May the songs of the season fill your heart with joy

Christmas carollers

Carollers at the mill in Delta, Ontario

One of the greatest joys this time of year is the music of the holiday season. Sadly, I’ve heard a lot of pathetic Christmas songs on the radio lately (what are some of these artists thinking?)

Music has always been a huge part of the holidays for me. This year, I’ve been to five events and concerts. While I enjoy the kids’ school concerts and piano recitals, my favourite concerts have been our local church cantata, and the Kingston Choral Society’s concert of the Messiah at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston, which was magnificent. This Thursday, I’m hoping to catch one of the final advent lunchtime concerts at St. George’s cathedral with guitar player Jeff Hanlon.

Here are a few interesting facts about seasonal music:

  • The singer who sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” Thurl Ravenscroft was the same singer/actor who was the voice of Tony the Tiger, the mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes “
  • The word carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy. Carols used to be written and sung all year-round, but over time, the tradition of singing carols is now associated with Christmas.
  • Many modern-day Christmas songs were actually written by Jewish composers like Irving Berlin and Johnny Marks
  • Jingle Bells was actually written to celebrate Thanksgiving (my Ryerson alumni team got this answer wrong at a recent trivia night)
  • If you’re looking for some last minute gifts, Sia, 98 Degrees, Josh Groban and Gwen Stefani all have new Christmas albums out this year.

This week’s #HappyAct is to listen to old familiar carols play and songs of joyful ring. What’s your favourite Christmas song? Leave a comment.

Church concert

Christmas concert at Trinity United Church in Verona

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Wear a crown of flames

candle-of-flamesDecember. A time of darkness and quiet. And while the joyous preparations for the holiday season distracts us from the short days and long dark nights ahead, we lament the loss of light.

The season of advent has historically been linked with festivals celebrating the Winter Solstice and the return of the light. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights celebrates by lighting a candle each day for eight days. The Christian Advent wreath traditionally had four candles, one lit each Sunday before Christmas.

In Sweden, families light a candle every Sunday during advent and celebrate St. Lucy’s Day, the day of light. One young girl from each village would be chosen to wear a wreath on her head to form a crown of flames. She would walk through the village singing Christmas carols and bringing treats and food to the villagers.

In Canada, we take arms against the darkness by hanging Christmas lights and lighting candles to cast a warm glow and light into the night.

This week’s #HappyAct is to wear a crown of flames: light a candle, build a fire in the grate. Be at peace with the stillness and quiet of the dark until we herald the Winter Solstice and the return of the light again.

christmas lights

Open a door a day

advent calendarOne of my favourite holiday traditions is counting down the days to Christmas with an advent calendar. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It heralds the time to deck the halls, write cards and prepare for the joyous holiday season.

I think I’ve always liked the activities leading up to Christmas more than Christmas itself. I can’t remember ever not having an advent calendar in the house to help build that excitement and anticipation.

I remember years ago backpacking through Europe with my girlfriend June after university. It was December and we were visiting her uncle Ian Kerr in Aberdeen, Scotland. Ian had an advent calendar, and for the days we visited with him, we celebrated by opening up a door a day. For years after, Ian and I exchanged Christmas cards and his message would always be the same—“time to start the advent calendar”. (Ian Kerr from Aberdeen if you’re out there and reading this blog, drop me a line).

This week’s #HappyAct is to buy an advent calendar and open a door a day from now until Christmas. Discover the magic of the season and the chocolate treat behind the door.