Elizabeth Cook: Christmas is music to our ears

Published 2:19 am Sunday, December 9, 2018

It started with the Hallmark movies.

No, to be honest, the yearning for Christmas this year took hold around Halloween for some of us. Politics had a lot to do with it, contentious  commercials grating on nerves.

The antidote? Peace on Earth. Good will towards men. Comfort and joy.

So the day after Halloween, on came the Carpenters and Amy Grant, Nat King Cole and Andy Williams. Michael Buble and Josh Groban. And so on.

It makes sense that the most-celebrated holiday of the year would inspire more songs than any other. What would Christmas be without music?

Lately ancient carols have joined my playlist, sung by cathedral choirs — songs like “Once in Royal David’s City,” “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” This is holy music, full of the Spirit with a capital S — the voices of angels.

Fast way forward to 1994 and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” It may be pop sentiment — “an uptempo love song,” as Wikipedia calls it — but the sparkling notes at the beginning of the recording spark the fun side of the Christmas spirit.

Here’s a bit of music trivia. Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is said to be the 11th best-selling single of all time. It was the eighth most-streamed song in the United States last week, Forbes reports. And Carey and her songwriting partner composed the song in all of 15 minutes.

When brilliance strikes, it strikes.


As a child, I was scandalized by “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” cheered by “Jingle Bells” and brainwashed by “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. ”

We children peered up at the stars through the bedroom window late one Dec. 24 and convinced ourselves  we saw a glowing, red nose moving across the night sky. 

Grownups said the days had grown short, but Christmas Eve was easily the longest day of the year. It took forever for Christmas morning to arrive so we could see what Santa brought.

When skepticism began to tinge childish fantasy, I became determined to find out the truth about Santa.Did I stay awake all night or manage to wake up in the middle of the night? No matter. I decided to go downstairs while everyone else was asleep and see if I could catch Santa in action in the living room.

I descended a few steps and heard some rustling downstairs. Heart pounding, I tiptoed down a few more steps — and my knees cracked. The noise seemed so loud in the dark silence that it startled me. What if I scared Santa off? Back up the stairs I went and into bed.

No point in taking chances. 

Noisy knees remind me of the creaky old box pews at our Episcopal church. Not all the noise came from the door hinges. Whoever sat next to Dad had to elbow him awake now and then before the snoring commenced. Dad could fall asleep anywhere as soon as he got still. And his was not a quiet sleep.

“O Come All Ye Faithful” always puts me back in that pew at St. George’s, singing with my oldest sister and realizing for the first time how our voices blended. It was very late on Christmas Eve, candles glowing, everybody feeling a little sleepy and solemn. The hubbub of shopping and pop music and unfinished lists falls away, and we remember what Christmas is about.

Sing, choirs of angels.

Then there’s the Christmas music you hear in stores — not the canned carols, but the cha-ching. Actually, cash registers make more of a beep these days. Let the spending commence.

Hallmark could probably  cash in on Christmas without selling a single card. Tune in to the Hallmark Channel these days and you can see heartwarming movie after heartwarming movie. In the end, everyone is full of generosity, possibly engaged and definitely positioned to live happily ever after. More comfort food.

You can buy novelty socks with this message on the bottom:  “Do not disturb,” on one sock and “I’m watching Hallmark Christmas movies” on the other.

The best Christmas music, to me, is the jingling of the sleigh bells I tie to the back door at this time of year. They sound particularly sweet when family comes in from points north, south and east, and we are together again with all our children and family.

That’s when “Merry Christmas” is music to my ears.

Soon someone will say our house is too hot, and the baby will grab things we didn’t realize he could reach. Everyone will start tripping over each other’s stuff, and there will be plates and pans to wash. And waistbands to loosen.

It’s just wonderful.

Life is not as perfect as Hallmark paints it, but it’s pretty darn good.

Sing, choirs of angels.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.