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Singing in the Season

I admit that my family doesn’t have many Christmas traditions. My parents are both immigrants and converts to the church. And while I know that my parents have done Christmases with all the trimmings … Santa, big Christmas tree, lights on the front of the house, etc etc … it never felt quite right. I remember taking up the mantle one winter when I was home from college (stockings and everything), but it was expensive and not all that much fun. I also remember one Christmas when everyone was so busy that Christmas eve found us without a tree. So, we put a pointsettia plant on top of a horizontally-tilted music stand instead and sang, “O Christmas Stand!” But that’s neither here nor there.

These days, my family celebrates Christmas whenever we can all get together. With a nurse, a doctor and a law student, and about half of the family out of state, it’s become a necessity.

However, this Christmas season has seen the birth of two new traditions in my life that feel incredibly right and good.

The first was my musical Christmas party. In my adulthood, I’ve done many Christmas parties … white elephant gift exchange, seated dinner party, sharing party, cookie party, curry party … but the musical one took the cake. With three guitarists, a number of willing pianists, vocally and/or enthusiastically talented friends from near and far, and goodies brought by all, it was a singing extravaganza. It made the hours of arranging and copying music at Kinko’s, and removing all the furniture from my bedroom, absolutely worth it.

The second was attending a Messiah sing-a-long. This was actually my roommate’s idea, but I was happy enough to do the organizing. In the end, I went with my mother, sister in law, two roommates, and four other friends. And while I often got lost along the choral arias, it thrilled me to be in a major concert hall, with a symphony orchestra and soloists, singing along with other Handel afficionados. After the concert, as we were passing through the lobby, and waiting for the elevators to the parking structure, someone started to sing. And one by one, voices joined in until song filled the space. Joy to the World. O Come All Ye Faithful. Silent Night. It was a marvelous moment. Near the end, the base soloist came out and joined along in the singing. As we clapped for him, he exhorted us to keep on singing throughout the season, then went to joing his family.

Music is such an important part of how I feel joy. And it was wonderful that things fell into place such that I could organize these two events that I’m committed to maintaining.

What Christmas traditions do you have in your family? How did they originate? How have they changed? Have you begun any traditions? How do these traditions make Christmas more special?

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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6 Responses

  1. Bored in Vernal says:

    Ah, this reminds me of all the years my family went Christmas caroling back in the 60’s and 70’s. My mother is a coloratura soprano, so she pitched the songs waaaaay up high. That way my sister and I could sing alto, my dad who is a tenor could sing bass, and my brothers could sing tenor even before their voices changed. And our special song at the end of the evening was “Angels we have heard on high.” All of us knew all of the parts, and we would switch back and forth on the different verses. I did it today in Church services when I sang the second verse bass an octave higher.

  2. Caroline says:

    I love the idea of the Messiah sing a long. I need to find something like that here.

    As for our traditions…. we’re dull and boring. We don’t do anything interesting. Just the usual gift exchange and dinner. Oh, wait…. this year my family adopted a needy family for Christmas and bought them dinner and gifts. That’s one thing that I’d like to make a tradition.

    But I’d like to start some other cool traditions now that little E is here.

    On an aside, I think I’m pretty certain that I won’t be teaching E about Santa Clause. I feel good about that decision, but it’s one more Christmas tradition that I don’t have…

  3. Janna says:

    A couple in my ward host an annual “Soup & Sing” (aka, singing for your supper). It’s a wonderful opportunity to sing all the Christmas songs, and especially those that you never get to sing that are so beautiful(The Holly and the Ivy, I Saw Three Ships, O Emmanuel, All Good Christian Men, etc.).

    It’s amazing how when you get more than eight Mormons together to sing, we spontaneously sing in four-part harmony. And for fear of sounding trite, the Spirit was powerful. Tears were shed, hearts were warmed, testimonies were strengthened 😉

    (Sorry, I couldn’t help it – my comment just begged for a little Monson flair.)

  4. Eric O says:

    Dora, the musical Christmas party was fantastic. Count me as one of the enthusiastic participants. Definitely worth ditching my work party for! We had such a good time, we tried to do a poor imitation of it at our own small little gathering last weekend. Merry Christmas!

  5. Deborah says:

    The stake in Boston has hosted a Messiah sing-along in Boston for years (I hope it’s still happening, because when I dream of moving back to Boston, the vision includes going to the Belmont chapel in December for hearty belting). I take in as many free church concerts as I can each year — Episcopal “lessons and carols,” etc. If you are ever in Boston in December, try to go the Trinity Church choir concert. It’s all about music for me. Music and chocolate.

  6. MDS says:

    when we moved to this area tweleve years ago, there was a family who had been doing a musical program in the chapel on Christmas Eve for many years. They rounded up other instrumentatlists and presented a very–sweet, quiet, reverent–I’m not sure how to describe it–varied program. The lights were out in the chapel except for the musicians’ music stands, our beautiful stained glass window showing Christ knocking at the door was back lit. The program began at 10 p.m. and lasted about one hour. It was a great way to unwind after all the hurrying of the day.

    Adults and teenagers attended–children were in bed–many teens came from other wards. At the end, we all walked out into the dark foyer greeted each other warmly and walked home. It gave us such a sense of peace feeling. Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued. I wish our Church would have a Christmas Eve or Day service. The “family time” thing is overemphasized; many people don’t have families, in the traditional sense.

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