My Old Kentucky Homesite

O Come, All Ye Faith-free-ful

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/19/2009

So yesterday afternoon I was sitting at the ol’ piano, playing tunes from a collection called “The Every Christmas Song You Can Think Of and Then Some Fake Book.” For me, as a faith-free person, the melodies – not the lyrics – rule. Lots of those songs are really catchy, and I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t sing or play them just because they have words about imaginary entities and events. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is a much better tune than “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and no more offensive. To tell the truth, I never believed that the itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout, either.

I was practicing my own ragtime version of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and trying to work out how to swing “The Little Drummer Boy” in 5/4, when the mail arrived. Nestled snugly among three or four scroogy bills was a greeting card with an illustration of the manger scene and the caption “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Now, that’s of course nonsense, despite how many underlines it has. The winter solstice was the inspiration for cold-weather celebrations and gift-giving long before Christianity was even a gleam in its father’s eye. Not only that, but there’s absolutely no gospel evidence for the time of year in which the protagonist was born. None. The early church fathers piggy-backed their big guy’s birthday onto various other seasonal festivities and called the day “Christmas.” Later, they adopted the yule log, the decorated tree, the holly, the mistletoe, the stockings, the overeating, the giant inflated snowman, and the chipmunks. Even the sending of cards has no biblical authority. So Jesus certainly isn’t the reason for the season; rather, the pre-existing holidays are the reason for the church’s usurpation of the season.

But I wasn’t annoyed merely because our senders had not gotten their facts straight. What irked me was their audacity. It’s harassment to mail a highly religious card, particularly one with a not-so-covert agenda, to people who may not agree with its message. The card was a solicitation, a political advertisement, not a sincere greeting. It irked me that some people would want to ram down my throat their own narrow interpretation of a universally enjoyable holiday.

For about fifteen minutes, I took my anger out on my own taste. I closed the songbook that was so entertaining to me, and I went into my office and put Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, one of my most beloved books, back on its shelf. I refused to take part in the same holiday that our sender was celebrating. Maybe I’d pull out my songs and my story again sometime in February, when Washington and Lincoln and Cupid, not Jesus, were the combined reason for the season.

But then I thought: the hell with that. I’m not going to let Christians ruin Christmas for me. So, glorying in the snow falling outside my window, I re-bookmarked Stave 2 in Dickens, bit the head off a chocolate reindeer, and returned to the piano to see if I could turn “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” into a scary Schubert lied: “Der Weinachtsmann kommt in die Stadt.” Eventually, I also managed to feel pity for the people who so strictly limit their seasonal cheer – and, out of a veiled malice, would like to force me to likewise limit mine.

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6 Responses to “O Come, All Ye Faith-free-ful”

  1. Evie said

    That card was tasteless and offensive. Nevertheless, you ended up doing the right thing. Celebrate the holiday the way you want to do it and let the kooks celebrate it their way. There’s no doubt in my mind who will have the most fun.

  2. Evie:
    Tasteless and offensive, sure. In a normal country, people labeled with those adjectives would be easily dismissible. But these kinds of folks actually have political clout in America, so they’re dangerous, too. While I feel pity for individuals of this ilk (because I emphatically do not believe that ignorance is bliss), I remain extremely wary of them when they band together.

    While you chew on that, could you please pass me some more spiked eggnog and another marshmallow Santa?

  3. Evie said

    I agree with that these folks are scary when they band together. Have some more eggnog.

  4. Evie:
    I’ll definitely have some more eggnog, thanks. And bring me some figgy pudding, too, because I won’t go until I get some — even though it sounds disgusting. I never could understand why we wassailers don’t just ask for a Snickers Santa. But, as I said in my post, the lyrics are immaterial.

  5. John Evo said

    Hell, you learn something new all the time. I had you figured for a bit of penis, but never thought that you might be an actual pianist. Hope you aren’t snowed in on this Winter Solstice but if you are, may you have many, many chocolate reindeer. Always head first.

    Damn, just had a great marketing idea… chocolate baby Jesus.

    I suppose that explains why I’m not working.

  6. Evo:
    Somebody beat you to the punch. Be warned, though: For this stuff to taste really good, you have to either add — or be — nuts. On the other hand, if you happen to see an image of the Virgin Mary in your candy, you’re not necessarily crazy.

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