Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A True Confession

Christmas carols make me cry.

They make me bawl. Especially the old old old ones, the ones that have been sung for generations, like Deck the Halls or God rest ye Merry Gentlemen. (My friend Shannon says, "even the Bare-Naked Ladies version?" Gosh yes, the 'star of wonder' part with Sarah McLachlan gets me every time.)

Recently, I got to go to a Christmas concert with friends. Lifelong friends, the kind of friends who it's okay to cry in front of, who've known you for so long that they totally know you're gonna cry, it's just who you are.

And I hung on, without tears, until the third song in the program – I'll Be Home For Christmas. It was sung in that slow sad way, a lovely duet, and dedicated to the gentleman in this choir who had performed it in years past, but who had passed away this year. He always used to dedicate it to the soldiers fighting in our various wars, which of course made us all think about the soldiers who don't come home from our various wars. It was really sad. Everybody cried at that one.

But they all had put away their handkerchiefs by the time the next song started. I kept mine out; for Jingle Bells, for the Robert Frost poem converted to a song, even for the jolly sing–along in the second set.

Now, I am not religious in any sense. (I am spiritual, just not a member of any organized religion.) But these songs get me all the same, and when I cry they're not tears of sadness. They're tears of joy, having as much to do with the beauty of the voices singing together as with the words themselves.

The final song in the concert was the Alleluiah from Handel's Messiah, and the choir did a lovely, lovely job. An odd song for a non-Christian to cry over, you suggest? Maybe. But cry I did; I was thinking about the passion these singers, other singers, and the composer himself all feel for their subject. It was so moving.

My crying over Christmas carols eternally confuses poor Ben, whose childhood didn't prepare him for December in a non-Jewish household. How can I cry about something that isn't even my religion, he wonders? Yet the tears of joy brought forth by the songs of the season make perfect sense to me, because they have everything to do with family, traditions, and love.

And I am lucky enough to have lots of those three crucial blessings.