My Teen Years in the Handbell Choir: a Christmas Eve Story

When I was a teen, I was part of my church’s handbell choir. (Try to out-nerd me, please.) I’m not that musical (or musical at all really), but I learned to read music so I could join the handbell choir because, at 12 or 13, it sounded like the most awesome thing to do. I ended up sticking with it until I went to college, so it was a relatively big part of my teen experience.

Being part of handbell choir meant performing at the Christmas midnight mass. My mom would drop me off about an hour before mass started and I’d run up to the choir loft, which was filled with people from the handbell choir and the vocal choir. While the vocalists practiced, I’d admire the decorations around the church and watch people take their seats.

We’d usually play a couple of songs during mass, but my favorite was the “Silent Night,” which we’d play after Communion. They’d turn the lights down in the church so everything glowed with candlelight. Up in the choir loft, we began “Silent Night” on the bells, then were joined by the piano, then the choir. Every year it felt intimate and special and Christmas-y.

This isn’t my handbell choir, but the arrangement of the bells is pretty similar:

I don’t play handbells or any musical instrument now, but Christmas Eve always reminds me of playing “Silent Night.” It brings me back to being a teen, hidden up in the choir loft, and feeling a part of something special for that moment.

Happy Christmas Eve to everyone celebrating!

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