Is it Curtains for Christmas Carols?

by Clio

Last week, while driving to errands and appointments, the holiday spirit came upon me and I felt the urge to belt out Christmas carols. I’ve always joked that I have a memory like a sieve, but the words came effortlessly, without reaching to remember the lyrics from choir recitals and Christmas plays long passed. The easy flow of remembered music and the uplifting feeling that accompanies our sacred and secular holiday tunes was interrupted with an alarming thought: ‘throughout the country, Christmas is being banned by government and political correctness.’

Christmas plays and pageants are now replaced with holiday celebrations or nothing at all. The Christmas school break is now the Winter break. There is no denying that Christmas is being excised from our schools and city celebrations… and when our Christmas plays are gone, who will remember our carols?

Few neighborhoods still have strolling carolers – it seems the era for evening Yuletide canticles has, in rare exceptions, ceased.

Certainly, we can still enjoy holiday music on our iPods or while watching the winter season fireplace with its canned holiday carols… but it doesn’t feel like “Christmas.”

I admit – I was born before this politically-correct era in America where ‘Christmas’ offenses are policed and litigated.

My school day memories touch back to our daily music classes in grade school. Every November, we turned the pages in our songbooks to holiday music: Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Lil Drummer Boy, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, Away in a Manger and Here Comes Santa Claus were just a few of the titles on our song list which was sung before proud parents during our annual school Christmas plays and choir recitals.

In high school, choir was an elective course and I signed up every year, starting with Freshman, Junior and Senior Choirs and the Girls Ensemble.

Our high school song charts included more complicated and sophisticated Noels such as the most operatic of the carols, O Holy Night/Cantique de Noel with its supplication (“Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! …) and full octave leap to a soaring high note (my favorite carol – although I have never been able to, gracefully, reach that high note), as well as a buoyant Angels We Have Heard on High, the beckoning O Come All Ye Faithful, an ebullient Hark, the Herald Angels Sing and a triumphant, Joy to the World, as well as secular Christmas songs: Silver Bells, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire … ), O Christmas Tree, Let it Snow, Winter Wonderland and many more. Our high school Christmas choral recitals always concluded with Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” in which the audience was invited to stand and join us.

Throughout my grade and high school years, I anticipated the holiday season and singing the familiar carols with friends at school and at church.

I didn’t have time in college to take music classes, but I remember flying home after Fall semester finals to find the house filled with the decorated “Redwood” my mother installed in the living room (actually, it was either a very large Douglas or Noble Fir – and it always required some alterations to fit through the door and still have room at the top for the star) and the scent of pine. In evenings, while others were finally abed, I sat in the living room and quietly sang carols by the gentle glow of the Christmas tree lights. I treasure those memories.

Honestly, I have never attended a school’s “Winter play” as an adult so I don’t know if students learn the lyrics of the season. This is speculation, but I think younger generations are likely more familiar with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and other parodies, than The First Noel or It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

If our PC-era winter holiday extravaganzas exclude our religious and secular Christmas music, who will teach those lyrics and bestow upon another generation the bliss that comes from singing praises, expressing reverent joy or delighting in the bouncy fun of Jingle Bells?

Perhaps we are beyond reviving school Christmas plays and choir recitals right now, so what can we do to ensure the younger generations are given the inspiring gifts of Christmas music? Start at home – songbooks are available and can be downloaded from the Internet. Get involved with your church choir or revive the caroling tradition with family and friends.

I’m so grateful that I was raised in a time in which we anticipated, prepared for and celebrated our Christmas traditions with music. I’m thankful that I remember those lyrics and that the words and music still come so easily to mind. In my late 20s, I was diagnosed with a rare form of hearing-loss. I’m not deaf, but I could not join a choir today or learn the carols that are so dear to me now. Music can be taken away from us – one way or another. Don’t let this politically-correct world deny you or your family the joyful expression of the season through music.

Merry Christmas – and sing!

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7 thoughts on “Is it Curtains for Christmas Carols?

  1. Love it, the music evokes such wonderful memories of family, church, singing at retirement homes. I'm so sad for for the young people that will miss out on the beautiful images and feelings associated with Christmas music!

  2. My fondest memories go back to when I believed there was a Santa Claus. Sitting out the cookies and milk only to wake up and see that the milk was gone and only a piece of cookie was left on the plate that Santa didn't finish. My bothers and sister and I would always have a hard time going to sleep the night before anticipating Santa bringing our presents. After we would open our presents, outside we would go to play football with our new ball or baseball with our new bat. Then we would go back into the house and smell the pastries and pies and food that mom would cook it seemed all day long. Back then It felt Christmas time right after Thanksgiving …everyone was in the spirit. And Christmas music was in the air. I only wish that I could have stayed suspended back in that part of my life. It saddens me that the youth these days will never experience what we did. Merry merry Christmas Christine. I appreciate that you took my memories back. Thank you

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth. I am glad that you liked the blog. Music can have such a powerful effect on us, our emotions. I find Christmas music uplifting, inspiring and fills one with joy and awe. It would be sad if we lost touch with our holiday music.

  4. Jeff Leyda – I wish I could turn the clock back to "is it almost Christmas" time again. The time flies – faster and faster as we grow older. As children, our birthdays and Christmas were so far off in the future and took forever to arrive. Christmas Eve began an agonizing wait for Santa's visit and for morning to arrive. It was one morning that we never overslept. Tonight, we finally put up the family Christmas tree and the house is filled with scent of our Douglas fir. I suppose I will have to back sugar cookies tomorrow … Scents and sounds of the season evoke a lot of happy memories.

  5. Jimmy Crawford … I had to write this blog – the possibility of losing touch with our Christmas traditions, especially our music, is a sad product of political correctness. Let's hope for a sea change in the country and the restoration of our cherished traditions.

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