I'm not Christian. I need to say that upfront because I am about to tell you about my favorite Christmas cd, "William the Angel" by Rob Mathes. It's a song cycle about angels, the birth of Jesus, the meaning of Christmas and the power of faith. It's not even the type of music I typically like - being more ballad-y, ez-listening-y and schmaltzy than I normally choose. But I think the songwriting is excellent, the music will make you dance and sway and the story is a universal one about hope, redemption and belief. I love it. It puts me in a Christmas mood every year about this time and brings tears to my eyes if I am feeling a little sappy. It also reminds me of my first year of dating my husband when we went to one of Rob Mathes' annual Christmas concerts. That was a magical evening; I remember being awed by the music - we saw Mavis Staples among others - and feeling so madly in love. Anyway, give it a listen. This is the title track but the whole album is beautiful. (Sorry but I can't embed the video as it's protected on youtube).
I am also a huge fan of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life." I am a total sucker for it and cry every time, and not just at end - I cry through the whole thing. There was a good article in the NY Times this week about its subversive nature as a cautionary tale about the disappointments of adulthood and conformity - I agree that that is in the movie and it's what makes it more than just a Christmas story to me. It's that cynicism veiled in saccharine which makes me love the movie on more than a sentimental level.
Why do I celebrate Christmas if I don't believe Christ was a saviour? I've been asked that many times over the years. Well, I love all the cultural trappings - the cookies, the carols, the lights, the tree, the big dinner, Rudolph, Santa, the Grinch, champagne & eggnog. And as someone who doesn't participate in any organized religion, I find it important to have a time when we focus on family, friends, helping others less fortunate than us and finding joy in an often-cruel world. Tom and I have already started talking about the traditions we will give our daughter for Christmas. Yes, there will be gifts, a tree and the myth of Santa Claus. But we will also create a day when we remember the most important and invaluable gift of all - love. Love for our family & friends and for those we don't even know.
Now I need to get back to the kitchen and bake more cookies!