The Great Christmas Music Debate Part II
You might remember that I have written a previous blog about when it is appropriate to start playing Christmas Music. My wife, the traditionalist, is adamant that Christmas music must wait until after Thanksgiving. Myself, a rebel to be sure, usually begins listening publicly right after Halloween. (Privately, I have been caught listening to the docile tones of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas in the middle of July.)
Recently, the debate has amplified in my household. My boys have taken a side in the debate, and my wife is not happy. (I think they delight in the harassment of their mother as most boys do as a rite of passage into adulthood.) My eldest actually brought his boom box cd player outside and was jamming Christmas music while he and the neighborhood boys were playing football. Tracy arrived home during this brazen mockery of her rules and was not happy with him. Both boys had wicked little smiles creeping across their faces while receiving her mock lecture chastising them for not waiting until Thanksgiving.
Now, I grew up in a house where the rule existed that we had to wait until Thanksgiving to begin listening to Christmas music. I believe most persons born before the 1980’s grew up with this rule. Some would say it was a well-established tradition. Christmas specials and commercials did not exist until Black Friday. Christmas was that unspoken secret just around the corner.
Lately, Christmas is not waiting. It began sneaking up with Black Friday commercials and then the Lite began switching over to Christmas music earlier and earlier. This year was the most surprising, Christmas commercials before Halloween! (Tracy could not believe it.) Of course, as with anything these days, there is righteous debate pushing back against this trend. The argument is that we are forgetting Thanksgiving. We need to preserve our traditions by waiting for Christmas.
Why did I stray from my family’s tradition concerning Christmas music?
First of all, Christmas is a world-wide celebration. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters do not celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. In fact, they start celebrating the Christmas season mid-November or earlier. Ten years ago, we took a family trip to the Dominican Republic in November. We were surprised to see the resort all decked out in Christmas decorations with Christmas music in the background. Christmas is the world’s holiday, and imposing American standards on the holiday is a bit presumptuous.
Secondly, I started listening to the words of the Christmas songs. There are a lot of Christmas songs that address the anticipation of the birth of Christ. O Come, O Come Emanuel, sings about the world yearning the coming of the Savior. The secular song, We Need a Little Christmas, also addresses the uplifting effects of the anticipation of Christmas. A part of the Christmas celebration is remembering the wait (advent) for the Savior. This wait did not occur within the tidy timeframe that happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The wait took several eons. So why should we only commemorate the wait in such a limited time span.
Lastly, there are times we need to look and examine our traditions. Granted, when Christmas songs should be listened to is a minor conflict of traditions. There are issues that often get decided because of tradition. “We’ve always done things this way” has been a common refrain throughout many organizations including our church. I am not arguing that we should forget all of our traditions. Only that we should examine traditions and decide if they are effective anymore or interfere with the mission of the church. Christ, during his life, both honored and abandoned traditions to fulfill God’s mission. What better time to re-examine these traditions than advent, a period of time we are supposed to use to reflect on the coming of our savior. Perhaps, we could establish new traditions that reach out beyond the comfort of our familiar circle of friends and family. Or hold on to the traditions that define our hopes and dreams.
With the upcoming Christmas season, my family and I wish everyone a peaceful, healthy and joyous Christmas. We hope you take the time to examine your traditions and maybe even create new ones. And don’t forget to sit back and enjoy Nat King Cole singing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!