Sounds of the Season

I was standing in the elevator at the doctor's office just the other day , and some of that nauseating holiday muzak was playing. The cheap cheezy kind, you know what I mean, no discern able artist, the kind where you can't get that annoying refrain out of your head, no matter how hard you try. Thinking I was alone, I muttered to myself ,"F-L-O-G, I absolutely HATE this time of year ! " - just as the door to the elevator opened and a large officious looking woman walked in. When the elevator door closed, I had a very uncomfortable 20 second ride with this woman, who glared at me the entire time while looking me up and down as though I were some sort of space alien, because she thought she heard me say I hated Christmas. Now granted, in theory we have freedom of religion, assembly, and speech in this country, so I am free to like or dislike whatever I want, but living here in the buckle of the Bible belt, any person who hates Christmas is just, well, un-American.
I spent many years of my young life working in a variety of finer and lesser retail establishments, and listened for countless hours to those Christmas jingle tapes which stores play in endless loops ( it used to be they started after Thanksgiving, but lately they seem to start after Halloween), all of which are somehow supposed to encourage shoppers to "buy, buy, buy". When I was a kid , people used to say there were subliminal messages in those tapes.....after years of listening to them, I am not so sure. All I feel like doing, after hours/days/weeks of listening to them, is drive aggressively, and vent a little pent up energy by way of road rage, not shopping frenzy.
True, there are many other things that drive me crazy abut the holiday season, as well, esp as relates to the way we live in in this consumer-oriented overly media-ized wonderful nation of ours. (Read "12 days of Christmas", for more info on that topic.) I hate the endless tv commercials that try to convince my kids to nag me to buy things they really don't want or need, having too many school/kid activities all spaced into the 2 weeks prior to school letting out (all in the name of "family togetherness" - how about letting me decide how to spend time with my own family?), feel guilty about more hands out, asking for donations than I can comfortably contribute to, and worry about students of mine who might go hungry or have nothing at all in the way of Christmas gifts.
In spite of my seeming "Grinchy-ness", however, there are many things I love about Christmas. I loved it when I lived back east to go outside, esp at night, for the first really serious snowfall of the season, and look up into the sky, and watch the spiraling effect of the snow as it comes down onto your face. I love to curl up in front of roaring fire with cookies and hot cocoa and good book to read. I don't mind listening to carolers who come to the door - so few do , any more. I loved watching my children's faces light up, when they were little, and they opened their gifts. I loved watching our old boxer, Leto, pull my son around the yard in a little sled we tied to his collar. I have always enjoyed decorating, putting up the tree ( had a live one, till my son came along who was allergic to them), looking at the holiday lights in the dark. Used to go ice skating - when living in Houston, at the Galleria. When living in Westchester Co, NY, on the pond at the bottom of the hill from my home. Skated there with my dog, Addie, while the neighborhood kids played hockey all around us. When I taught at EHS, I used to really love their Christmas "Lessons and Carols" service most of all. The choir master there was trained in the British tradition , and the music program at that school was just breath-taking. The student choir was really beautiful , with those high, arching voices, echoing down the long narrow nave, just like angels.
I still do enjoy, and listen quite a bit, to special holiday themed music. It's just that my idea of glorious Christmas music is often quite different from that of the store manager at my local discount center or the dj at the local "top 40" radio station. Muzak, in fact any sort of whiney pop fakely peppy pseudo - rock holiday tunes are absolutely unbearable to me .They make me nauseous and wish fervently to run as fast as I can away. I love jazzy holiday standards from the 40's and 50's : Bing and Benny and Ella; all the Vince Gauraldi music form the "Charlie Brown " Christmas special, and modern crooners such as Norah Jones and Josh Groban and Micheal Buble. But most of all, I love old English church music.....from medieval monks chanting to Victorian hymns. "In the Bleak Midwinter","O Holy Night", "What Child Is This ? ". Some of the songs I love are old carols from France or Germany : "Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella. " "Still, Still, Still". My favorite Christmas song of all is titled "Once in Royal David's City". It is the traditional first song of my own church's Christmas Eve Mass. It starts small, with one little choir boy's voice, perhaps recalling the Christ child or a little shepherd boy who has come to see Him. The next verse builds to several singers ( I always imagine, more shepherds, or the Wise Men). Each stanza grows and grows, more majestic, with more singers, until the organ chimes in and the whole church joins , too. It is like all of heaven has opened up to sing along. Makes me a little verklempt, just thinking about it.

Here, you can listen for yourself :

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