The sounds of the season fill the air. Bell ringers standing in front of red kettles can be heard at most grocery stores, department stores and shopping malls. Christmas music is everywhere. We all know which radio stations convert entire programming to seasonal music around Thanksgiving and will program nothing but seasonal music until December 26th. The radio station in my car is not typically locked on one of these stations, but my wife’s car will be all month.
The seasonal music I prefer is live and local. Between combined choir Christmas concerts like the Red Kettle Christmas concert, the Beaver Dam Area Orchestra Christmas Concert and Wayland Academy’s Lessons and Carols November and December are rich with the sounds of the season that I just love.
This is written just before the Red Kettle concert and Wayland Academy’s 50th Annual Lessons and Carols concert featuring a Festival Choir, Almost Famous a capella choir, and Hand Bell Ensemble. Our 4th and final year of experiencing Lessons and Carols as Wayland parents will surly evoke a tear or two during or after the Wayland staple “Peace, Peace” with the congregation singing “Silent Night” underneath.
I’ve been told that many people experience depression around holidays like Christmas. There is even a name for this depression it is SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to our friends at the Mayo Clinic SAD is the generic name for any depression triggered by a seasonal change and is not limited to, but occurs most often during the winter holiday season. This ailment is also referred to as Spring Fever near the end of winter.
Admittedly, this writer gets a little sentimental around Christmas, but the feeling can’t be called sad for me. OK, so I get a little weepy at the end of Christmas services as we sing “Silent Night” side by side with loved ones in a candle lit sanctuary. I get homesick while wrapping presents and hanging greens. Decorating the house and tree gets to me most years too, but it is the music most of all that evokes emotion leading up to Christmas.
Sentimental is the correct word for what I experience, not depressed. These feelings are in anticipation of seeing the people I love whom we live so far away from. Our biggest regret is having so little time available to spend with all of the people back home who want to see us. For me Christmas is a time to recall warm experiences and all of the wonderful people whom I’ve shared my life with. Some of them I do not get to see very often and I look forward to the reunions.
Christmas in my family was mostly a joyous occasion. As far back as I can remember, dad over decorated the outside of our home. Dad was an hourly worker at a Hormel plant and mom chose to stay at home until my brother and I were in middle school. Money was usually tight so many decorations were handmade, with the exception of lights.
Three sides of our home were strung with red, green, blue, yellow and white bulbs. Dad handmade life sized cut outs from thick plywood of Santa in his sleigh and 9 reindeer. We had a Rudolph complete with red blinking nose on the roof top. In the front yard dad had more plywood cutouts of the three wise men and their camels and gifts for the baby Jesus in a nativity scene.
Dad was not exactly Clark Griswold from “Christmas Vacation” or Tim Taylor from “Home Improvement” but we were the most lit up house on our street that’s for sure.
Midnight mass was a staple on Christmas Eve. I remember mom and dad getting us ready for church early and warming up the car. Without fail dad would remember that he needed to go back in the house to get something. When we returned from services there would be more presents under and around the tree than there were when we left for church. Santa always arrived while we celebrated the birth of our Lord and savior. Amazing!
Oh sure, there were a few rough Christmases. My brother died in a car wreck when I was 18 in 1979. My parents took his death very hard, and they still mourn the loss over 30 years later. There is something unnatural about parents outliving their children. So for my parents Christmas was not nearly as festive for many years.
Having our first child helped. Christmas becomes a big deal when the first child and first grandchild is born. My parents suddenly had something different to think about at Christmas. Instead of mourning their loss, they celebrated an addition to the family and Christmas became joyous again.
Today, at ages 24 and 17 my children are not as into the magic of Christmas Eve as they once were, but we still look forward to going home. The grandmothers get to show off their ‘talented and smart’ grand children during Christmas service and at the shopping malls and restaurants.
We get to visit with old school friends too. Many of my high school friends still live in our home town. Their doors are always open and we relish sitting around the kitchen table talking about the past while the kids play games and watch movies.
For a week or so every December I’m a kid again and that is not sad. That same feeling rarely comes over me January through November, but there is something about December and the lure of home. I pray it never fades away and it is the sounds of Christmas that bring all of these wonderful memories.
My wife admitted last night that it is the older Christmas songs on the radio that she prefers because it reminds her of Christmases at her grandparents. Her heart cherishes those moments and again it is music that brings them back to her in a big way.
Many complain that they are already sick of hearing Christmas music on the radio. I know many who never tire of it. List me among those who do not tire of Christmas music all December long.
Life is what you make of it and I hope that few if any experience SAD feelings at Christmas and join me in the wonderful emotions and music that surround Christmas. If the past is a reason for feeling SAD, work to make this Christmas season great and begin to make good memories of the season for both you and your loved ones.