Archive for December 6th, 2018


12.6.18 … “Stille Nacht”

Christmas Tradition #4: Christmas Music

I have a strange association with music. I can’t sing and am probably tone deaf; I can’t play an instrument and can’t even read music, but some of my favorite memories and traditions evolve around Christmas Music. I must note that although I laugh and enjoy pop culture holiday tunes, they are not part of my story. But on that note I’ve enjoyed this NPR show this morning: We Celebrate Our Favorite Christmas Songs : NPR, And I’ve been interested to follow the rethinking on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in light of #metoo. ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside,’ Seen As Sexist, Frozen Out By Radio Stations : NPR,

But this post is about my Christmas Traditions … the post will follow me through the season and when certain “traditions” started with me.

Most years I pop in an Amy Grant Christmas album Thanksgiving weekend. I have a friend, Mary Phil, from freshman year who went to high school with her and introduced me to her music in 1978. She’s been a part of my story most years. This year she has a new Hallmark Channel special which I’m going to have to catch since it already broadcast.

When I lived in Chicago from 1999 to 2003, my family attended First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette. That first year, on the Sunday night after Thanksgiving, the church held a Hanging of the Greens service. We marched into the church and decorated it, hanging boughs of evergreens, and singing carols. And there was a bagpipe player and traditional Scottish attire. Afterwards, we went to the fellowship hall and celebrated with cookies and wassail. I made an effort to make it back for this service if possible the years that we lived in Wilmette, And I’ve never been to another church that had this service.

Growing up in a southern Presbyterian Church, I had no idea that there was a distinction between Christmas music and Advent music. And that you weren’t supposed to sing the Christmas ones until Christmas Day. So now when I’m in church, I check the hymnal to see how a hymn is classified. My favorite advent hymn is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

One year, I was a guest of Howard and Noelle Browne at Duke Chapel to hear Handel’s Messiah. It was a great event and The Hallelujah Chorus was phenomenal. After hearing it there, I perk up whenever it is performed. But other “special performances” are equally impactful. A few years I have had the wherewithal to get tickets to my church’s Round the Table Sing … that’s a treat. Another event that I have sporadically attended is when the Atlanta Symphony performs at North Avenue Presbyterian Church. So if you have the opportunity to attend a special performance at your church, go! To see your choir and your congregation go to the next level is wonderful. My church has guest instrumentalists at its Lessons and Carols Service.

Lessons and Carols … love that service! I’m not sure when I first attended the traditional episcopal service, but I certainly love that there are several that you can watch on YouTube. It is performed on Christmas Eve traditionally and as a matter of fact 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the service first performed at King’s College Chapel. I found this history interesting: “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who, at the age of thirty-four, had just been appointed Dean of King’s after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that the Church of England needed more imaginative worship.” ( Our Church performs it on December 16 this year.

Carolers and caroling just make me smile. I remember visiting a nursing home in high school and that was lovely. I haven’t had carolers come to my home in years. Do people still do that?

Christmas Eve services – I started going to a Christmas Eve service at midnight with high school friends in the late 70s. I first attended at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. I also remember going with friends to St. Luke’s. And then as an adult, I have loved attending at First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte with my children as both children and adults and with friends. The closing with “Silent Night” with the congregation all holding candles is a favorite tradition. And of course I find this today. My favorite hymn is 200! “But one song—probably the most famous—is celebrating only 200 years. On Christmas Eve 1818, in the church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf near Salzburg, “Stille Nacht” (“Silent Night”) was sung for the first time.” Source: ‘Silent Night’ turns 200 this year. Is it the greatest Christmas song ever? | America Magazine,

And then I have a wonderful memory of my dad and me belting out “Joy to the World” at Christmas Day services at North Avenue Presbyterian Church. He was equally tone deaf, but man did he love to sing that song!

Do you have a favorite Christmas song?


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December 2018