Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Well, it's Christmas time, pretty baby!"

Merry Christmas! 
圣诞快乐! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Merii Kurisumasu! 
Heri la Krismasi! Joyeux Noël! C Рождеством Христовым!

Catch the Spirit; it's everywhere, and contagious. Plug in the tree. Light a fire. Pour yourself a drink. Put your feet up. Lean back and take a breath. Take a moment and soak It in. There's 10 minutes somewhere out there to wrap that last gift. "It's Christmas time, pretty baby!"  

No holiday, no time, is constituted of Music more than Christmas. The scale and beauty of the tunes inspired by the Season is staggering. It's the one topic that virtually every musician who commits song to tape addresses at one time or another. What else could Run DMCPavarotti, and Waylon Jennings have in common? It fills the air wherever you go, like smoke from chimneys interspersed with winter fog. Whether rattling through a tinny speaker at the grocery store or playing on the soundtrack inside your head, it's everywhere. Holiday is the one musical category that, regardless of genre preference, everyone, and I mean everyone, likes. Dare you say otherwise? Be it wistful (the immortal "White Christmas") serious ("The Little Drummer Boy"), playful (the ubiquitous "Jingle Bell Rock"), it's all equally beloved. We just want to hear it and to know that, for 30 short days, the world is the slightest bit Different. The Season allows us to place problems great and small in context and feel the energy that comes with shared Joy; Music serves as a medium for the serene excitement of Christmas. 
"It's Christmas time, pretty baby!"      

At Christmas, Music joins an infinitely diverse global citizenry in a singular celebration of a Savior, born in a barn, in a small town, a long way from here, a long time ago. Whilst walking about the nearest mall in December, look around. Consider the socioeconomic, geographic, religious, and experiential histories of the people you pass. They may not celebrate the Season. Giving may be the furthest thing from their minds, or they may be spending their last dime on a modern day Gift of the Magi. But, when they hear mention of a certain Reindeer with a flushed nose or the (highly improbable, in the South) prospect of Christmas snow, it affects them all, in the best way. They know it. The song brings us all together. "It's Christmas time, pretty baby!"     

Looking back at 37 Holiday seasons, I'm so thankful for Christmas and the role that its Music has played in my life. When I was a child, Dad had an old Sony receiver that sat on a mahogany table in the tile-floored, wood-paneled study that hung off the side of our Georgian brick cottage. The Sony had a metallic silver front and wood sides and you had to turn a knob to move an actual needle to find a radio station. It had cushioning at the end of the dial so it would give you a pleasing bounce when you went too far to the right past 108 FM. When you flipped the power switch off, it took it several seconds to go dark. (It looked like this.) A more modern black double cassette deck sat on top of it. When Mom pulled out the musty-smelling box of ornaments each year, one of the first things that came out was a solid black cassette tape. It had a red and white label on the side with "Perry Como - Christmas Music" written on it. I knew how to work the old Sony, so I could get Perry started. Sister Beth and I (Sister Meg was toddling at the time) didn't know a thing about Perry Como and would never have voluntarily listened to any non-Christmas song of his; I don't think Mom even listened to him. But, every December, in the green glow of the old Sony and the full spectrum splendor of the tree (colored or white this year?), Perry brought us the joy of tradition. That's when the celebration started in earnest. We knew it then. "It's Christmas time, pretty baby!"    

It seems like a different world now. We go so fast these days. It takes so much work to create a moment, we are often too exhausted and anxious to enjoy it when it arrives. Let this year be different, and let the Music be your guide. To paraphrase Dylan, the answer's in the air all around us. Take a few seconds and focus on the words you hear sung in church, at the mall, sitting in your wing chair with your feet up, or inside your head. What you will find in them is the reason that we celebrate and, in many ways, the celebration itself. "It's Christmas time, pretty baby!"  


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