As August draws to a close, I dust off my Christmas music books and start practicing carols on my banjo. Everyone dreams of Christmases of yesteryear, and no one sings those carols like the crooners of bygone days when the world was a kinder place. I’m talking about people like Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and Mel Torme, just to name a few! And if you’re lucky enough to have the vinyl albums and a stereo system with a turn table to play them on, then you have some nostalgia there that can create REAL Christmas magic!
But the music that really speaks to me and gets the Christmas spirit coursing through my veins is played on banjos, fiddles, guitars, and mandolins. These songs can be heard at family gatherings, by a warm fire and the soft glow of candles and Christmas tree lights. Is there any Christmas music sweeter than a fiddle, softly bowing “Silent Night”? Is there any Christmas music more jubilant than a mandolin strumming “Joy to the World”? Is there any Christmas music more exuberant than a banjo plucking “Jingle Bells”? Put all of these instruments together for a rousing rendition of “Christmas Time’s a Comin’” and you have the perfect music for an old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.
Every year, we drag boxes upon boxes of Christmas decorations down from our attic and spend days “decking the halls” of our home. Our home has been the gathering place for many family Christmas get-togethers and the reason we go to all this trouble is NOT to impress anyone, but rather to create a special, magical memory for all the children that come here with their family to celebrate with us. We have a big tree in the living room where all the gifts are placed. There is a wreath over the fireplace with candles, greenery, and stockings hanging from the mantle. There is another tree in the den, one in my office, one in the dining room, and one at the end of the hallway upstairs. Whether a tree or a simple figurine of Santa Claus, everywhere you go in our home you will find some token of Christmas. However, all this decorating does not fit within the framework of my old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.
We are at a point in time in our lives that I call an in-between time. All our nieces and nephews are grown and have families of their own to celebrate Christmas with. Our family Christmas get-togethers get smaller every year as these new families branch out and start their own traditions. Our children are grown and married as well, but we have no grandchildren yet, so we are neither parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles to small children at this stage of our lives. We are “in-between”. What better time to change things up and try something new?
I’ve been telling Melody for a few years now that I would like to scale back on the Christmas decorations. Let’s get a smaller tree for the living room. One tree is all we need. Let’s hang a wreath over the fireplace, put some greenery and candles on the mantle along with our nativity set and stop there. Maybe, when we have grandkids who are old enough to enjoy and remember all the festivities, we can start back up with all the decorations and go all out again, but for now, let’s have a quiet and peaceful Christmas. One where we can rest, look inward, and reflect upon all of God’s blessings in our lives. One where we can focus on the TRUE meaning of the season. Maybe, just maybe, then, and only then I will be able to have my old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.
I want to end this post with the lyrics from “Christmas Time’s a Comin”. This song was written by a Bell Labs engineer by the name of Benjamin “Tex” Logan and first recorded by Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, back in 1951.
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” ~Calvin Coolidge