Finding new magic in Christmas

I hear a common complaint this time of year: people hate the early darkness. Go to work in the dark, get home in the dark, and it feels like it’s 11 p.m. if you go out at 7:00. I understand that complaint, but, for one, complaining modifies the early darkness not one whit, and I consider the dark evenings part of the charm of the season, especially once the Christmas lights begin adorning houses, trees and businesses.
I admit that dark evenings discombobulate me less than they do the poor drudges who work dark to dark because I start work in what is the middle of the day for many and have time beforehand to watch birds at feeders while eating late breakfast, to take a walk and to walk my goat. I thus benefit from the beneficence of sunshine, or at least cloudy daylight, and the unsettling effects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) back when my work hours more closely corresponded to Sol’s rising and setting are setting into the mists of memory.
The charm I find in December darkness helps to recall and restore the lost magic of the Christmas season. As a child the excitement lay in the anticipation of the approaching holiday, when my brothers and I spent many hours attending school Christmas functions, coloring Christmas coloring books and studying Christmas catalogs. Those few weeks before Dec. 25, especially when school ended two weeks before the holiday, seemed like a couple months in adult time. People talk about dog years, but perhaps we need kid years too — one kid year is equal to at least two adult years.
But that childhood delight vaporized long ago, the loss of youthful magic captured in the bittersweet revery of the song “Toyland” — “Once you pass its borders you can ne’er return again.” So I am thankful to have found other forms of Christmas magic, and they don’t disappear with the years. One source is music. I enjoy listening to Christmas recordings, but more importantly, playing music figures strongly in my enjoyment of the season. I have played Christmas music almost as long as I have played music, starting with violin in elementary school, followed by junior high concerts, and I have fond memories of learning to simultaneously play the melody and harmony lines of Christmas carols on violin at home, good practice for fingering and a more interesting sound than just plain melody. My years in the Tuscarawas Orchestra included Christmas concerts, which were always fun and often included guest singers, and I delighted in playing second violin in “The Messiah.”
Celtic music for many years did not include Christmas music, until I began playing traditional European Christmas melodies with my friend Mike, who researched and amassed an impressive collection of music from many sources, including several pages of “Greensleeves” variants. We played music with the Louisville Community Theater production of “A Christmas Carol” and at Christmas at the Hollow, held at Quail Hollow State Park. I also played Christmas music with my friend Dennis and others at places including the Lanterman’s Mill Christmas at the Mill, happening this weekend, where I felt like a character out of “A Christmas Carol.”
My love of Celtic culture led to exploring the ancient practices revolving around Christmas and the winter solstice, the latter the source of many of our Christmas customs. And this year my calendar includes church performances, starting with this Sunday’s Advent music at my church and at a friend’s church. I’ll be involved musically at church through the end of the year, bringing me in a sense full circle to the holiday music of my youth. I can’t imagine a more magical, meaningful way to celebrate Christmas.

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