The customers at the store are still cheerful. They enjoy playing the games and trying out the toys, they tell me stories about the nephews and grandchildren they are shopping for, they blithely discuss the relative merits of Blastpads and Mikado.
I like this part of the season. In another week or so, there will be whiners telling me how they don’t really know the kid and they don’t approve of the parents but they have to buy something anyway. I am sympathetic to these people, and try to cheer them up or at least help them, but I would prefer that they just didn’t give any presents if they feel that way.
While #2 daughter was here, we watched Christmas with the Kranks, a film based on John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas. My husband thought that opting out of Christmas for a year seemed like a reasonable thing to do. (He also thought that the carolers in the movie should have considered the possibility that the people in the house would shoot them. I just don’t want you to be thinking that he is the voice of reason). The movie didn’t live up to the possibilities of the premise, so we thought we might want to read the book. The Poster Queen owns it, and has loaned it to That Man. So there I was, discussing ways of getting the book onward in my direction, thinking about the movie and about my husband’s ambivalence toward Christmas, and of how I really only enjoy the happy Christmas shoppers —
I had a realization. I want other people to like Christmas as much as I do. It isn’t enough for them to help out or to do the required stuff. I want them also to enjoy it. I want enthusiasm. How unreasonable is that?
It is well-known that many people who participate in Christmas hate it. My feeling on this is that a) they’re doing it wrong, and b) if they don’t like it, they shouldn’t get to participate. It isn’t like taxes, after all. But for some people, of course, it is. That’s part of the trouble with Christmas music. Whether you like it or not, whether you are observing Christmas or not, you are subjected to it in all public spaces for about two months.
Again, I tend to feel that the people who don’t enjoy the music of the season are doing it wrong.
I want you all to like Christmas music. I mean, it is a good thing that you are just reading this, because if you were here in the flesh telling me how you hate the little drummer boy, I would probably be singing, or at least making you read sheet music and telling you all the stories of the carols and saying, “Just listen to this one!” while your smile congealed on your face.
Fortunately, you and I are divided by a great electronic gulf. I can tell you about songs and put in links, but it is up to you whether you click on them and listen or not. You can ignore it completely and I can still imagine you listening to the midi files until you learn the tune and then gathering up all your SATB friends and all the musical instruments in town and —
Yes, well. I hope that you are, at least, shopping cheerfully if you are shopping at all. I say, if you can’t do your Christmas shopping with a song in your heart, then just stay home and skip the whole thing.
Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying is admittedly not a song that you are likely to sing in your car while driving to the mall, although this link is to a simple file which allows you to hear the tune clearly. The phrasing is a bit tricky and the tune is not exactly catchy. If you just want to listen, or if you have a lot of singers in the car, you might like it in the Bach chorale version.
The tune is Philipp Nicolai’s “Wachet auf.” Bach wrote the harmony. It is a lovely and stately melody, and the words use the familiar image of the church as bride and Christ as bridegroom, weird to non-Christians but as I say a familiar part of Advent for those of us who observe it. There is also the whole watchman image. The idea is that we have been sleeping or at least not paying attention, but now it is Advent so, hey, wake up! Watch! A lot of Advent hymns say this.
You may not like this song, but I think you will not be able to listen to it and also complain about cheesy Christmas music at the same time.