One of my favorite parts of the end of the year – other than seeing how close the budget meets expense and revenue targets! – is the inevitable boo hooing that accompanies the holidays. The glorious holidays – the mighty Christmas, the everchanging Eid ul-Adha (not to be confused with the end of Ramadan, Eid ul-Fitr), and Hannukah, a minor Jewish holiday that has gained popularity due to the commercialization of Christianity! The general outpouring of goodwill is offset by the attempts to dilute the differences that arise when cultural and religious celebrations occur. Hence the silencing of the Salvation Army bell ringers and the wordsmithing of common holiday songs.
I won’t even say Christmas carols since much of the nonsense that is sung at Christmas is corporate, commercial, rubbish. Anyone interested in good old fashioned carols should take a look at the Best of Nowell Sing We Clear and Hail Smiling Morn, among others, both led by John Roberts and Tony Barrand. Not only are they fun to listen and sing along to, they are nicely noted up so you can find out about the traditions they describe.
So, according to the National Post, the words to Silver Bells are changed to lose Christmas in favor of Festive! The bells of the Salvation Army kettle volunteers are also going silent, not for religious reasons (although that may play into it) but just because they are very annoying after exiting the scrum of mall shoppers. Better to hide the beggars than to exhort donations by clamoring! That wouldn’t have got Lazarus very far with Dive(r)s, if he’d just sat quietly outside the door (song @ Digital Tradition), waiting for some assistance.
There was a funny piece on NPR‘s Weekend Edition Sunday, where college students were discussing the elimination or alteration of carols (Removing Religion from Holidays a Tall Order, 23 December 2007). I thought the student who commented that you don’t have to believe the text in order to be able to sing a carol – “You can listen to My Sharona without believing in the existence of Sharona” – was spot on. When we sing some of the older songs, it ends up starting a discussion not so much about Christmas and Christianity, but about far older or different traditions (like the hunting of the Cutty Wren).