When I was in grade school, music was an integral part of our curriculum. Come Christmas season, we started rehearsing carols and making decorations for our classrooms, hallways and to take home. Construction paper knew no religion and "Merry Christmas" had not yet been politically corrected to "Happy Holidays."
The first time I saw the cover of a songbook our music teacher handed out, I was smitten with the idea of "the good ole days" and the ways Christmas once was celebrated. The jolly smiles on every face, elegant looking Victorian clothing [despite the 1940s hairstyles] and snow blanketed village made me long to live there and then. There was not one sign of slush, dirty chimney smoke, no broken tree limbs lying across sparking wires or cars waiting to be freed from their driveways. The rosy cheeks, colorful hats, scarves and mittens of carolers made the scene feel altogether cozy.
Homeowners, standing on their the cold front porch with their front door wide open, are clearly hosting a party. The grinning carolers sing out while, from within, the warm light from candles and a fire place beckons. As the family welcomes guests into their home, a horse-drawn carriage delivers another. Of course, the horse wears a collar of silvery, jingling bells.
For years that songbook was a fixture on my family's piano. I noted autoharp and guitar chords in it as I took up each instrument. When I finally bought a keyboard after moving out on my own, that book immediately came out of the guitar case and has resided on the keyboard ever since. Having been handled by younger siblings and me, it had taken quite a beating. The cover had come off, but somehow remained with the rest of the book.
Years later and to my great joy, I was loaned a copy of the same book during an event of a women's group I belonged to. The school music teacher who had brought them, gave me information so that I could order a new copy. I ordered enough to give copies to my siblings and Mom, since we had all enjoyed it. The cover and contents were exactly the same as I remembered, but the price had more than doubled in 50 years.
For many years I worked for an organization that "got into my blood." It was known for its impartiality and humanitarian efforts. Embracing the principle of neutrality as I worked with people from around the world and of numerous religious and cultural backgrounds, I neglected Christmas.
Growing older and not having children also influenced my lack of enthusiasm for the old traditions. Digging out this songbook and playing familiar songs is causing me to lose my neutral feelings about the holiday and inspiring a refreshed Christmas Spirit. I've decided not to hold back, so: