Last Sunday my husband and I took our Grandson Gabriel out to Fox Island and the Country Christmas Concert that was held at the Nichols Community Center. What a wonderful community gathering complete with hot spiced cider and cookies!
The old wooden building shook to the tapping feet and clapping hands as guitar, bass, drums and fiddle blended with sweet voices raised in songs of the Yuletide. I hope it becomes a happy memory for four-year-old Gabriel. All the way home he chanted “hot spiced cider” so he could ask his mama to make him some.
As I sat there holding Gabriel and singing old familiar carols with the performers it occurred to me to wonder where children learn Christmas Carols anymore. Church is an obvious place, but now that we’ve legislated Christmas out of schools the only songs children are taught are “Winter” songs which leaves out many beautiful carols that add so much to the season.
Most of the audience at the Nichols was of an age to have sung Christmas Carols at school during music class and Christmas assemblies. It set me to wondering if Christmas Carols are endangered. I have a rather eclectic, but active, spiritual life that is rather disorganized, never-the-less I do love the old carols.
As a child I couldn’t wait until Daddy got out the big stack of 78s that comprised our collection of carols when I was little. Then I would sit in front of our old floor radio/phonograph combo and play them over and over, especially Fred Waring’s version of “The Night Before Christmas.” I played that one so much my mother had to go out and get another copy.
When LPs came out and we got a new little portable record player that would play them we started a collection of the Firestone albums. Each December I accompanied my dad to the tire store to get that year’s offering.
Our family is blessed with many music teachers so on Christmas Day we will press Uncle Steve into service playing Christmas Carols until he is hot and tired and we our out of breath. I hope that this is a tradition that will go on with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren long after Uncle Steve is gone. And I hope other children will learn Christmas Carols somewhere as well.
We have in this country the opportunity to build community by celebrating each other’s religious holidays. I believe that rather than banning religious holidays from public schools that they ought to all be celebrated. Why not teach children Hanukkah songs along with Christmas Carols? Why not teach children about Kwanza and Ramadan?
Our diversity should be celebrated with Nativity Scenes and Menorahs and not with hateful signs and letters-to-the-editor denigrating anyone’s beliefs. Besides, I want the old carols to continue to be learned and sung not just in church, but around the house and on people’s doorsteps.