Christmas is a peculiar time of year. It is reflective – happy and sad. The political correctness of what we should or shouldn’t say is a bit annoying. Do we really need to walk on egg shells? Regardless of how you celebrate nothing ignites the Spirit of the holiday like music.
Perry Como’s, The Story of the First Christmas brings me back to my living room – sitting on the 1970s plaid sofa listening to music on the stereo stand containing a turntable, 8-track, radio and speakers (cool piece of furniture). I can hear the crackle of the needle on the vinyl album and it is fantastic! Linda Ronstadt’s, O Come O Come Emmanuel echoes a church choir performance – the reflection of voices in a beautiful large stone structure. This Wednesday I was hoping to see the performance of Saint Ignatius Children’s Choir but instead heard Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Choir practicing this song – incomplete and rough but glorious! The control in their voices and the movements of the conductor were spectacular. The religious story continues with Frank Sinatra’s version of O Little Town of Bethlehem, and the Little Drummer Boy (my favorite Christmas movie as a child) by Harry Simeone Chorale and finishing with a modern-day Gospel version of Silent Night by Kirk Franklin & the Family.
Many songs are thought provoking like Frank Sinatra’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas (no one sings this song better than Elvis but Kelly Clarkson’s version is quite good) or Aretha Franklin’s My Grown-up Christmas (I prefer Natalie Cole’s version). While we may have troubles throughout the year, we put them aside to cherish the season with family and friends. Sometimes it’s sad because we can’t be with our loved ones. Maybe they are serving in the military or have passed and the holidays just aren’t the same without them. My brother Tommy passed away twelve years ago and the holidays for my parents, siblings and me, have changed considerably – there is a void without him. Reflection is necessary and good.
My daughters recently asked me about my Christmas tradition. On Christmas Eve my Mom cooked up a storm and the house was filled with family and friends of my parents – a very festive occasion. We listened to all of our favorite Christmas songs/albums (Dean Martin – Baby It’s Cold Outside, Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song, Perry Como – Home for the Holidays, Johnny Mathis – Silver Bells, etc.). At some point in the evening, bedtime would ensue and my siblings and I would be sent to bed. Once we were fast asleep, Santa Claus would arrive. I distinctly remember in fourth grade waking up hearing a door close and my Mom asking if I knew who had just left. Why Santa Claus, of course! I couldn’t wait to get back to school after break and tell my friends “I was awake when Santa Claus left!” My daughters are in fourth grade now and to see the BELIEF in their eyes and to hear the EXCITEMENT in their stories is priceless. I never questioned how Santa Claus came while there were still adults present but my daughters did. I lie more during the holidays than any other time of year.
Our tradition hasn’t changed much – time spent with family and friends, watching the joy in our children’s eyes as they wake up to MAGIC on Christmas morning. So, however you celebrate, surround yourself by joyful, loving people, have peace in your heart and … turn the Christmas music way up!
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