Posted by: Hannah | 12/15/2011

ah, the Xmas concert

Last night was Harry’s Christmas concert. (He was such fun to watch. Some people are born performers, and he’s definitely one of them. You know the kid that you can’t stop smiling at, because he’s missing a bunch of teeth and can’t stop waving at his relatives? Yeah. That kid.)

I am not a religious person, particularly. I was baptized Lutheran as a baby to appease my grandmother, but I don’t ever recall my mom taking me to church. I went to Sunday school and later church with Nanny, and my favourite part for years was when our tiny and mostly elderly congregation would share peace with one another. One old fellow would also greet me with a solemn handshake and a dusty white peppermint, and to this day whenever I see those mints in a store – even though I now think they taste like dried toothpaste – I get a pleasant feeling.

For me personally, Christmas is a time of year where everyone can pause, take a breath, and let all the daily craziness end, even if only for 24 hours or so. And every year, there is the spark of hope that maybe this is the year when that feeling of peace will continue in the days and months to follow.

This season at the end of the year is a time to reset and recharge. Whether the impetus for that is the baby Jesus, or the Solstice fairy, or Santa Claus or the Hogfather or the Festival of Light doesn’t matter.

That said, I do have one major complaint with what is happening to Christmas. Namely, Christmas concerts.

Non-denominational non-specific “we are calling this a Christmas concert even though it really isn’t” concerts just suck.

When I was in elementary school, our Christmas concerts still involved the Nativity. One year I auditioned for the role of The Angel, which was actually a more important role than Mary because The Angel had a solo. I was assigned the understudy role and then spent five weeks damaging my karma forever by hoping that Michelle Stewart would get some disease that wouldn’t make her terribly sick but would render her incapable of performing her duties. Laryngitis would have fit the bill nicely. She didn’t catch it.

The following year I was one of the Magi. I wore a dishcloth on my head (yes, cultural sensitivity is awesome) and I played Balthasar. We sang We Three Kings and Balthasar’s verse is the one about dying and stuff:

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

(My voice may or may not have cracked on the high note. Whatever. That’s some kickass trampling-of-the-ungodly right there).

Anyway, the best Christmas songs are the ones about the birth of Jesus. They just are. Some of my very favourites are Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Angels We Have Heard on High, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, We Three Kings, Adeste Fidelis/O Come All Ye Faithful, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

The new Seasonal Holiday Songs for Young Voices that are steadily infiltrating school concerts just cannot compare.

Here is a verse from God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen:

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

This, on the other hand, is a sample of lyrics from SOS!, one of the five original songs from Jingle All The Way, the concert put on by Harry’s school last night:

Someone send an S.O.S!
My G.P.S. is such a mess!
Should I go south? Should I go north?
This map keeps sending me back and forth?
Back and forth! Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth!

Now, whatever your religious beliefs or affiliation, surely we can all agree that the second song is Dumb and Lame and also Annoying to Listen To?

The weird thing is that the whole plot of the show revolves around Santa losing the “jingle in his heart” because people have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. But at no point was that meaning ever actually defined or quantified in any way. It was really strange, and odd. If we are going to have Christmas concerts – and judging from both Twitter and Facebook this week, apparently every school does – why can’t we have at least some of the old classic favourites incorporated somehow? OK fine, you don’t want to do a full-on Nativity with the two goofball kids playing a donkey and someone’s Cabbage Patch Doll as the baby Jesus – I can appreciate that. But surely we can move toward a situation where instead of denying the religious aspects of this season, we incorporate as many different traditions as we can?

Maybe something like this, from Krusty the Klown’s holiday TV special on The Simpsons: “So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan”.

Anyone want to write a play that incorporates all of that before next December?



  1. I’m not familiar with any of the new non-Christian tunes. The lyrics you posted are pretty cheesy and I can only imagine that the tune is as well. But, yeah, I love the old carols. The tunes are catchy, but also really lovely and timeless. I’ll admit that I used to be a Scrooge about Christmas carols, but that was back when I listened to radio stations that started playing them as soon as the malls did and I used to frequent malls more often. I’ve hardly heard any this year, so I find myself really enjoying the odd Christmas themed radio program on CKUA.

    Now I want to listen to Chritmas carols.

    • Excellent. *does Monty Burns fingers*

  2. Our school deals with this by DOING NOTHING. There is no concert, no program, nothing. NOTHING. It’s not like I neeeeed to see a creche and baby Jesus, but something would be nice.

    • Oh, nothing is no good. Given the choice between nothing and the relentlessly twee sensory assault that was last night, I’d rather have the crappy concert. I should be careful what I wish for.

  3. Our boys had the “Time Toboggan”. A trip through the ages,with one of Santa’s elves,talking all about different traditions,and beliefs. They even sang a few familiar carols containing the forbidden words “Christ child”,and “GOD!”
    It was really enjoyable,and they covered all of the bases.

    • That is bloody brilliant. I must figure out a way to make the school’s power-mad music teacher aware of it, and then to convince her it was her idea all along.

  4. the thing that makes me kinda crazy is that we seem to have confused secular and inclusive. in other words, let’s take the Christ outta Christmas (and thus, as you point out, all the good music) and just leave the commercialism! but not really stop hammering Christmas privilege down the throats of people who actually celebrate other things!

    Santa is NOT, contrary to what many seem to believe, a non-Christian symbol. he’s just non-religious. Jews don’t have Santa. Muslims don’t have Santa. if we want to be inclusive, we could have carols and dreidels and real representation from a multitude of faith positions including the agnostic cultural Christians like me, whose holy book for the season is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. which is still Christian, just not religious.

    gah. bugs me. as do the bad carols. //end rant.

    • “we seem to have confused secular and inclusive” – YES. THAT. Exactly.

  5. I live on the other side of the spectrum. As part of the evangelical Christian community I get to witness the hysteria that “they” are taking Christmas away from us.
    (No one is ever clear on who they is, or remembers Christmas’ secular roots.)
    Which I think is poppycock.
    Because Athiest and Agnostics are still ok with us celebrating. They just don’t want us hitting them upside the head with Baby Jesus.
    And that GPS song? Ack.

  6. I’m way less offended by the Baby Jesus than I am by the Coca-Cola Santa Claus.

    This is great post. There’s a big difference between acknowledging the biblical story behind Christmas and proselytizing the Christian faith. Wouldn’t it be nice if teachers and school administrators in public schools felt safe that the public won’t lynch them for mentioning the Star of Bethlehem?

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