Iâ€™m sitting in the big black leather Papa chair in the living room right now…Iâ€™m going to have to move it over to the left a few feet pretty soon to make way for a Christmas tree, because Christmas is coming…one more time. My Lady Wonder Wench and I put our tree up on the Sunday just before Christmas…and we usually leave it up all the way through January…because… thatâ€™s how we like it. I think thatâ€™s how Christmas should be…just the way you like it.Religious people will tell you Christmas is about Christâ€™s birthday…and theyâ€™re right. But Iâ€™m not a religious person anymore…so how come I like it so much? Some people say Christmas is good for the economy, and theyâ€™re right too. Lots of people say Christmas isnâ€™t even about Christmas anymore. I think even they also have a point.My buddy Big Louie, his own bad self…says, “Any time you want to understand something better, listen to the music.” If thatâ€™s the case, Iâ€™d say Jingle Bells is the Christmas song you hear most often…and itâ€™s not really about Christâ€™s birthday…or shopping. Itâ€™s about people having fun together… laughing and singing and keeping each other warm on a sleigh ride. Thatâ€™s my kind of song. Music is a big part of Christmas to me.
The Salvation Army volunteers are out again this year making music. Some of them are bravely blowing their trumpets and trombones right into the winter wind…others just ring a little bell and smile. They donâ€™t do it for the pay. They do it because they love Christmas. One bitter Boston winter a long time ago, the Salvation Army rescued Christmas for a very little girl. Her dad was out of work, and things were tight for her and her mom and her brothers. That little girl is all grown up now. She has graced my life for a long time, and I love my Lady Wonder Wench very much. So, for taking care of her long before I could, thank you, Christmas…whatever you are.
My dad was a church choir master in Brooklyn. He had more than forty men and women in his choir, and a whole bunch of kids. He made it a point to have people sing carols from their familyâ€™s country of origin. A rather hefty soprano lady by the name of Anna, who worked in a card shop, sang the Carol Of The Bells from her native Russia…Skinny little Jack, who did graphics design, sang What Child Is This…his family came here from England. The only time I ever saw my proud, tough old German Grandfather cry was one Christmas eve when dad had the choir sing the second verse of Silent Night in German. Stille Nacht…Heilige Nacht.
My Grandfather left his home in Germany shortly before World War 2. He saw Hitler coming, and he wasnâ€™t having any of what that meant. “Stille Nacht” brought him home for a moment. His tears were bitter sweet. Thatâ€™s the way it is sometimes when you get to go home…but itâ€™s only for a moment. Itâ€™s always good to go home, even if itâ€™s only for that moment. Grosspapa was a good, loving, hard, proud man. And he didnâ€™t hide the tears when they came. He stood there with his head held high and sang along. Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht. Going home. Having a home to go to. Thanks again, Christmas. Whatever you are.
Big boys donâ€™t cry. But big men do. Thatâ€™s part of Christmas, too. Some tears. Joseph couldnâ€™t have been overjoyed to have his wife give birth to the child in a stable. And childbirth is never an easy thing for any woman… or any man who loves his woman. So tears belong in Christmas. Any of you guys who think thatâ€™s un-manly…I give you one statement from the bible: “Jesus wept.” Go duke it out with Him, and lots of luck. So my Christmas is made of music, laughing, loving, going home, taking care, and some tears. But thereâ€™s more.
Dad took his whole choir all around the neighborhood during the week before Christmas. Folks looked forward to it all year long. Whole blocks full of people would gather around the choir and sing along… Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans… even the Atheists. All kinds of people lived in our neighborhood in Brooklyn. They all sang, and they smiled, and they wished each other well. Christmas and Hanukkah, Quanza and Solstice…it was all there…mixed up in the music, and the smiles, and the warmth of standing close together in the cold night. Music…and being close together…thatâ€™s a big part of whatever Christmas… is.
