As a Pagan, I have a confession to make…
I love Christmas.
I love it. I love the trees, the decorations, the lights, eggnog–I even love fruitcake. Sure, we have Yule/Solstice (Happy Belated, BTW, either way you celebrate it), but it’s still weird to celebrate a what amounts to a major cultural holiday on the wrong day (even if much of the iconology we associate with Christmas has its start in pre-Christian traditions)… It’s a bit like being the only person celebrating the 4th of July on the 1st of July.
But the thing I love the most of all is the music. I think it because I associate it with one of the most treasured traditions of my childhood… You see, I come from a musical family upbringing (unfortunately, I’m the least musical of them all), and every Christmas of my childhood included a rousing hour or so of various relatives pounding out tunes from yellowing pages of sheet music (I am, however, an excellent page turner) and taped together books of Christmas music on the piano..or whatever other instruments they had brought along (including the good ole voice box).
Unfortunately, the Winter Solstice just doesn’t have that many singable carols…
Yes, we have music (a huge improvement from my early days as a Pagan). As much as it makes me smile when I hear it on the rare occasion its played radio, Jethro Tull’s Solstice Bells does eventually get tiresome on the 347th replay for the season. And sure, there’s the ever-popular Santa Claus is Pagan Too, by Emerald Rose and The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams and Bring Back the Light by Gypsy, or there’s Inkubus Sukkubus’s Hail the Holly King and Solstice Evergreen by Spiral Dance and Lisa Thiel’s Winter Solstice Song…but (with the exception of Santa Claus is Pagan Too), they just don’t have the same je ne sais quois as a rousing round of Jingle Bells. Nor do many of them possess the solemn beauty of Silent Night, though there are some lovely mostly songs the Solstice–like this piano solo on Michele McLaughlin’s Christmas album or this demo by Peter Gundry, or Tori Amos’s Winter’s Carol:
Or, perhaps familiarity is partially to blame; after all, Oh Holy Night, which is one of my favorite Christmas AND Yule tunes, only requires a slight bit of rephrasing to celebrate the night of the Sun’s rebirth instead of the night of Christ was born. There’s this rather lovely rendition of What night is this? and about a dozen different Silent Nights (none of which I like). None of this, however, solves the problem of what to do with holiday music once Yule is over and everyone else is still gearing up for Christmas.
So, here’s a few songs that celebrate the holiday season (all the holidays) with honesty and a jaunty tune…in no particular order of irreverence or unconventionality:
And, my personal favorite…
So, whatever your faith may be, and with all sincerity “I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer | From a heathen and a pagan | On the side of the rebel Jesus.”
May your day be merry, whether you are celebrating Christmas tomorrow or not.