Christmas I remember best: Pageantry, pancakes make angelic memories

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2015 12:13 p.m. MDT

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The dream-filled, restless night finally ended when Papa Seastrand called from the hallway: "Everybody up. Pancakes are ready."

Pancakes? This brought the clan of 10 abruptly to their feet and all scrambled into clothes that had been carefully laid out the night before.

Pancakes! No whole wheat mush to chew this morning? Right! Today was Christmas, the best day of the whole year. Everything special happened today.

All the Seastrands — big, medium and little — knelt in a circle by their chairs as Bishop Seastrand blessed his family and thanked Father in Heaven for the numerous blessings which fell on us. Enthusiastically, we pushed to get to the table as Papa placed a large, lightly browned pancake on each of the 10 plates then heaped freshly churned butter, honey and some of Grandma's strawberry jam on top. It seemed strange not to have Mama dishing up whole wheat cereal, but we managed to accept the situation. Besides, today was Mama's day.

Vivian Evans (Provided by Vivian Evans) Vivian Evans (Provided by Vivian Evans)

Mama loved to write plays and this year the stake had chosen her Christmas pageant to be presented in the Alpine Stake Tabernacle this very morning. She had worked for weeks rehearsing, making costumes and helping build scenery so it would truly be the best pageant ever.

The pancakes were devoured and the dishes, with a special allowance for Christmas, were stacked in the sink as each family member hurriedly pulled their wraps on. The temptation was too great for Number Three and Number Four girls (Lilly and me) to sneak to the living room door and peek in to see if Santa had made it to our house yet, but a resounding spank on our respective bottoms took the temptation away when Mama caught us.

"The spiritual side of Christmas first … always," Mama said soothingly.

Grandma Robinson arrived as we all lined up, so Papa instructed us that we would use the back door and that a surprise awaited us there. The moon was still beaming upon the newly fallen snow at 5:30 a.m., and since the snow was too deep to expect the Willys-Knight monstrosity to plow through, we would all walk the two blocks to the tabernacle. Some of us could ride, however, for there, leaning against the house all roped and ready to go, were two enormous red sleds. With squeals of delight, all clamored on board.

It was decided that some must push and some must pull, so with Mama and Papa pulling, Sally and Jenny pushing and Grandma carrying the angel costumes, we dashed off through the snow, singing "Jingle Bells" at the top of our exuberant voices.

As we approached the tabernacle, we all gasped at once. The building was lit with brilliant lights from head to toe and an enormous Christmas tree stood in front. Mary Humphries was playing the organ and the strains of "O Come All Ye Faithful" crescendoed and diminuendoed across the glistening snow.

Excitement raced even higher inside as Lilly and I helped each other into our white cheese-cloth angel costumes. But oh, horrors! My new black sateen bloomers showed dark through the material. A hurried consultation with the director, Mama, brought a piece of old sheet wrapped snugly around my waist, but it was so tight that I couldn't move. Another consultation resulted in my being placed in position on stage, at the foot of the manger, and told to stay there.

We were ready. Howard Paxman and Mary H. took turns at the organ, K.J. Bird tapped the music stand, Tabby Grant and Bun Shelley started to sing and the pageant started. Mary and Joseph approached the inn and then were sent to the stable. The little angel "Vivy" was slightly in the way, but they went around.

As a small angel, I had a front seat and watched while the Baby Jesus was placed on the hay, and I even sang along with the choir which was hidden behind the organ pipes. I jumped, about out of my skin, when a shepherd excitedly called out: "Awake, awake! Look the sky is on fire!"

I couldn't help but turn to look and in doing so, tripped. Mother Mary caught me and stood me up straight. Looking at the light above, it became so bright that I had to cover my eyes, and when the shepherds dropped to their knees, so did I.

Then there was a voice saying: "Fear not for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people … and ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger."

The voice was low and clear, sweet and soothing, and as the shepherds, reassured, arose upon their knees, they looked worshipfully at the messenger standing there.

As I looked too, I beheld his white robe, his hands stretched out toward us and his divinely beautiful face. Suddenly the light turned a pink color and up, up as far as I could see there were radiant forms and voices singing: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

As they repeated the song, the angel rose lightly out of the view, but long after he was gone, down from the sky fell the reverberating sound: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Gliding all the way home on the sled, I heard the echo of angels still singing "Glory to God," and I didn't care that Mama told me I had said all the speeches and sung all the songs along with the actors, and that the sheet fell from around me when I turned and that the black sateen bloomers showed through all the time, and that I kept scratching the itchy halo, and that I shouldn't have waved to Lilly in the choir of angels high up on the platform behind the gauze curtain.

All I cared was that I knew tears had streamed down my face while the angels sang because of the tremendous feeling of love that had filled my heart.

I thought to myself: It will be fun to crack walnuts on top of Old Black, to eat the big Christmas dinner and to sit in a circle in the living room as each of us opens our gifts, but still … nothing could take the place of that feeling that had touched my hear.

For on that day in the year of 1928 I received the most precious gift of all … the gift of love.

Vivian Seastrand Evans — Tremonton

Vivian grew up in American Fork. She attended BYU where she majored in Speech and Drama with a minor in English. She was married to R. Bruce Evans for 65 years. He passed away 4 years ago. Vivian has 4 children, 24 grandchild and 49½ great grandchildren. She loves reading, writing, music, dramas, British comedies and indexing for the LDS Church. Her favorite hobby is being with her family and grandchildren. She will be 90 in June.

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