Banks County Opinions...

DECEMBER 17, 2003


Column

By:Jana Mitcham
The Banks County News
December 17, 2003

And the caroling continues
Not too long ago, Zach and I were puzzled to find ourselves already in the middle of a discussion of the lyrics of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.
(You know, “Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the feast of Stephen, When the snow lay round about, Deep and crisp and even...”)
How did we get there?
Now I can’t remember why we were even having that semi-serious (but not really) discussion but, whatever the reason, there we were and we couldn’t agree upon the lyrics. We each came up with our own versions as far as we could remember into the song, neither of which were correct, based on what we thought it sounded like.
Hooked on phonics?
This happens periodically with us and song lyrics, but thankfully we now have the Internet to consult and prove one or the other correct...or both of us wrong.
(“No, no, no, there’s no way it’s ‘just like the one-winged dove, sings a song sounds like she’s singing, oo, baby, oo, baby, oo’...it’s wild-winged dove.” Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks fans are cringing.)
Like I said, frequently neither of us is correct and nobody wins the dinner bet.
That discussion was weeks ago, even before the radio stations were filled with Christmas carols, from the beautiful tones of pure voices to the razz-matazz, electronic, forceful cheer of what I think of as holiday shopping music – I expect it at the mall. You WILL be cheerful!
But Christmas carols weren’t always so canned — there is a parallel, I suppose, to the commercialization of the holiday.
Early Christmas music was more along the lines of chants and hymns, but when those were banned from the church during its struggle with pagan ways, Nativity carols sprang up in the folk song tradition.
Carols eventually worked into church worship again and also gained popularity in the Middle Ages through mystery plays, or morality plays, based in church teachings.
And there was the carol dance, in which a leader sang a verse of a carol, and a ring of dancers responded with the chorus. But carol dances were more suggestive of pagan ancestors, which used holly and ivy as fertility associations.
Traveling minstrels performed carols as they wandered from place to place and, in later days, towns and villages often had their own carolers, or “waits,” usually night watchmen who walked the streets.
(Who knows, maybe some of the folk carols changed slightly through the years as people repeated what they thought they heard....)
Gradually carolers came to mean what we think of it now, groups of singers who perform holiday songs — carols — at Christmas events.
While some of the “traditions” of the season have changed, and even the meaning of the carol has changed, the folk custom of caroling, or performing at holidays, still remains today, from time to time and place to place.
Locally, for example, carolers performed during the Jefferson Better Hometown Tour of Homes and the Maysville Christmas events. Church youth groups have also been caroling, and there is more Christmas music to come.
But somehow, I feel sure that all those carolers know the words.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor of The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Column

By:Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
December 17, 2003

Say no to commercialized Christmas cards
I don’t do Christmas cards.
I’m a little ashamed to admit it so openly, but I don’t think I should be.
What is it exactly? It is a card usually with a wintry or Christmasy scene. There are pets on some, cartoons on others. They run the gamut from simple to gold foiled and raised print. On the inside is a factory printed message written by people who write cards for a living or else it’s a line from a popular song: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” “May the joy of this Christmas season live within you year ‘round,” “Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Man.” It’s perhaps enough to invoke a smile that someone was thinking of you and perhaps not since most people take this store-bought card and sign their name, neatly or not, and mail it off with a seasonal stamp.
I understand very well that sometimes the Christmas card truly means something. Like the first year after you get married when you want to say, ‘Look, here, now we’re officially a family.’ Or the year a family member gets married and you want to include all of their family in your Christmas card family (thanks, Eubanks). I get that. But what happens the rest of your life? You have a list of people, you cross names off and add new ones; you include extended family, work acquaintances, old school friends. Perhaps you talk to these people often or not at all. I know some people who never speak to half the people on their list. It’s the only contact all year. Kind of like, ‘Yes, we’re still alive. We’ll be in touch next Christmas.’ That I don’t get. People are busier than ever, working longer hours, taking on more things after work, moving more often from job to job and community to community so I can see that there would be plenty of time for lists of people to suddenly be thrust into the never talk to, still care about category. I have a list of people that deserve a Christmas card, but things in abundance, like Christmas cards, lose their value and meaning, quickly, and if you’re going to do something, don’t bother doing it halfway. It does take time to send off so many cards and certainly money, but doesn’t it just become another item checked off the holiday To Do List? And after the holiday is over, the cards usually make it into the trash and off to the landfill. If this ever-growing list of people to send Christmas cards to is important to you, send a family newsletter or throw a holiday party for them or forget the card altogether and make a phone call. Even better, you could make your own cards or employ your kids and grandkids to help you-they love to paint and glue and I know that something handmade with love would bring more than a smile to my face, it would bring joy to my heart.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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