We are in December and we are surrounded by reminders that the Christmas season is ahead of us. The outdoor lights on businesses and homes seem to have magically appeared out of nowhere. The lots of Christmas trees have opened. The mailboxes are filled with flyers with the hope that buyers will be tempted to buy items from their pages. And all around us are the sounds of seasonal music.
Television commercials use soundtracks that we have recognized since childhood. We know the lyrics of songs played and sung during the many concerts and events we will be attending in the coming weeks. We search our private music collections for favorites to put ourselves in the spirit. Shopping centers and elevators gently play the music usually reserved for the last month of the year
I have thought about the fact that there are actually two categories of Christmas music that we know all good: songs and hymns. They are often heard within minutes of each other, but there are very distinct differences between them:
1. Theme – Christmas carols refer to the birth of Jesus and the characters who participated in the spiritual aspects of our celebrations. We sing about Bethlehem, sages, angels and the baby who was born in a barn. On the other hand, Christmas songs usually relate to more contemporary situations and often involve love stories, gifts or pleasures.
2. Origin – You can usually tell the age of an air by looking at the words and the way they were conceived in words. "Round yon virgin" is not a phrase we would use in everyday conversation. When we sing hymns, however, we usually do not need to have sheets of songs written because we have memorized the old wording as children. In contrast, Christmas songs are composed of words and ideas that we would most commonly use with each other as "All I want for Christmas, it's you" or "We wish you a Merry Christmas".
3. Interpreters and Decorations – Church choirs do not sing Christmas carols during church services and some Christmas concerts do not include Christmas carols. The situations are unique and there are no established rules. You could find a mix of Christmas carols and songs at a concert in a church or when groups go from house to house in a practice known as Christmas carols.
4. Reaction – It's hard to imagine that anyone can listen to "Grandma is flipped by a reindeer" or "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" without a chuckle. On the other hand, people who hear or sing Christmas carols cry, smile or simply enjoy a sense of peace.
Each of us has unique emotions that are often triggered by past experiences.
Think of the words you hear, the memories they evoke, and how your life has been affected by each of those songs and carols!