While I sincerely mean “Merry Christmas” in the most convivial sense, it’s interesting to me that the etymology of the word “merry”, in addition to its principal meaning (derived from Middle/Old English: sweet, delightful, melodious), includes a lesser known component: brief, short, narrow, as in a “merry pace”.
Most folks who enjoy the “holidays”, as we’ve come to call them in our cross-culturally respectful, modern era, would agree that they are all too brief: the relaxation of family and friends gathering for festive times; the sense of community derived from celebrating together the deeply cherished beliefs that define many of our lives; a period of “comfort and joy” indeed.
But, as I’ve learned, there are many — perhaps increasingly so — who don’t necessarily anticipate the Christmas season so eagerly. It has the potential for a poignance and resultant ennui that can be devastating.
I say “as I’ve learned” because I was blessed (I mean blessed!) to grow up in a happy family where Christmas was celebrated with great flourish, and Christmas music was as central to our holidays as any aspect could be. I recall sensing the underlying emotion in songs like “O Holy Night”, “Away in a Manger”, and “Silent Night, Holy Night” as early as age four or five. (My mother used to sing “The Friendly Beasts” to help us get to sleep on Christmas Eve.) I loved the carols and traditional songs the best; modern, commercial tunes were snappy and fun to sing, but the seemingly deeper message contained in the older, classic Christmas repertoire stirred something special inside my young soul.
Having experienced the inevitable ups and downs of life I’m now more in touch with the melancholy side of the holidays, although I’ve been fortunate enough in the richness of extended family and friends to still greet Christmas time with eager anticipation. (I’ve attempted to capture some of the emotional yin and yang reality most of us experience during the yule season in the one, original offering here, “Song of the Christmas Bells”, sung beautifully by Kurt Elling.)
So, in a way, this album has been a lifetime in the making. My hope is that everyone who gives me the gift of listening to it enjoys it, whatever their “emotional Christmas camp” may be.
This album is dedicated, as it should be, to the loving memory of Burnet M. Hobgood.