This is a post I wrote last year for the folks over at the Bluegrass Blog. This year our Christmas Eve will be sadly different, since there will be no party at Dalton's shop. We'll just have to party twice as hard at David's!
Christmas Eve for my family has always been about playing music. There is a close-knit bluegrass community in Winchester, Virginia, where we moved in 1986. Every year since then we’ve attended two parties on the 24th, and the day wouldn’t seem right without them. Dalton Brill is a local barber, banjo player, and, as one newspaper article put it, if the bluegrass scene was the Mafia, he’d be the Godfather. His barber shop brims over with food, music, and eggnog as everyone he knows drops in, musicians and non-musicians alike. There are people there I only see once a year, people who used to come every Wednesday to watch us play downstairs in the basement of that shop. And every year there are people we miss, who have moved on from this life to whatever lies ahead. We always pick a tune and have a drink for them.
After Dalton’s we move the party to David McLaughlin’s house where his wife Gay arranges a beautiful spread of seasonal goodies, on which we stuff ourselves before migrating to the other room to play some more music. David sometimes plays, sometimes doesn’t. Usually he’ll play guitar or bass. Sometimes he’ll flatpick the banjo or play snare. One year Tom Gray came, and that was great fun. When Bob Amos (of Front Range) lived in town he’d always stop by before going to the Christmas Eve service. We cherish the chance to all be together at the holidays, (Except for the year his kids gave us the stomach flu. I really wish he’d cancelled that year.) and we miss Lynn Morris and Marshall Wilborn, who are always in Texas with their families. As we drive back to our house full of Christmas cheer, through the luminary-lined streets of David’s neighborhood, we think of Santa making his rounds and hope that he won’t forget to stop at our house.