmas!

Christmas Bells
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Certified Package Inspector

Nothing goes on in this house without passing under his watchful eye.

Wrapping gifts was no exception as he considers it his duty to inspect every package at least once.

He absconded with the tape and has fiddled with the packages every chance he gets. He also loves to remove ornaments from the tree so I can experience the joy of trimming the tree multiple times every day.

Santa would be lucky to have such a helper!!

Christmas Is Different But One Thing Is The Same

Here’s one more image from Gallipolis In Lights – the soldiers memorial surrounded by beautiful Christmas lights.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, it’s different than we are accustomed to but one thing remains the same.

We all are able to practice – or not practice – the religion of our choice because there are brave men and women who have defended that right throughout the history of this country.

Many of them are far from home this Christmas. Some are in dangerous places with no guarantee they’ll make it home at all.

Whether you say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza or plain old Happy Holidays, I hope you’ll remember those American military members of today and years past week.

We owe them everything.

Merry Christmas!

Union Station

Denver’s Union Station isn’t just a place you go to get somewhere else. It’s a destination unto itself.

The train station, in the city’s downtown, is over a century old and home to a hotel, shops and restaurants. Soaked in light streaming through enormous windows and decked out with fancy chandeliers, crown molding and antique art, this place is a fantastic reminder of the golden days of train travel.

Declining train travel had left this amazing building at risk and facing a wrecking ball less than a decade ago. Fortunately, a multi-million dollar restoration and revitalization project put the place back on track.

Get it? Train track? Hahaha…ahem.

Forgive me. I do like a good pun occasionally.

Anyway, I paid a quick visit to admire the space and imagine all the people who have made their way through this amazing terminal throughout the decades.

Another local icon, The Tattered Cover Bookstore has a small shop here so I popped in to buy something – my idea of payment for using the station’s public restroom.

The old ticket office is now a bar. While I don’t drink, I had to stop and admire their work. The adaptation was ingenious and well done.

During these Covid days when many of the businesses were closed or limiting occupancy, there were few people lingering to enjoy the historic vibe of the place. In fact, I seemed to be the only person even remotely interested in the soaring 65 foot ceilings or the spectacular Christmas decorations. Although, most commuters might not do that sort of thing anyway. Pity too because it really is an impressive place.

All the same. I really loved it there and fantasized about how fun it would be to hop on a train to somewhere near or far.

Most of all, I was completely taken with this sign.

There is a lot of outdoor seating but the city has a sizable homeless population and it seemed that several were hanging out in this space. I chose a near the door and experienced no problems but it is something to consider.

If you’re in Denver, stop by and check out Union Terminal. My new favorite bookstore is also in the neighborhood along with many other shops and restaurants.

Green Doors And A History Lesson

Doors often capture my attention and cause me to pause a moment. These green doors are on a beautiful old church in downtown Marietta, Ohio.

Here’s another view.

The doors drew me in but the name above the door is what really captured my attention. You can’t read it in this image but it says Evanangelische St. Paul’s Kirche 1849.

How very German.

And yet, the name on the street sign is just plain old sounding St. Paul’s Evangelical Church.

The historic marker out front wasn’t a ton of help. It informs the passerby that this is the city’s second oldest church. Built in 1849, this kirche or church became St. Paul’s Evangelical in 1872 and that English sermons began in 1909.

One night when I couldn’t sleep I went searching for more information. Turns out that the congregation dates to 1838 when it was called the German Religious Society and was said to serve all the Protestant groups that had left the homeland for this brave new world in America.

This 1838 date makes a lot of sense. The city was built in large part by the German immigrants who arrived with assorted vital skills. The streets were once lined with German owned dry goods stores and butchers, bookstores and cobblers that were built by carpenters and bricklayers all of German heritage.

There would have been great demand for a house of worship.

Unfortunately, the church experienced such decline from the 1970s through the 1990s that they were forced to do some soul searching of sorts. The website says they “embarked on a deliberate pilgrimage of redevelopment in 1998.”

I can’t help but wonder how they’re doing today. I photograph a lot of abandoned churches and some with small congregations that are struggling to compete with the big mega churches that focus on recreation and activities.

Covid certainly hasn’t helped, driving people home to stay safe. Some are offering online services, drive-in services or socially distanced outdoor services where congregants are asked to BYOC. I saw that on a sign once and it took me a minute to figure out it’s “bring your own chair.”

A far cry from BYOB parties.

The Christian thing to do is to love thy neighbor by steering clear of them but I wonder what longterm effect will be had on aging congregations.

Hopefully that won’t be an issue for this one as I always root for the historic and the unique. This kirche certainly fits that bill.

In case you’re interested, Marietta is home to a number of beautiful and historic churches including this basilica I wrote about over the summer.