I confess. I violated the unwritten rules of Christmas etiquette and started listening to holiday songs well before Thanksgiving this year.
Not a day has gone by since without reveling over Pentatonix’s version of Mary, Did You Know, singing Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas (off-key) or dancing to *NSYNC’s Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. I guess I just needed a little extra Christmas this year, a little more hope and joy.
I have five versions of Sleigh Ride on my playlist. As a Florida native, it would seem that I should reject all the lyrical salutes to snow-covered scenery and wintry wonderlands.
In my mind, however, such chilly odes remind of the warmth we should carry in our hearts during the holidays. The Jackson 5 was right: we should Give Love on Christmas Day.
In Patti LaBelle’s If Every Day Could Be Like Christmas and Celine Dion’s Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day, we’re asked to carry that spirit throughout the year.
And it’s those kinds of songs that have resonated in new ways in 2017, a year fraught with division, mayhem and hate here at home and around the world.
It’s remarkable that it was 1967 when Stevie Wonder first sang, "Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys, playing with bombs like kids play with toys." I get the feeling Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump don’t have that one on their playlists.
John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), Greg Lake’s I Believe in Father Christmas and Darius Rucker’s What God Wants for Christmas speak to the idealistic dream of peace on Earth and goodwill to all men.
These songs contradict the persistent theme of happiness that commercialism fuels. They’re not designed to depress. They’re designed to challenge. And even though the challenge seems insurmountable, we can’t bring about change by shrinking from the colder realities of our lives.
The cynics, sensing we may never achieve such a utopian state, pan such tunes as holiday hokum. They miss the point.
This isn’t just the season of joy, it’s the season of hope. The holidays represent a time to renew our optimism, even in the face of sinister acts and horrific suffering.
A wise man recently told me joy is not a state of perfect happiness, it’s about having enough faith in your heart to keep believing better days lie ahead.
Peace on Earth may not be an attainable accomplishment, but it remains an admirable aspiration. To paraphrase Amy Grant, it’s at the top of my Grown-Up Christmas List.
That’s all I’m saying.