Growing up in East Haven, Connecticut, Christmas was a big deal. For one, East Haven was a largely Italian … and hence a largely Catholic town. No, we weren’t Italian but we were Catholic. That is certainly a good start to making Christmas a big deal. I loved the Christmas story and perhaps more significantly, I believed in the Christmas story. At some point over the years, I stopped believing but Christmas was better when I did. I also had a Mom that truly loved everything about Christmas … the faith, the glitter and the traditions. She lit up our home during the holidays and everyone was welcome, even the relatives no one else invited. Her Christmas spirit lives inside me.
A few houses down the street lived Mrs. Peck, a warbling soprano who organized neighborhood caroling every year the week before Christmas. She may have gathered us together just so she could show off her voice but I looked forward to it every year. We were an odd mix of adults and adolescents but the truth is I can’t remember exactly who went along. Except Mrs. Peck and that warbling soprano voice. Given the time in my life, I liked the religious carols the best. Oh Holy Night and Angels We Have Heard … Glo-o-o-o-o-o … o-o-o-o … o-o-o-o … Gloria. Heavenly. We didn’t sound like this.
When I started attending my Thursday Night Men’s Group some years ago, one of the guys, Wayne, invited me to his annual caroling in his neighborhood in Fullerton, CA. It took me some years to take him up on it but now it’s a tradition. Tonight we had about fifty so-called singers, an odd mix of adults, adolescents and kids. There was, of course, a warbling soprano, then a few capable tenors and the rest of us. With fifty people and no rehearsals we typically started out in three keys and several tempos but after verse or so, we were together. We did a pretty good Silent Night, a decent Oh Come All Ye Faithful but we butchered Oh Holy Night. We Wish You a merry Christmas was stellar. Wayne’s neighbors loved it and we had a good time. There is something spiritual about singing right out loud with a group of people you like, regardless of whether you believe the stories or not. That is to say it was good for this old soul. The neighborhood is beautifully decorated, which makes it even better.
Holiday spirit, on the rise.