After weeks of dreading the holidays, I found today at approximately 2:52 p.m. that the ice around my cold, cold, grinchy, Christmas shunning heart has begun to crack. Actually, it's slowly been melting for about a week now. I think it must've started the day I went to the craft store and spotted two teenaged girls manning (girling? womaning?) the Salvation Army bucket, singing Angels We Have Heard on High at the top of their strong, young lungs. What they lacked in pitch, they more than made up in sheer joy and enthusiasm. They were so obviously having fun that it was impossible to pass them without feeling uplifted.
While I have philosophical differences with some of the Salvation Army's beliefs, thinking about these girls in the days since, it strikes me that they are what the holiday is really about - friendship, laughter, community, joy, generosity and human capacity to do good. Call me a hippie if you want, but it's about love, all about love, and I think I can say that this close to Christmas without anyone playing the hippie card!
So, what has conspired to persuade me that I am more Christmas-friendly than I thought? A few things that I will present in listy format, because I am feeling uninspired to write much (especially after having already lost this post to the Internets once before):
1. International Human Rights Day/ Amnesty International's Global Write-A-Thon
After spending a day reading various cases regarding prisoners of conscience who have been locked up and tortured for things as innocuous as being Buddhist or having a political opinion, it's difficult to feel that I (or anyone I know) has it too bad. We all have our problems, but we also many things for which to be happy, and Christmas is one of them!
2. The Liedertafel Harmonie Christmas Concert
When I was a kid, I used to attend the German Saturday School every weekend. At Christmas we students would attend the German Society's annual concert and sing a song. This year the children sang Schneeflöckchen Weißröckchen, which I remember singing at the concert when I was their age. Hearing them (as well as the adult choir) singing all the Weihnachtslieder (Christmas songs) I grew up with took me back. My favorite parts were a song called Wenn ich ein Glöckchen wär' (the soloist had a clear, captivating voice, which made me forget the announcer's mistranslation of the song's title which is not "When I was a Bell", an ode to transmogrification, but rather a wistful rumination, "If I were a Bell"). There was also a sweet melodied Austrian song that I suspect was a Ländler. Blame it on too many Sound of Music viewings, but Ländlers always manage to charm me. The sum effect of the concert was a nice, warm feeling that makes me think we at the Powellhurst Compound need to incorporate more German traditions back into our holidays.
3. Children's Christmas Play
The beauty of excited children performing a play is that it is difficult not to be affected by their enthusiasm. Sure, there were a few dazed looking sheep and a couple of hyperactive little boys who threatened to derail the proceedings, but for sheer joy, a small child thinking about Christmas is difficult to outjubilate (I almost wrote "difficult to beat", but somehow "beat" and "small child" don't seem they should ever in close proximity!)
4. The Fröhliche Weihnacht überall CD
Browsing on iTunes the other night, I came across this innovative cd. It takes traditional German Christmas song and arranges them in various international styles. My two favorites are settings of Ihr Kinderlein Kommet (aka Oh Come Little Children in its English incarnation) and Lasst uns froh und munter sein (which I don't think exists in an English version, but is still worthwhile, in no small part for the amusement of hearing a deep, dark, almost growly toned Ivan Rebroff singing a carefree "tralalala"). Both are traditional, but arranged in the style of Greek and Russian folk songs respectively. The cd. which also features Brazilian, Indian, and Native American arrangements is a delightful mix of famliar and unfamiliar. I only wish that everyone could be familiar with the songs in their original format, so they could see just how cool the arrangements are!
And so begins my holiday spirit. May it continue to grow!