And to all a good night!

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If you listen closely to the words, they’re really simple songs, but they bring so much joy at this time of the year.

During my abbreviated shopping trip this past Saturday, I scanned the radio dial in search of seasonal tunes. There were only a few to choose from, but the one station doing what I thought was the best job of playing a wide variety of holiday songs was right here in the local area – WDLZ over in Murfreesboro.

Yep, the home of “Uncle Earl” got me in the holiday spirit as 98.3 FM kept cranking out one Christmas classic after another.

Artists such as Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Nat “King” Cole, Gene Autrey, Andy Williams, Brenda Lee, Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis and the like rekindled a lot of fond memories in this old codger.

Then there were the songs of the season with Christian meanings – Joy to the World, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and The First Noel – those that the great majority of people learned as a child in church.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was a special time. In retrospect, Christmas back then wasn’t as commercialized as it is today. The magic of Christmas yesteryear seems to be missing today, but that’s perhaps the thoughts of a grown man. I’m hopeful that the children of today are experiencing all that this holiday season has to offer…the love of family and friends, the celebration of the birth of the Christ child and, of course, that annual trek made by Santa Claus.

The Bryant family tradition was to travel on Christmas Eve to Roanoke Rapids  (my father’s birthplace). My step-grandfather – “Pop” Brown, the caretaker at Rosemary Baptist Church – would host the family. To each grandchild, and there were plenty of us young’uns, he would give a paper sack with an apple, an orange, a couple of candy canes, walnuts and some of what I’ve always called “hard candy.”

By today’s gift-giving standards (one where we spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars at Christmas), that simple gift of fruit, candy and nuts would be frowned upon. However, I thought it was the best thing ever. I always looked forward to Pop Brown’s Christmas sack.

Over the years, the Bryant family’s gathering place on Dec. 24 moved from location to location, eventually ending at the home of my parents, the now late Ray and Blanche Bryant. There was always tons of food and the desserts…they just don’t make desserts like those anymore.

While a great meal followed by the opening of gifts was eagerly anticipated by yours truly, there was one tradition that highlighted the evening.

Surrounded by his grandchildren, my dad would read from the Bible…to be exact, Luke, the second chapter, verses 1-14. That’s the story of the birth of Jesus.

We heard it every year until his death in 2004. The best Christmas present of them all would be to hear him repeat those verses of scripture once again.

May you and your family enjoy this special time of the year…Merry Christmas to all.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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