There was no mistaking Christmas… when all those people gathered together to sing with dadâ€™s choir all those years ago. The Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Pagans and the Atheists. I donâ€™t think many of those people were really thinking about Christ. And they sure werenâ€™t thinking about shopping. They were just standing close enough together to keep warm in the cold Brooklyn night…singing… and laughing…and sometimes crying… for reasons nobody ever had to explain.
What a feeling that was for me… standing right next to Dad. I sang baritone and he sang bass. Dadâ€™s gone now…but not completely. That feeling of standing next to him and singing…itâ€™s still here with me…itâ€™s mixed all the way down deep in the music of Christmas.
The pope and his priests, including my cousin Damian, will pray for peace this Christmas. As will the preachers and the rabbis and good people everywhere. Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffel are trying to get everyone to “make love for peace” on December 22, the longest night of the year. Lots of people are laughing at them, and lots of those relentless “Forces For Good In The Community” are shocked, shocked I tell you.
But think about it. Suppose there was a law that said before any country could declare war, the leader and all the people in the country would have to spend 40 days and 40 nights making love. I guarantee you, there would be no wars, because everybody would be in a complete happy state of exhaustion. Not a bad description for world peace. So add loving to what Christmas is all about. That puts music, laughing, being close, taking care, tears and loving in the mix of what makes Christmas.
My lady Wonder Wench loves the old story of the Grinch. We watch it every year before Christmas. I think the Grinch was on to something when he felt his heart grow two whole sizes…when the Whos were singing their Christmas songs. Thatâ€™s something else that makes Christmas. Magic. How many birthday parties feature Happy Birthday being sung by a choir of angels? And thousands of years later…a guy in a red suit pulled by flying reindeer still celebrates that birthday by sliding down every chimney in the world, with presents all wrapped up with fancy paper and shiny ribbons…all in one night. Magic.
Please donâ€™t forget that Magic is a pagan tradition. So is the Christmas Tree and the Yule log. And Pagans would certainly recognize Donna and Paulâ€™s idea of making love on the longest night of the year. That was part of a sacred ritual long before there was a Christmas.
My lady Wonder Wench never had a Raggedy Ann doll when she was a little girl. They were pretty expensive, I guess. A couple of years ago, one of her friends made one for her…for Christmas. Itâ€™s been sitting over there on our couch ever since. Friends are certainly part of Christmas.
Those are some of my reasons for moving the Papa chair over a few feet to the left again this year for another Christmas tree. Christâ€™s birthday, music, laughs, taking care, being close together, loving, magic, some tears, going home, friends, Santa Claus and a reindeer with a red nose.
So Iâ€™ll move the Papa chair a few feet to the left…and one of our sons, Mark, and my brother John will help me bring in the tree on the weekend before Christmas. And our daughter Kris, and her daughters Jacqui and Emma, and Johnâ€™s lady Beth, and our niece Julie and her mom Peggy will help my lady Wonder Wench put up the decorations. Some of them go back to parents and grandparents and beyond.
Weâ€™ll sing Silent Night together….and weâ€™ll listen to our son Daveâ€™s Christmas album. Weâ€™ll miss seeing our son Eric and his new bride Brenda this year. Theyâ€™re honeymooning in Florida, and our son Kurt is in Oklahoma. Weâ€™ll miss them. But weâ€™ll keep each other warm and close together…and safe in our home again this year.
Thanks Christmas. Whatever you are…one more time.
1- Who wrote “Happy Birthday?”
2- Who was “The Duke of Earl?”
3- Whatâ€™s this yearâ€™s most popular Christmas song?”
3 right – Merry Christmas
2 right – Merry Christmas
1 right – Merry Christmas
0 right – Merry Christmas
Iâ€™ve told you what Christmas means to me. What does Christmas/Hanukkah/Quanza/Solstice mean to you? Please drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org Iâ€™d like to include some of your thoughts next week. Thanks. Happy Hanukkah.