music in the park san jose

A friend recently commented to me that her church is

too stingy

with Christmas music, limiting the number of days it can be sung
during worship services.
A friend recently commented to me that her church is “too stingy” with Christmas music, limiting the number of days it can be sung during worship services.

Churches which follow the traditional Christian calendar use such music only during the “Christmas Season,” which is different from what many people think it is. While merchants used to begin the Christmas shopping season the day after Thanksgiving (later changed to right after Halloween and now early Fall), the liturgical season of Christmas begins after dark on Christmas Eve.

And while merchants begin their “after Christmas” sales Dec. 26, the Christian season of that name continues for eleven days until “Twelfth Night” or the Feast of the Epiphany (commemorating the visit of the Wisemen to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem).

Though often limited to this short window of opportunity, Christmas carols are wildly popular. A recent episode of “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,” a program broadcast at 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoons on KQED, took a look at the history and meaning of Christmas carols.

Ronald Clancey has spent a decade collecting Christmas music and is now producing a multivolume set of books and CDs. He admits it’s not easy to define exactly what a “carol” is but thinks they don’t have to be expressly religious.

Perhaps carols can be traced back to “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” which was sung by the angels on the night Jesus was born. The modern carol tradition began eight centuries ago in Europe when people began breaking away from the Latin church music and composing Christmas songs in local languages. But the Puritan authorities in England in the 17th century banned Christmas, forcing the popular music underground. (The same thing happened in some American colonies.)

The old Christmas carols have been redone over and over by contemporary artists, and modern Christmas carols represent nearly every type of music, from new age to country, Celtic or hard rock. Clancey hopes that modern listeners aren’t just impressed by the music’s sound but also by the message of the carol: “to bring people closer to Jesus Christ.”

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Gilroy has been attempting to keep the tradition of Christmas carols alive. Recognizing that Christmas music, particularly that with a religious message, is disappearing from the public schools, the parish has held Christmas Carol Workshops on a Saturday before Christmas the past two years. Local youngsters were invited to an afternoon of refreshments and singing focused on the music of Christmas.

If you have seasonal greeting cards around your house which you received from friends and family, here is a good way to dispose of them: St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, a charitable institution, can put them to good use.

Residents of the homes run by this ministry for abused, abandoned and neglected children use the front panels to make new cards. These recycled cards are then sold to the public to raise funds. (View and order some by visiting www.stjudesranch.org.) Send the front panels of cards to St. Jude’s Ranch, P.O. Box 60100, Boulder City, NV 89006.

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