December 3, 2017 by Darren Clarke
Christmas music knows.
Christmas music knows that December is filled with cold and chaos and consumerism. Christmas music knows the world is filled with warmth and family and love. It is good presents, bad presents, “what the hell were you thinking?” presents. Christmas music captures moments big and small: long overdue drinks, toasts to loved ones no longer with us, awkward conversations, thrilling conversations, “what the hell is the matter with you?” conversations, it is butter melting on freshly baked squash, it is grown adult siblings still fighting for the skin of the Turkey once it emerges from the oven, it is slowly looking over the menu in the box of Black Magic chocolates so you might finally manage to avoid the crappy coffee tasting chocolate.
But mostly Christmas music captures the perfect, delicious, moment, after everybody has gone home or to bed, where you are left alone in a darkened room, absently staring at the primary coloured lights blinking on the plastic tree in the corner.
It captures that moment right smack dab in the middle of the coldest and darkest part of the year where you float unfettered by absolutes: Life is beautiful. Life is sad. Life is fleeting.
Life is fleeting. So, eat, drink, be merry, give thanks.Christmas has changed over time for me, from my little brother being unable to go to sleep Christmas eve, guessing all night about what he was going to get from Santa Claus (usually he was hoping for goalie equipment), asking over and over, “Is it time to get up yet?” to my father wielding his limited patience on the world of Christmas Toy assemblage, one cigarette at a time… it was Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer at 8 PM on the CBC, featuring the terribly frightening Adominable Snowman, it was road hockey with neighbourhood kids on Christmas vacation, my Mother yelling out to me as I prepared to leave, “Come back here and put your toque on!”
Then you get older and it is potluck Christmas meals at the factory with the Polish and Philippine ladies bringing in a feast of delicious food for us to eat, it is drinks at London Arms with friends on Christmas Eve, our last minute shopping tucked under the bar tables, it is hockey tournaments at cold arenas, drinks between games, it is late night Nintendo hockey tournaments after the bar and ad-hoc bacon and eggs for breakfast the next morning, it is marked down wrapping paper and scotch tape on December 24th, and then it is the annual night at my Mom’s with my sister and my wife- Mussels and lobster and wine.
And there are the constants- The glow of Christmas lights and cold dark windows. It is the whole world winding down to a stop on Christmas Eve. It is warm sweaters and corduroy pants. It is freshly shaved faces and midnight mass, it is new clothes, new toys, and a brand new world that looks a lot like the old one. It is adults talking shit in one room kids talking shit in another. It is the realization we are all getting older and more inclined to needing a drink.So, Christmas music knows.
It knows it ain’t all good, it doesn’t all make sense, important things come and important things go. Whether you like it or not. It knows every former love you spent Christmas with thinking it would last forever. It knows that the year had its’ ups and downs. It knows what you mean when maybe you don’t.
Christmas music knows lots of stuff. But my favourite part of it is how it mirrors the traditional magic of Christmas lights. Simple, primary coloured, lights, that toast away against the cold, lifeless, winter world outside and buoy your spirit.
Simple, bright, warm, timeless. The antidote for the winter blues and an opportunity to stop, to look around, to declare who you are and what you believe in: Breaking bread with your family and friends, raising a glass, acknowledging loved ones present and past.
And Christmas music gets that the occasion itself is riddled with seeming contradiction. A day that is an eclectic mix of varied traditions of varied purposes that at its’ heart is designed to be a celebration of the birth of a man who would die, surrendering his life, for all the sins we would only continue to commit. A day about giving, about Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men that still often appears to be overpopulated by those more interested in you getting the hell out of their way so they can get down to getting the whole thing over with.
I like to think that its’ that understanding of its’ own imperfection that inspired artists to so often portray Santa Claus with that old Kris Kringle wink. A cheeky acknowledgement that Christmas was in on its’ own joke but that while it may be riddled with flaws it simply has too much good at its’ heart, too much warmth and charisma, too much love, to dismiss as anything other than beautiful.
Christmas music knows.
Christmas music knows that there comes a time, regardless of what is happening in your life, where you clean your imperfect self up, put on your best duds, go out and sing along with the ones you love.
Christmas music knows that life is fleeting. So, eat, drink, be merry, give thanks.