MUSIC AND TRADITIONS OF CHRISTMAS
There are some programs that dedicate the entire month of December to only playing traditional holiday music. What songs bring back childhood memories for you or memories with family and friends? What songs will you play during this holiday season with your friends and family?
Millions of people will celebrate Christmas on December 25th, and is the most widely celebrated religious holiday around the world. Over the next few weeks, people around the world will begin preparing for Christmas. People have been or will be buying gifts to give to family members and friends. They will be filling homes and stores with evergreen trees and bright, colored lights. There will be parties to host and attend as well as preparing special Christmas foods. Many think Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year
Most church services will feature Advent wreaths and candles and a recreation of the nativity scene. Some churches hold a Midnight Mass. Services will not only celebrate the story of the nativity but the overall significance of Jesus Christ, as it is viewed as the coming of the Savior, a very joyous event. Passages from the nativity story will often be read along with the singing of the many religious songs and hymns associated with the holiday. Songs will often feature themes from the nativity story, such as the messenger angels and stable. There are many songs associated with religious tradition, as Christmas music has become a major musical genre in both secular and religious traditions. It is believed that Jesus was born sometime between 7 and 2 BC. Two of the four canonical gospels mention his birth, although it is not believed to have actually taken place on the date of Christmas. Rather, the holiday began to take place during the time of the winter solstice in order to distract from and absorb the pagan festivals associated the time of year. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus and the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy. The two biblical accounts from Luke and Matthew have evolved into a popular tradition of the tale, stating that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem on a donkey in order to take part in a census. The couple approached an inn, but there was no room, so the couple stayed in a stable with a manger and farm animals. The baby Jesus was born and placed in the manger. Jesus was visited first by shepherds in surrounding fields having been told by angels of Jesus’s birth and to go see the child. Jesus was also visited by three wise men, guided to the nativity with a star, followed by other astrologers and scholars who had noticed the star.
Many Christians will go to church the night before the holiday or on Christmas Day. They will celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Christian ministers will speak about the need for peace and understanding in the world. This is the spiritual message of Christmas. Church services will include traditional religious songs for the holiday. One of the most popular is “Silent Night.” Yet there are others that will celebrate Christmas as an important, but non-religious, holiday.
The Holiday season is filled with good times with friends and family, good food, timeless traditions, and amazing music. Traditional holiday music has the power to bring back memories from family generations and bring together the old and young. Two holidays during the winter that have timeless, classic, and century old music is Christmas and Hanukkah. These holidays have songs that make our all-time favorite music lists. Another important Christmas tradition involves food. Families prepare many kinds of holiday foods, especially sweets. They eat these foods on the night before Christmas and on Christmas day. For many people, Christmas means traveling long distances to be with their families. To all, however, it is a special day of family, food, and exchanging gifts.
Christmas is probably the most special day of the year for children. One thing that makes it special is the popular tradition of Santa Claus. Young children believe that Santa Claus is a fat, kind, old man in a red suit with white fur. They believe that — on the night before Christmas — he travels through the air in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. He enters each house from the top by sliding down the hole in the fireplace. He leaves gifts for the children under the Christmas tree. In America, Santa Claus is a Christmas figure that brings toys to children on Christmas Eve. He is stationed in the North Pole, where he works all year with his elves as helpers to make toys to bring boys and girls on Christmas Eve. Many children will send Santa a list of things they want for Christmas or visit Santa at the mall. On Christmas Eve, Santa loads up the toys in a red sack into his sleigh, which is pulled by twelve reindeer. The reindeer are led by Rudolph, a reindeer with a bright red nose that can guide the reindeer throughout the world at night. Rudolph used to be teased by the other reindeer for his red nose, but this stopped when it was put to good use on Christmas Eve. Santa visits each child’s house on Christmas Eve, leaving their gifts under the tree or by the fireplace. He also stuffs stockings that each child hangs over the fireplace with treats, trinkets, and other goodies. Many children leave out cookies and milk for Santa to enjoy as he leaves presents. On Christmas morning, children will joyfully awaken and make their way to the fireplace and Christmas tree in order to see what Santa brought them. Many families open Christmas presents on Christmas Day but some may exchange gifts of Christmas Eve. In other areas, Santa Claus has another name such as Kris Kringle or St. Nicholas.
People spend a lot of time and money buying Christmas presents. There are those that object to all this spending and say it is not the real meaning of Christmas. So, they celebrate in other ways. For example, making Christmas presents; instead of buying them (sometimes homemade/handmade is much better). Or they volunteer to help serve meals to people who have no homes. Or they give money to organizations that help poor people around the world.
Home and family are the center of the Christmas holiday. For many people, the most enjoyable tradition is buying a Christmas tree and decorating it with lights and beautiful objects. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, people gather around the tree to open their presents.
Another Christmas tradition is to go caroling. A group of people walks along the street at each house, they stop and sing a carol, groups also go caroling at schools, hospitals, shopping centers and more.
Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Members of the Jewish and Muslim religions do not. Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah. And others observe, Kwanzaa. Yet many take part in some of the traditional performances of the season. One of the most popular is a story told in dance: “The Nutcracker” Ballet. The music was written by Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky in 1891. The ballet is about a young girl named Clara. Clara is celebrating Christmas with her family and friends. One of her Christmas presents is a nutcracker and is designed as a toy soldier. She dreams that the nutcracker comes to life as a good-looking prince. Professional dance groups perform the ballet at this time of year. They often use students from local ballet schools to dance the part of Clara and the other children in the story. This affords parents an opportunity to see their children perform.
There are so many classic Christmas songs that have been around for many years. A lot of artists today make modern renditions of some of our favorites. It seems like every top rock, country, or pop artist has a Christmas album. Their albums include some of our old time favorites and new hits. Traditional Christmas songs range from carols, to ballads, to instrumental, to classic songs. Some of our favorite Christmas carols have been around for centuries. Some songs that may sound familiar are “Angels We Have Heard on High” or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” More modern Christmas tunes are songs such as “White Christmas,” “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” or “Silent Night.” Traditional Christmas music can be found in some of our favorite movies as well.
Hanukkah songs are beautiful and rich with tradition. The songs are not only about the holiday itself, but go along with lighting candles on the menorah. A famous comedian, Adam Sandler, wrote a comical song about Hanukkah to bring a modern touch to the holiday. A very eloquent and traditional song, “Mi Y’ maleil,” is song in Hebrew and was written about spiritual victory. It has also been translated into an English version, and the titled is translated as “Who Can Retell.” Another classic song about Hanukkah is called, “Light One Candle.” This was written about the Maccabees’ and the struggle for equality and justice and about Judaism through the ages. A common image representing Hanukkah is the dreidel. A song that teaches about the dreidel is called, “I have a Little Dreidel.”
Before the Christian festival, a large pagan celebration of the time was Yule. Yule was a twelve day festival observed by Northern Europeans that was mostly absorbed into Christmas celebrations. The celebration’s theme was the cycle of life given by the sun and observers lit fire to symbolize this. The Yule log was burned to honor Thor, a Scandinavian god. Many observers burned the log until it was ash or until only a little piece was left, which was kept for good luck. In Poland, the solstice was observed with themes of forgiveness and selflessness, often marked with sharing food or giving to the needy.