I love Christmas. It’s not my favorite holiday — that belongs to Thanksgiving, with its comforting customs and expectations only for food, togetherness and gratitude.
But Christmas holds a special rank, especially in the time since I became an adult, and a mom. I was beyond fortunate to grow up in a family that connected around the holiday season each year and enjoyed cherished traditions. Not all of our traditions were (or are) deep with meaning. The most memorable or enduring are just the things — often ridiculously simple — that connect us to other generations, other decades, other stages of life. Whatever they are, these traditions connect us to the past and instill a powerful sense of source, the what you come from.
Music has always had a place in my family, and I credit my dad with that. He never played an instrument — though he is pretty sure he was a blues musician in a former life — but he always has music playing in the house and in the car. What used to be on record albums and reel-to-reel now is on CD and even his iPod. (I only wish that had been the case when I was a little girl, as my sister and I were not allowed to dance in the living room where the record player was. Our energetic and certainly artistic moves would have tragically scratched the vinyl. Eventually he wired speakers to the family room, with its carpeted floors and safe distance from the record player, giving us a space to dance and leap to our hearts’ content.)
Music was in our lives every day, all year. But if absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps that’s part of why Christmas music — and our annual rediscovery — was so special. Some was instrumental, but our favorites were the ones we could sing to. And for my sister and me, the favorite of our sing-along albums was John Denver and the Muppets. Hands down. To this day, it is the one I pull out when I beat my kids and husband to the CD player. Yes, it’s pretty silly. But it connects me to my past, to my childhood and culture and memories. And if you haven’t had the good fortune to listen to this particular album before, let me assure you: There is soul there.
There is clever comedy, too, most often courtesy of Miss Piggy. (A mixup in We Wish You A Merry Christmas has Miss Piggy thinking they’ve demanded to bring out the Piggy Pudding. Clarification ensues, courtesy of Gonzo: “No, FIGGY pudding. It’s made with figs. And bacon.”)
But even amid the raucous Little Saint Nick from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and chaotic Twelve Days of Christmas, there are some wonderfully thoughtful treasures. And a passage from one continues to resonate with me every time at this year.
It’s in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It’s in every one of us
By and by
This Christmas, I wish you connection with traditions of the past, openness to the promise of the future and a generous helping of John Denver and the Muppets.