Random Favorite Christmas Song #4, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

Bing Crosby: The Voice of Christmas
Bing Crosby: The Voice of Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t even want to hear it. Don’t tell me Christmas is over. I can’t just go cold turkey on Christmas music like that.  At least the U.K. and Canada have Boxing Day, even if they cannot give me a good explanation of exactly what that is. Why can’t I have 12 days of Christmas anyway, even if that is a lousy song? And don’t worry, that’s not song number 4 on my list. It’s not even on the list.

It took me long enough this year to get into the spirit, and once I did, well I’m not ready to let go yet. And why should I? The baking with my sons, the Christmas eve dinner, the Christmas brunch, two sessions of Christmas present giving–frankly everything about it was lovely. And besides I have one more Christmas function to go to on Friday with Brian’s family, so move on and make no comments if you don’t want to hear Christmas songs anymore. I won’t be hurt.

Today at work they changed the music to some ungodly (and I do not mean that literally) love song mix with Debby Boone and the Carpenters. When I balked my boss said, “I thought we were sick of Christmas music by now!”

Sorry, but I still have Christmas songs to sing. I think what does it to us is the commercialism, the consumerism, the marketing, the fact that most stores start selling Christmas at Halloween! No wonder we get desensitized and sick of it. Faux News claims there is a war on Christmas, but I’d have to say that Christmas is everywhere and spreading, and if there is a war it has nothing to do with anti-Christmas sentiments or beliefs, and everything to do with marketing and greed, and missing the point. As John Stewart said, “Christmas is now so big that it is eating other holidays!”

So I avoided all that this year. I didn’t start my shopping early; I didn’t play the music until I brought the tree home, and then my sweetie started playing them here on his piano. He even learned some new ones this year, and I’ll bring you a couple in my next post, but meanwhile let me just state that there is a good case to be made for Christmas, no matter what you believe or don’t believe in. Winter solstice is a good time to gather our loved ones near, to pledge ourselves to making peace on earth. If we don’t do it, who will?

The dark of the season is good for taking naps, getting recharged, hibernating on the bounty of the previous fall, and resting up for the activity of spring. But unfortunately it’s also a time of depression for many. My guess is that the root of that has to do with seasonal affective disorder, but that just gets made worse by all of the  obligations heaped upon us by corporate America, and this weird cultural push we have in this country to put on a good show, and pretend we are doing better than we are, emotionally, financially and socially.

So what better time to get back to the whole “peace on earth” theme? And that brings me to song number four. I’ll keep it a short list this year, and perhaps save the “Case for Christmas” post I was going to make for 2013.  I have a few things I’d like to do differently this year, and I’ll tell you about them before New Year’s.

Today’s favorite Christmas song was a poem, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863, and it was originally entitled “Christmas Bells.”  With a few civil war-specific verses dropped out, we know it now as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I’ll include the full text of the poem below the video, so be sure to read it as Longfellow wrote it. This is what the season is about to me; this is the sort of song that fills me with hope, just when I need it the most.  For me, Bing Crosby’s version is the one that brings back my childhood days, and the memory of first hearing the song, getting goosebumps, and wanting to look up the rest of the words.

Peace. Pass it on this year, please.

Christmas Bells

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and mild and sweet
The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along
The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound
The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn
The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

10 Comments Add yours

  1. James Erich says:

    I hate for Christmas to be over. But it really shouldn’t be. The ancient Europeans celebrated Yuletide from the Solstice to about January 1st and later Christians adjusted this to go from Christmas to January 6th — the 12th Day of Christmas.


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Yes, the sixth, I’m all about Epiphany. 🙂 My mom never took the tree down until New Year’s, and I generally wait a few days after.


  2. James Erich says:

    There’s a superstition that, if you don’t take the tree down by then, any needles the tree drops will become goblins and cause mischief in the household.


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Well, I have vacuumed up too many brown needles in February, so I have no fear of that being true. 🙂


  3. slpmartin says:

    I do enjoy Christmas…but since around here they started the Christmas music before Halloween…I’ve grown tired of it…I’ve reached my saturation point. 🙂


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Yes, to be honest, I purposely did not listen to the radio for a while. I bred my Christmas spirit in a controlled environment this year. 🙂 And since so much of that is geared towards sales rather than peace, it’s just so easy for me to get tired of it too.


  4. James Erich says:

    It helps if you don’t watch television or listen to the radio (I do neither — everything is on DVD or On Demand) and only go shopping occasionally. I pretty much have control over when things get Christmasy in my life.


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Exactly. I don’t even have cable TV, or satelite at all. Just the internet, so that I am not tempted to have it on for background noise. I still see adds, but it’s less of a bombardment.


  5. ManicDdaily says:

    I so hate the commercialism and I also can get very burdened by Christmas – but I do love music and that brings it home. (Thanks!) We also go to a children’s christmas pageant which reminds one of the wonderful newness and rebirth that is at Christmas’s base–and that is quite wonderful. k.


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