Christmas Rant and Some Music

Long time visitors to the Riskies know I have a complicated relationship with Christmas. I detest the whole commercial aspect and I also despise the idea that the season magically fixes things. However, I embrace the season in my own way—which is to accept the darkness as well as the light.

Each year, I think of people who are lonely, and of the various wars, large and small, raging through families and countries. Right now it feels as if the whole world is bleeding, and it seems that every day brings more heartbreak.

I know some people like to look away, to lose themselves in a blaze of Christmas lights, of shopping, even of obsessing about “not being ready” for Christmas. (What does “ready” really mean?)

My own way of coping is to allow the sadness in as well as the joy. Music is one of the ways I can stay in touch with both.

This year I found another version of the Coventry Carol, arranged by Ola Gjeilo, performed by the CORO Vocal Artists. Its haunting melody helps me find that stillness where I can feel the heartbreak and then let it lead me toward whatever healing action I can take for myself and others.

On the more joyful side and in the spirit of the Regency, here’s a version of the Gloucester Wassail and the Holly and the Ivy by the Waverley Consort, with assorted interesting Georgian and Regency imagery. The Gloucester Wassail was first published in the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928, but it believed to date back to the Middle Ages, so it could definitely have been part of a Regency Christmas. An early mention of The Holly and the Ivy is in a book dated 1823, and the lyrics are reprinted in an 1861 collection, A Garland of Christmas Carols, where it is stated that it was found in “an old broadside, printed a century and a half since” (around 1711), so this is another carol that our Regency characters might have sung.

Here’s the refrain from “The Gloucester Wassail”:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to visit some of my posts from past years about traditional Christmas music that hasn’t been used to sell cars, watches, or anything else:

Holiday Music, Traditional and Reinvented

Antidote for Carol of the Bells

Carols and Winners

What are your favorite carols?


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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6 Responses to Christmas Rant and Some Music

  1. Pingback: Jane Austen’s World – Regency Reflections

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  3. Lovely Youtube video, Elena! Music is always such a big part of Christmas for me, too. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite carol, there are just too many of them, through the centuries. Wishing you the best this Christmas!!

  4. Each year, the choir of the English Department at Mainz Uni gives a Christmas concert in the last week of lectures before the Christmas break – and it’s always such a wonderful, magical event. One of the songs they sing has become one of my favourite Christmas carols: “Christmas Blessing” by Philip Stopford. It’s so hauntingly beautiful it almost never fails to bring tears to my eyes:

    Another favorite is “O Holy Night” – but I prefer when it’s sung by a man. A few years (eh…. 10 – 15 years) (gah!) ago, a colleague of mine & a few of his friends recorded a Christmas CD, which was privately distributed & also included a version of “O Holy Night” sung by Martin. This is my favorite version of that carol. 🙂

    Oh, and speaking of that CD – “Silver Bells” – I love that carol too!

    My favorite German Christmas carol is “Tochter Zion,” set to music by Händel, which, I believe, is a used for an Easter hymn in the English-speaking world: (I always think this carol is best heard in a fully packed church.) (Oh man, that brings back happy childhood memories of Midnight Mass in St. Margarethen in Waldkirch when the church was lit by candles and was filled with incense) (a LOT of incense).

  5. Oooops, forgot “Twelve Days of Christmas,” especially this version from the BBC Big Sing of 2010:

    And then, of course, there’s the version sung by John Denver and the Muppets…

  6. Elena Greene says:

    Thanks for sharing all those links, Sandy! I especially appreciate that Christmas Blessing, since I haven’t heard it before.

    LOL on the Muppets! Interesting that Gonzo gets the 3 French hens. Wonder what Camilla thinks of that?

    Here are a few more favorites I have to watch every year:
    Straight No Chaser 12 Days of Christmas
    and the Monkees’ Riu riu chiu

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