As I write this, Luciano Pavarotti’s magnificent voice is rising through the lyrics (in Italian) of O Holy Night, which is the #1 Christmas carol in Colorado. I happen to be in Spokane, but this is technology. National Public Radio for the last ten years has run the Top Fifty Favorite Christmas Carols, and I have been wrapping gifts to the music.
Each time I come to Spokane, my friend Jill and I do our shopping with the local FM station tuned to all Christmas music. We’ve both gotten annoyed with how those stations have ceased playing what’s considered sacred music, out of fear of offending (somebody, anybody, everybody). As a result, they end up being offensive by removing from the mainstream some of the best music of the entire season.
I mean, look, if you’re going to pummel me with Christmas music beginning right after Halloween, AT LEAST broaden the variety.
Look. I’m no Christian. But I grew up, as many of us did, with these songs, and they lift my heart and my spirits in ways that only sacred music can. I can be just as uplifted by songs from other religions and belief systems. I don’t have to ascribe to a certain belief to be able to be deeply touched by devotionals, because those songs speak to passionately-held beliefs. They remind me of man’s search for what is above and beyond him. For example, I have always, and will always be taken to the moon with the chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
Besides, if I happen to be listening when I’m on my stationary bike, it makes me sprint. So it’s pretty useful for burning off all those cookies.
I am, however, offended when others decide for me and everyone else what’s acceptable on the airways and what’s not, out of fear of offending this or that group. Don’t like it? Then bloody well don’t listen. Get over it already.
Because here’s what’s happened: by taking out what are arguably some of the most lovely of the traditional Christmas songs, we are subjected to hearing Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree three or four times an hour. Or more. Because, frankly, the best of the season’s music is indeed devotional, and because it is, it is full of feeling, and glorious as a result. Today my friend Jill said that if she heard Last Christmas by the erstwhile and long-defunct WHAM, she was likely to run over the next elf she saw.
Even a big fat one in a red suit.
I don’t blame her one bit.
As a regular listener of NPR, I hear Jewish stories each year as we approach Hanukkah. I am just as interested in those as I am in hearing the entire offerings of sacred Christmas music because those stories are as much a part of the tradition of this year as any other. Besides, when the stories are done with proper accents, they take me right back to Brooklyn, where I spent a fair bit of time. That takes me back to Manhattan, which arguably has the best Christmas in the whole country, if for no other reason than the extraordinary window displays. You could walk Manhattan for hours and buy nothing but a cup of hot chocolate, and be so sated from the beauty that you could die happy.
Especially if some taxi driver who has heard WHAM one too many times decides to clear the sidewalk.
The world celebrates a broad range of holidays (including World Rabies Day, World Soil Day, World Leprosy Day — okay okay everybody, raise your hands…whoops…sorry…) so it’s fair to say that the world has a sense of humor when it comes to putting holidays forth that we’re supposed to celebrate (http://www.holidayscalendar.com/categories/international/.) I really liked October 1st, International Day of Older Persons, which tickles me no end. Nobody celebrates that in this country because NOBODY will admit to being an older person, although it seems nearly all my Millennial Medium.com peeps have entered this condition by turning thirty. But I digress.
In case your world is so narrow you’re not aware of the remarkable range of celebrations that happen beginning in late fall, here’s a primer https://www.hercampus.com/school/minnesota/6-holidays-holiday-season-besides-christmas. There really is something for everyone, and it’s a simply superb way to justify getting and staying solidly smashed celebrating somebody’s holiday until the last Chinese dragon has wandered drunkenly down the street in January.
Christmas is relevant to many because it’s the solstice, which, depending on whose version of history you want to believe, might or might not have been a pagan holiday before the Romans made it the Nativity. Christ wasn’t actually born on the 25th, and there is considerable argument as to when he actually did show up. (I don’t use a capital H for him because I don’t believe in his divinity. You might, but kindly, that’s your choice). For reference, please see https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/christ-is-born.
Lots of folks celebrate major holidays at year’s end because damn it, it’s DARK, and we need a legitimate reason to get cabbaged. After all, in most places, it’s also really cold, and what a great way to justify getting warm in the best possible way known to man.
Which is precisely why I have a VERY hard time buying the story that Mary was a virgin, because please, if you’re going to carry a kid to term, you might at least participate in the fun stuff.
But then, that’s just me.
I do rather like the idea of gift giving for Christmas, because this last paragraph reminds me of the one thing that I am going to get for the season that I really do care about. Because when the Certain Someone comes home for the holiday (it will be after, but who cares, holiday celebrations are moveable) said Special Person will be met at the door by a shapely Santa wearing a hat.
And not a whole hell of a lot else.
At which point there might well be some celebration going on, but frankly, it won’t be very religious. Well, kinda. After all, we will be carrying on a pretty sacred tradition.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Et cetera. And yes, Joy to the World indeed. We could all use more of that.