Every year, my wife wants the Christmas tree up on December first. It doesn’t usually happen, but that’s what she shoots for. Myself, I think that it’s a mistake to start revving up the Christmas decorations and songs before Thanksgiving. By the time Christmas arrives, you’ve worn it out (yes, Wal-Mart, I’m talking to YOU). It seems to me that it would be that much more special if you waited until about a week before the holiday.
I’m no Scrooge, I don’t want to skip it. When I was a kid, every year about the first of December, my Dad would walk in after work one day and say, "Let’s skip Christmas this year." He could be stern at times, and year after year, we took this threat seriously. We prostrated ourselves, begging and pleading, until at last he relented. In reality, nobody loved the holiday gathering with family more than my Dad. He was just having a little joke at our expense. [It is not necessary for you to remark, "Well, that explains a lot."]
This year I’m in the Christmas spirit in spite of myself. I always look forward to Tuba Christmas. A mass choir of tubas and euphoniums play Christmas carols. We rehearse at SEMO for an hour, then proceed to the mall to provide lucky shoppers with a sound that is unique. As an old band-nerd, this is one of my favorite days of the year. What, you can’t see me?
Here I am in the back, playing the baritone horn I started with in 1963. When the music reverberated away, leaving only the usual din of the mall, I got a little shopping done, then headed home. Later that evening, I spent an hour rehearsing for next week’s gig, but this weekend still had plenty of Christmas spirit to infuse me.
Every fall for the last 25 years or so, I have enjoyed singing early choral music with my wife and friends under the direction of Jerry Mercier. The group is called Schola Cantorum (Latin for "singing school", and I have learned a lot of music there). One concert a year, usually around the first of December. This year’s program was all Christmas music, though you might not immediately recognize "Hodie Christus Natus Est" or "Allons Gay Bergeres".
From the Schola concert in our Presbyterian Church, I headed on to the First Baptist Church in Blytheville, Arkansas. My friend David Ross is the Minister of Music there and he invited me down to play some tuba and shake some maracas. They had a really nice program tonight, and he and I had our annual catching-up visit. I got to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus", too. What, you can’t see me?
If you look really closely at the bottom left of the right-hand Christmas tree, you’ll see the bell of my tuba sticking up. If you looked really close, the white is the back of my white shirt. While I am getting balder all the time, there’s still enough hair on top to keep me from being as shiny as the tuba.
After all that Christmas music, I actually found myself enjoying the Christmas decorations on the country houses as I drove home. Christmas spirit, in spite of myself. Get some yourself — it feels pretty good.