Tuning in to Christmas carols
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, January 19, 2017
The Catholic Church and I have many things we disagree on. But the intent of this column is not to be some papal bull from the 14th century, only studied in specialized history classes.
It’s maybe a month after the fact, but one very accessible complaint I make of the Catholic Church is its tradition of not playing Christmas carols during Mass until Christmas Day itself and the one week following Christmas.
It seems to make sense right? You play Christmas music only at Christmas time, and when it isn’t technically the Christmas season, you keep your “Joy to the World” the heck out of church.
I could be wrong, but I believe the current practice of not playing Christmas music in the lead up to Dec. 25 is due to the official season of Advent.
Advent signals the start of the new Church year and is traditionally supposed to be a season of anticipation and prayer for the coming of Jesus into the world at Christmas, when Jesus is born.
Never mind that Christmas is at the end of December because the early Church wanted to embrace pagan cultures that celebrated Saturnalia, and that Jesus probably wasn’t born in the winter. That’s a different, but interesting topic.
My issue with the anticipatory tone of Advent is that it doesn’t allow for Christmas carols. If you’re supposed to be somber and expectant, it’s hard to fit in the joyous themes that Christmas carols bring. And that’s why we need to change Advent.
The idea of Advent as a preparatory period before Christmas is a good idea, but making it somber and anticipatory isn’t the right way to go about it. No one wants to listen to Advent carols in minor keys. I’ll even give you $10 if you can name five Advent carols off the top of your head.
It all boils down to the fact that we know Jesus was born. We know the story of Mary and Joseph and the Angel Gabriel and the shepherds. We know that it happens. If we treat Advent as an anticipatory season, it acts as a big cliff hanger. Will Jesus be born on Dec. 25? Tune in to the next week of Advent to find out.
Instead, since we know Jesus was born (at the very least from a purely historical sense), let’s make the four weeks of Advent a time of joy. Christians should use this season to be happy and thankful that Jesus is about to come into the world. Let’s sing Christmas carols in church in the weeks leading up to Christmas to create a more joyous atmosphere. Of course, I’m referring to religious carols, not “Frosty the Snowman.” Although I’d rather sing “Frosty” than the Advent classic, “People look East.”
I know this argument wouldn’t hold up to a theological examination, but who cares? I want Church-sanctioned Christmas carols before Dec. 25 and if I have to change the whole focus of Advent, so be it.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.