Christmas morning we drove to town for the service at Banbridge Baptist Church, where we smiled at the neighbors, sang carols accompanied by an organ, and listened to a children’s choir and a short sermon.

Afterward, we went home for dinner, a feast that seemed to unfold endlessly. In the dining room, used only a few times a year, we sat down at the table bright with candles, pulled the crackers sitting at each place, and donned our gold paper crowns. Holding each other’s hands and saying the blessing, we then ate the first course, a small salad. The main course soon followed, and its centerpiece was the turkey, which Greer had procured by standing in a long line at the butcher’s shop. Along with the turkey, there was sausage and ham, cranberry sauce, gravy, two kinds of potatoes, carrots and turnips, bread from the local baker, stuffing, and probably other things I’ve forgotten – all delicious. Though we Americans were full far beyond comfort, Yvonne soon produced the dessert – traditional Christmas pudding. A dish that originated in medieval England, it is a dense bread pudding filled with fruit, raisins and spices and covered with a sweet, buttery sauce (my favorite new dish). Finally, to top it all off, there was tea. Yvonne brought steaming cups of Namberrie and a large plate of mince pies and Christmas cake.

After dinner we sat in the drawing room by the tree and opened presents. The Morrisons are generous people, and there were bulging stockings and numerous gifts for everyone. The day ended with a touch of royalty; we watched the Queen’s Christmas address. She stood by a Christmas tree, dignified and maternal, remembered the sufferings and tragedies of the past year, which people in Northern Ireland know all to well, and then spoke of the hope and grace found in Christ’s birth.

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