Listening to the wonderful stream from the classical Christmas station I linked to earlier is bringing back my memories of loving these Christmas songs and hymns as a child. I don’t know if they sing these in school now, or if it is considered an unacceptable establishment of religion, however, they certainly did in my childhood. In programs and pageants we sang about angels and Jesus and joy and nowell and gloria and a star and shepherds and Bethlehem and God and sinners reconciled.
The music teacher pushed her piano from classroom to classroom and taught us the songs and hymns of Christmas and sometimes on the last day of school before vacation, our teacher took us carolling up and down the hallway. In 7th grade, my French teacher, the wonderful Mme. True, taught us the French versions. This was all simply regarded as part of the culture and my agnostic parents didn’t mind a bit. My agnostic self took it in stride. I accepted it, just as I accepted that poinsettias were the flowers of Christmas and fruitcake, mincemeat pies and gingerbread boys were the desserts of Christmas. And while it wasn’t exactly an establishment of religion, the music suggested to my mind that Christmas had mysterious and transcendant, ringing overtones that improved it immeasurably. My mother had a set of Time-Life books about Christmas filled with beautiful renaissance art depicting the nativity which I loved to pore over all year long as a child.
I’m so grateful for these memories. And I’m thankful for the category of transcendance that the songs and art opened up in my mind, to be pursued and filled with deepening content as I got older.