A new tradition was started in Burke Hollow Sunday evening.

The doors of the Burke Hollow Church were opened up to welcome carolers for the first time anyone can remember. The windows glowed with candlelight.

Built in 1825, the church has no electricity and no heat. Two box stoves still sit inside with about 50 feet of horizontal stove pipe running the length of the building. Just thinking about lighting them is scary.

Despite the chill, candles seemed to warm the 35 people who gathered to sing. Puffs of vapor wafted from the singers & #039; mouths as they enthusiastically sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and other favorites.

For years singing Christmas songs door to door in the small village had been a regular event. Some years so many people participated no one was home to welcome the singers. But over time fewer people went out, perhaps because the designated night was usually the coldest of the year. There were a few years when the temperature dropped to 20 below. Eventually no one came and the tradition died.

Lifetime Burke Hollow resident Lynn Welch decided this year she wanted to revive the neighborhood spirit.

"There are a lot of people we don & #039;t get to see," Welch said. Neighbors did get together years ago, she said, and it is a tradition she wants to bring back.

It was her brother Tom Blake who came up with the idea to gather in the church. The old meeting house is seldom used now. One service a year is held on Old Homes Day, although the church is a popular place for weddings during the summer.

Welch had copied words to the songs and these were distributed to people as they entered the church. Then the brother and sister act led the singing.

Welch said she was pleased with the turn-out. "Not bad for a word-of-mouth, impromptu event," she said Monday.

"Next year we are going to fill the church," Welch said. If that happens, she added, everyone will feel warmer.

Following the singing everyone was invited to the home of Marge and Clifton Blake for hot chocolate and cookies. This was appropriate, for Burke Hollow children caroling 20 years ago could always count on the Blakes for a treat of Christmas candy.

Sunday night was a reminder of the importance of slowing down and taking the time to be with neighbors. The fact that folks could gather in such a special place added to the moment.

"Everyone had fun," Marge Blake said. "I & #039;m looking forward to next year."


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