When Christmas comes to Mattapoisett, it means that it is time for the annual Christmas carol sing-along at Tinkhamton Chapel, a tradition kept alive for over 100 years.
The candlelight shining out from inside the little chapel seemed to shine a bit brighter this year as it fell on this winter solstice night, the longest and darkest night of the year.
The singing from within was louder than recent years past, with almost a hundred souls filling the tiny chapel, cozying up shoulder to shoulder on the long pews, and others spilling out through the doors into the outside air of this unseasonably warm first night of winter.
It was toastier than usual inside the little chapel. The balmy, winter air let the old-fashioned potbelly rest this year, and the front door remained wide open to welcome the fresh air.
The spirit of Christmas was apparent as you looked around the room at the smiling faces of grown-ups embracing their children, and neighbors and family members greeting and offering to share their red-covered song books with each other as they opened the evening singing “Joy to the World.”
The children gathered at the front of the church and sat together on the platform, ringing jingle bells and holding signs, brand new ones this year, of the Twelve Days of Christmas as the crowd sang in unison, watching with delight as the children led the way.
Carolers sang “Good King Wenceslas” while the flames from the kerosene lamps cast soft, flickering shadows that gave life to the aged walls that have witnessed this familiar scene for over a hundred Christmases.
It does not get any more Christmassy than that.
Playing the organ again for another year, Gail Roberts welcomed the small ensemble of musicians who accompanied her this year.
“We have a band here because there are so many missing keys on the organ,” Roberts said as she laughed.
Louise Anthony played her violin, Jack Deane plucked his banjo, and Jim Bean strummed his guitar while Samantha Winter introduced each song and turned the pages for the musicians.
Although many commented on the temperature of the room and the heat generated by all the people who packed the chapel, most agreed that it was a perfect evening. Those who might have passed by and peeked in through the foggy windows of the chapel would have found inside the simple joy of a community gathering to celebrate together in the spirit of Christmas.
By Jean Perry
Photos by Jean Perry & Marilou Newell