"City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style.
In the air there's a feeling of Christmas.
Children laughing, People passing
Meeting smile after smile"
("Silver Bells" by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, 1950)
In retrospect it seems strange that my father, a deeply devout man, thought "Silver Bells" (a purely secular song) his favorite Christmas tune. This may reflect his love for living in the city more than anything else.
One of the best things about Christmas surely is the music. Much of what we Americans think of as "Christmas" comes from music associated with the day. How would we know about Rudolph, or Santa seeing us while we sleep, or many other such traditions without some songwriter informing us? In fact we wouldn't know it was "merry" and not "happy" if some 19th century Englishmen had not stopped to "wish ye a merry Christmas."
The airwaves are full of the wide variety of music of Christmas. We are beginning to hear it on radio, and the TV specials have already begun in earnest. And, I do look forward to the various Christmas specials aired on PBS. Given the status of our society most of these performances will be Santa oriented rather than birth of Jesus emphasized, but I will play it all until it drives Kay crazy.
Although not as devout as my father, my own tendency is to prefer "sacred" above the secular approach to Christmas music. This, as with most all Christmas traditions, has its roots in childhood. We children of the 50's associate with the day with carols learned for grade school Christmas programs presented for our parents "enjoyment" right before the Christmas break. One wonders if "the holidays" have any carols, the "winter break" any tradition, or our children any imbedded Christmas memories?
Did something of an inventory on our home collection of Christmas CDs. We have a total of twelve, four of which came free from some advertiser or another. The CDs include a total of nearly 160 renditions by ten different artist and two vocal groups, with some orchestra pieces and one Mannheim Steamroller CD. Can I call that "eclectic?"
My personal all-time favorite Christmas carol is "O Holy Night." To me this is the great, majestic annunciation of the birth of Christ. It's a man's song that takes a strength few women in the popular genre can bring to it. Unfortunately few men sing, and fewer sing great. Included in our library are eight interpretations of Holy Night, the best we have being by Il Divo. Duty compels me to here restate my well-established total lack of musical acumen.
Of the 160 renditions available there are actually only 77 different songs, something less than half. They tell me I could put these 77 on some sort of electrical device -- "a 10 year old kid could do it." This would allow me to have something continuously playing all the way to next Christmas. Unfortunately I neither know myself how to so combine the 77 nor have any 10-year-olds around. If I can find a way to incorporate them this way, "Silver Bells" is on the list.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.