This story was submitted to One Legacy by Butch Wolfe of Burlington, KY, in honor and loving memory of his father, Charles Wolfe, who originally wrote this story describing his Christmas in 1953, while serving in the United States Air Force.
It was Christmas Eve, 1953, and the very first one I would spend away from home.
Dad, a Methodist Minister, and mom, a stickler for tradition; I was sure had planned all the usual events and activities; the Christmas Eve candle light worship service with carols and nativity scene, gift exchanging, the Christmas Day feast, and visits to family and friends.
What would I do for a Christmas experience?
Yet, I was thousands of miles away, stationed with the United States Air Force at a base on the edge of the Great Sahara Desert. The country was Morocco in northwest Africa.
I had been in this place since January and was enjoying my military experience. Now it was Christmas and I was missing my family and the only Christmas I knew. What would I do for a Christmas experience?
A couple of my buddies and I decided to head for the High Atlas, a barren, remote, mountain range. There were no paved roads, few travelers, and space accommodations.
As we drove along, we observed a nomadic Berber Tribe just preparing camp for a cold night on the desert. They pitched animal skin tents and built fires.
We passed through ancient Marrakesh, the crossroads of the Moroccan world for centuries.
Later, in the foothills, we saw shepherd boys tending sheep and goats, preparing to bed down with their flocks, as has been the custom for a thousand years.
Higher in the mountains we passed centuries old adobe villages still inhabited, each with its mosque and towering minaret. We observed Moslems on their knees in prayer.
Not one Christmas tree did we see. No lights, wreaths, candles, bells, nothing that was Christmas.
It was cold, however, and there was snow on the high mountain places.
…we were told that all rooms were booked for the eve.
Then out of the darkness we spotted the light of a small French inn. A perfect place to spend Christmas so far from home.
The Inn Keeper was polite and friendly; but we were told that all rooms were booked for the eve.
…that we could sleep in the stable which housed the animals…
He assured us we were welcome for dinner in his Inn, and that we could sleep in the stable which housed the animals belong to the Berbers who worked at the Inn. Realizing our options were none, we accepted his hospitality.
As we entered the Inn’s candle dining room, we were surprised and delighted to hear Christmas carols being played by two French musicians. The room was occupied by several French families busy with their Yuletide celebration. Soon we were invited to join their festivities.
The rest of the evening was spent dining on French food and wine. Singing carols and enjoying our new found friends. The language barrier was no problem because the theme and spirit of the evening were common—Christmas goodwill.
Late that night, as I settled down on my bed of straw, in the stable, crowed with noisy and smelly donkeys, horses, and camels. I reflected on my uniquely different, Christmas away from home.
By Charles S. Wolfe