Seasonally Songful

There’s something refreshing about driving home from school, seat warmers blazing, watching the whole world bustle around outside of me, while I’m cozy inside my silver sedan heaven.

There’s something even better, however, about tapping the switch on the steering wheel, flipping through plastic surgery commercials and mid-afternoon talk shows when suddenly I hear—for the first time this season—Christmas Carols! I was tempted to shout out the slightly open window with gusto: 93.9 is officially the holiday light!!! But I refrained because of a) good judgment, which I seem to lack lately, so let’s go with b) the intrigue of keeping this a secret all to myself, as if I were the only one listening to “White Christmas” at 3:30 this afternoon.

I let out an exaggerated sigh of relief as I pulled the keys out of the ignition, silencing “Silent Night” as I stopped at the grocery store to buy a challah for Shabbat tonight. Yes, that is ironic. And yes, I like it that way.

There’s something about Christmas Carols that I crave all year long. Maybe it’s the uplifting melodies or the old crooning voices that you no longer hear on the radio? Maybe it’s the familiarity; there are only so many versions of the same lyrics and tune, and they’re all easy enough to sing along to. (Have you tried singing Disturbia?) Maybe it’s just something different, something special reserved for my favorite time of year: my birthday, Thanksgiving, Secret Santas, vacation, snow.

I’m used to holidays filled with new pairs of shoes, weeks spent in the Mexican Riviera baking facedown in the sun, endless parties, celebrations, festivities, and, of course, more presents. But have I lost focus of what the holidays actually mean? Have we all?

Honestly, the first thing I think about when I think of holidays is my annual State St. / Michigan Ave. Black Friday shopping trip. Spending money = holiday time. Obviously.

Each night of my Chanukah celebrations comes full of presents, cards, gift certificates, and promises for even more the following night. And yes, I may be guilty of making an extensive list of each year filled with “definitely,” “maybe, if you’re generous,” and “don’t even think about it,” categories; I too am guilty of the indulgence phenomenon.

I associate holiday time with my birthday (presents), Thanksgiving (food), Mexican Riviera vacations (presents + food), and a variety of other indulgences I neglect to remember are not celebratory but rather extravagances with which I’ve been rewarded my entire life.

I’m not going to disagree that the holidays are stressful (for some more than others). Could it be because we are worried about what to buy for everyone, or, more importantly, what everyone will get for us? Or could it be the awkward social tension, the rare time of year in which uncles, aunts, cousins, democrats, republicans, hunters, vegetarians, teachers, students, lawyers, artists, prostitutes, must be in the same room together and at least try to behave decently.

Let’s be realistic. The holidays weren’t created to sit around tearing off wrapping paper and pretending to be happy with your freshly unfolded royal blue Menorah embroidered socks. Whether you’re slicing a freshly baked pumpkin pie, gathering around the first candle on the Chanukkiah, or putting the star on the top of your Christmas tree, take a minute to realize the significance, absorb the atmosphere around you; appreciate your family, your friends, your loved ones.

We’ve heard it again and again: economic crisis. Stores are closing. Holiday parties are being cancelled. Vacations are unbooked. But for the first time this year, can this be a good thing? Can we bring the real meaning back into the holidays, ignore the superficial smile a new Cartier diamond watch brings to a loved one’s face and emphasize on the hugs, the laughs, the toasts?

I, being the obvious perfection that I am, have taken this all into account (as I stream “Holly Jolly Christmas” through my computer). For a variety of reasons, I decided not to ask for presents this birthday; it seems unfair to ask for more when I already have so much and so many people have so little. Most sincerely, I merely want more love. Love for the world. Love for others. To be surrounded by love. It sounds asinine, childish perhaps, but I know that another pair of shoes strew on the bottom of my closet or more books on my shelves will not bring “Joy to the World” (sorry, I couldn’t resist), more material in my life won’t make others happier and it certainly won’t make my life much better.

So as I start off the holiday season, gliding down Sheridan Road as the first snowflakes strike my windshield, and I hesitate to wipe them away, I smile a little to myself, realizing that this “crisis” as some may call it, may actually be a disguised gift.—a difficult way to get our priorities back on track, a way to be grateful for what we have and acknowledge those in need.

It’s official. ‘Tis the Season. 93.9 has become Chicago’s Holiday Light Station. Snow has begun to fall. I plan to enjoy my favorite two months of the year more than ever before. And if you hear anyone belting out “Jingle Bell Rock” these next few weeks, it’s probably me, feel free to join in!