Disclaimer: I am not religious. Whatever you believe is fine, but if it’s supernatural, I’m out. Except for Supernatural, the tv show – I love those Winchester boys.
But at this time of year, my profession runs me into a lot of religious situations. In the more progressive venues, there are Holiday Extravaganzas, comprised of 67% religious music (how many ways can you stylize ‘O Holy Night’?) and 33% Rudolph/Silver Bells tunes. You’ll be wished a Merry Christmas, but you’ll also be wished Happy Holidays.
Then there’s the traditional concert, which is 92% Christmas, and Leroy Anderson’s ‘Sleigh Ride.’ No “Happy Holidays” here. It’s all about the crèche.
The closest I get to secular is Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker.’ But the music is so challenging I think there are a lot of prayers being said by the performers around me.
This year, I played for a unique (to me) service. Formerly called Blue Christmas, it was a Service of Remembrance. Its dual purpose was to remember those who have died, and acknowledge that this time of year can be made difficult (or more difficult…..or impossible) for many, due to loss.
It was a simple service – some scripture, some songs, and the lighting of candles in remembrance of loved ones. The sermon acknowledged that loss can completely alter your memories and experiences of a holiday. The preacher realized his loss (on Christmas Day a few years past) didn’t have to keep him from being joyful, even as he still mourned the loss not only of his loved one, but of his love of Christmas.
It was a church service, so there was talk of deities. Instead of tuning out, I simply replaced God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit with the word love. Love can get us through these times. Love can comfort us. Love can restore our joy. To be honest, it made me rather melancholy. I don’t like this holiday. I’m not sure why, but it feels sharp to me since losing my cat Isabelle right before Christmas, with Oliver following the next November. And there are so many people…..all the time! I’m simply one of those people who finds this season emotionally draining.
So I lit a candle. I lit it to remember Charlotte Rose, Oreo, Aunt Judy….and the two cats I still grieve daily.
That small spark of candlelight lifted my spirits, and I felt a bit of energy (joy? love?) flame inside me – and then flow out of me, destined for the world, I hope. Whatever you believe, I encourage you to express your love for those near you, and those you’ve lost. It doesn’t mean you’ll be ready to wear an ugly sweater or listen to a Firestone Christmas album, but I think it’ll ease the holiday blues ever so slightly.