Christmas for Everyone
To participate in joyous Christmas goodwill, a person doesn’t have to be a Christian. Here are links to outstanding performances of some Christmas carols, along with a story about how a school of mixed religions celebrated Christmas. It’s an example of religious majorities and minorities can thrive together.
From kindergarten through 9th grade, I attended Graland Country Day School in Denver. The Christmas Pageant was run by John Riley–a frightening character to many. Assistant Headmaster, immigrant from England, and music director. His spine was always perfectly straight and erect. Rigid self-control. When he played the organ, he swayed with fervor, posture perfect. Every year he put on two great shows. In the spring, a week-long run of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. And on the last day of school in December, the Christmas Pageant. This was the one day of the year when all of the 500 students (ages 4-15) and all their parents, and other relatives, assembled.
The gymnasium packed to standing room only, the lights went black. All was quiet. From the furthest corner, the march of footsteps. An orator from Ancient Rome strode forth, followed by eight armored Roman soldiers: fifth grade boys, who had been studying the Roman Republic. The orator unfurled a scroll and announced the decree of Caesar Augustus: the census/tax that put Joseph and Mary on the road to Bethlehem. (Luke 2:1-15.) The Glee Club opened with Once in Royal David’s City (King’s College). (For the linked carols, the parenthetical identifies the performer.)
Lights up, the exquisite The Holly and the Ivy (Natalie Cole & José Carreras) from the best female singers. What came next varied from year to year, but was basically like this:
Ding Dong Merrily on High (Portland Ensign Choir & Orchestra). Exuberant!
Good King Wenceslas (Irish Rovers). An inspiring tale of charity, and the real Wenceslsas (a 10th century Czech noble) was a great guy too. When I was in Kindergarten, I was impressed to see fifth-grader and future Nobel Laureate economist Paul Romer hauling a huge Yule log around the stage. To me the Christmas Pageants might as well have been Der Ring des Nibelungen, except that Christmas is happy. More spectacle on-stage than I had ever seen, or would ever see again, until I started going to rock concerts.
Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle (Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal). Another Glee Club showcase, from the days when French was the predominant foreign language taught to Americans.
I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In (Sting). When our First Grade performed this, I was baffled. What did the arrival of three ships have to do with Christmas? How could it be that “they sailed into Bethlehem,” which isn’t a port?
Deck the Halls (Mormon Tabernacle Choir). One of only two secular songs in the mix.
Vamos Ninos. A mash-up of Mexican carols, performed by the third graders, who were studying Mexico–long before that was demographically popular. Joseph and Mary led the peasants in procession. My year, Joseph was Chris Romer (Paul’s younger brother), later a leader on educational improvement on many fronts.
Mary was Carolyn Dobbins, on her way to becoming national championship skier, and later, the author of What a Life Can Be: One Therapist’s Take on Schizo-Affective Disorder, an autobiography of her experience in suffering from and rising above severe mental illness. As of third grade, everyone knew she was quite smart, and some saw her exceptional athletic talent. No-one foresaw her grueling path to sanctitude.
We Three Kings of Orient Are (Anne Murray). The engagingly strange lyrics (“Incense owns a Deity nigh”) fit the unusual tones
Article from Latest – Reason.com