It’s that time of year again. The stores are lit up with Christmas lights, there are people shopping frantically, and there’s a constant stream of Christmas pop music playing over the sound systems. Many people complain about it being too early or too loud or the same songs repeating over and over. There may be some truth to these complaints; however, many of us find comfort and peace in the familiarity of both old and new Christmas songs. What is it about Christmas music that soothes us so? Is it the melodies? Or the lyrics? It’s probably a little bit of both. I wonder, though if it’s also a nostalgia for Christmases past, for a time when our view of the world was very different.
As I sit here listening to Christmas music, I think back to time spent with my grandma listening to these same songs while setting up the Christmas tree, wrapping presents, and baking all the holiday treats my little self could possibly dream of. If I close my eyes, I’m sure I can still taste the warm gingerbread cookies, fresh from the oven! As children, we tend to see the world in a simpler way: the bright lights of Christmas are exciting, the music is uplifting, and there is a sense of wonder and anticipation within us. I don’t think as children we have the words to express how the Christmas spirit makes us feel beyond ‘happy’. We feel the magic both within and around us and we want to hold it tight with our sticky little fingers and never let go. Holiday music helps tie it all together.
As we grow up our view of the world changes. We stop believing in the magic of the holiday season. We stop believing that we are a part of it all. Perhaps, we have been hurt or are hurting and now the holidays are not what they used to be. I think Christmas means something very different once you stop believing in the magic of the holidays. I look at the stores blaring Christmas music and I don’t think a single shopper stops to take it all in. We start looking for that feeling in a consumerist world. We want to buy the feelings of Christmas that we recall from our childhood. But we are annoyed by the busy malls, the bright and flashing lights, and the loud music. A great example of this is found in both the book and movie, The Polar Express. The children hear the magic bell ringing, but as they grow up, many of them can no longer hear the beautiful sound it makes. There are only a select few who keep the music and magic of Christmas within them.
For the longest time after my grandma passed away I, too, forgot what the magic of Christmas felt like. I couldn’t listen to carols or really enjoy any holiday music. Then, one day I was listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Canon, a version of Canon in D by Pachelbel, and it all came flooding back to me. The memories, the smells, the feelings of joy and anticipation building in my heart. I think this is exactly what music is supposed to be for us. It unlocks something inside of us to let us remember, to heal, and to grow. Music has a way of meeting you exactly where you are and being exactly what you need it to be.
Now that I’m a parent, I get to watch the magic of the holidays grow in my children and I work hard to make sure music is a big part of that. I play Christmas music in the house throughout the entire holiday season. Everything from the pop Christmas we hear in the malls, to classic carols, to Fred Penner’s “The Season: A Family Christmas Celebration” (a definite recommendation from this music lover!). I want my kids to grow up with love, joy, and anticipation in their hearts at this time of year and beyond. For me, it isn’t necessarily about a certain religion or belief, but about the knowledge that magic is very much real and not only around us but also a part of us all. Having music tied to those memories may one day help my children remember when they are in a place where they, too, have forgotten the magic that they are.
Music really is the heart and soul of the holiday season. It takes those memories from when we are children—the holiday baking, the tastes and smells, the wrapping of Christmas presents, the colourful papers and pretty ribbons, the Christmas lights, flashing and dancing with joy—and it helps us create new memories: playing with our children in the fresh snow, doing small acts of kindness for others, and creating our own family traditions. Music is the ribbon that ties this all together. It takes all the pieces of the past and brings them together with all the new magic and memories we create and fastens it with a little Christmas bow.
Without music during the holidays, the world would be less colourful. I truly believe that music is what connects our hearts to the hearts of others. It helps us find the magic in the world around us and within ourselves. May we never stop hearing the music play.