Christmas is a time of family get-togethers, carol singing and joy for many, not least when the excitement of children is so infectious. Not everyone, of course, is a fan of the festive season, for all sorts of valid reasons. Still, whether Hanukkah, Christmas, or the winter solstice, the end-of-year rituals are hard to ignore completely.
Here’s a very brief selection of festive carols, songs and poems. What are your favourites, or those that get your goat? (Please feel free to add a comment.) Whether in a big crowd, a smaller get-together, or on your own, here’s to a restful, serene and peaceful end of year. For now, though, a little music?
Wie treu sind deine Blätter
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Vielen Dank to german-way.com for these lyrics. I listened to quite a few versions of this carol before deciding on the Nat King Cole one (making it my festive – and largely ignored: how rude! – post on LinkedIn).
His accent in German adds to its charm, in my humble and festive opinion. Other arrangements I listened to? The three tenors (Pavarotti and pals), Kiri Te Kanawa and Helene Fischer.
The version on the Weihnachten channel on YouTube came a close second, not least because of the lovely orchestration.
A friend in France had two donkeys until recently, when the marvel that was Muguette died, leaving no doubt a very sad companion Zorba behind.
Other than being sure that I love them, my donkey expertise is pretty limited so far. However, I do know they are social animals and don’t do well on their own.
So it seems only right and fitting, with a nod and a hug to Zorba, to include an excerpt from the lovely carol by British composer Eric Boswell.
Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load
Been a long time, little donkey, through the winter's night
Don't give up now, little donkey
Bethlehem's in sight
Love and light
Hanukkah is behind us now, as the eight-day festival of lights ended at nightfall on 15 December this year. Couldn’t we all use a little more brightness and hope?
Then light three, and then light four—
every dusk one candle more
Till all eight burn bright and high,
honoring a day gone by
When the Temple was restored,
rescued from the Syrian lord,
And an eight-day feast proclaimed—
The Festival of Lights—well named
To celebrate the joyous dayLight the Festive Candles by Aileen Fisher (Poetry Foundation)
when we regained the right to pray
to our one God in our own way.
Among true Hanukkah traditions, according to Britannica – as well as lighting candles on a nine-branched menorah, a candelabrum used in Jewish worship – is eating potato pancakes called latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).
You may also like the animated illustration and accompaniment to a Hanukkah card on greetings-card maker Jacquie Lawson’s website.
Admittedly, no stranger to a hydrangea, my choice was swayed by those lovely blooms as part of the package.
Spare a thought for the solstice celebrants, out on those wide open plains of Stonehenge – good and blustery. No finer way to blow away the cobwebs, time outside in winter…
A related blog, from a while ago: Certain age? Aren’t we all. Six ideas to get outside more (beyond the screens)
(The excitement generated by a hot beverage, as travel writer Bill Bryson has said, even better after a hike in the cold. Or maybe a cosy pub and a decent pint of the black stuff in good company. The things that dreams are made of…)
The sight of a robin or a sparrow is a simple pleasure whatever the season. So, about ten poems in, while looking for inspiration, no surprise that this was the excerpt for me.
This morning there is a sparrow
perched on a telephone line behind the house
flinging his song to the wind.
It is raining and cold.
I know that getting out of the rain
is the beginning of understanding only
that it is still the dream of music
which keeps us going
Winter Solstice by Michael Hogan (PoemHunter.com)
For more on music and the winter solstice, see this article, but then carry on reading my blog 🙂 The Winter Solstice in Song: A Short List for the Longest Night | Making Music Magazine
While looking up Winter Journey by Franz Schubert, among the Making Music mentions, I see there’s a 2022 documentary still on BBC iPlayer, featuring the baritone Benjamin Appl.
With its Alpine backdrop, that might just make some fine festive viewing, in the company of a warming, medicinal schnifter and a log fire. Schäferhund Seamus nearby? Natürlich.
Not so dreary?
In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone
What started off as a poem in 1872 or so by Christina Rossetti went on to become a carol when Gustav Holst (he of The Planets) composed the melody at the start of the next century, lyricsforchristmas.com tells us.
There’s something so satisfying about those four lines that start the carol. Bleak as winter can be, it’s also a beautiful, invigorating season too, especially when we’re able to get out in the elements. (Feel free to disagree, needless to say.)
In the approaching depths of winter, we can recommit to kindness, peace, and joyTom Nichols, staff writer, The Atlantic
True enough, eternity can get a little long towards the end, and on a raw day at the end of March it can feel that winter might never fade into spring. But after the solstice, and those daily extra minutes of daylight, that dour day will also have a shorter night…
Carol to set cares aside
Carol of the Bells is a creation of the Ukrainian composer, Mykola Leontovych, more than a hundred years ago.
Hark! how the bells, sweet silver bells
All seem to say “Throw cares away.”
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer
To young and old, meek and the bold
Based on a Ukrainian folk chant called Shchedryk, it’s a carol that’s beKrimbled movies including
- Home Alone
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- a hectic rendition by The Muppets
- the 1999 version of A Christmas Carol
(Sources: Voice of America, tvovermind.com/imdb.com)
There’s something so wonderfully, well, Christmassy about this carol — enough to unGrich the most bah-humbug of those not so keen on Christmas? Maybe for a minute or two, at least.
In this YouTube version of the carol you can follow the notes as you listen. (Hard-working Montreal sopranos.)
Meek or bold, young and old, my sheepdog Seamus and I wish you a very Happy Christmas. With bells on.
(The Muppet chooks’ version of Joy to the World, below, is gloriously silly. Seamus – who’s all about having fun, the wow of now – and I hope you enjoy it too.)
Image credits: shogun, mostafa_meraji, 165106 on Pixabay; Tomoko Uji, Aaron Burden on Unsplash.
*What’s your favourite festive carol, poem or song, and why?
Or maybe there’s a schmalzy elevator tune that turns you into a Grinch….
Please add a comment below, I’ll be sure to reply to each one.
(I have a target of 10 reader comments for this blog.)*