Odes to Advent

I’ve noticed that music, along with food, is one of the most prominent features of this blog. I suppose that gives everyone a glimpse as to life here in “Music City.” We do two things well: music and food.

I love almost every kind of music, but one of my favorite genres of music is Christmas music.

(My sister has a great series about obscure Christmas carols on her blog. Go check it out.)

I love Christmas music so much that I’m not listening to it yet.  Over the past few years, I’ve become more cognisant of my need for Advent.   December is such a month of celebration for me, I need to make a concerted effort to have a time of preparation for the Christmas season, which doesn’t run from December 1st until December 25th, but from December 25th to the Baptism of our Lord in early January.

my cool 70s advent wreath

Or, for me, until February 2nd.  Since I have my own tree and can decide when to take it down, I decided three years ago to follow the Vatican’s tradition of keeping the Christmas tree up until the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord (Candlemas), which marked the end of the Christmas season on the old calendar of the Church.  Last year, I was very busy the first weekend of February with a large conference, and so my tree stayed up until Fat Tuesday.

But I digress.

As I was saying, over the past few years, I’ve tried to make more of an effort to really embrace Advent.  I don’t want to turn into some sort of Advent police that doesn’t let people sing Christmas songs and refuses to attend Christmas parties before December 25th.  But I do think there can be more of a balance than what we see in many places today.

One of the ways I do this is to set certain markers for myself.  I am not decorating my apartment, for example, until the 3rd Sunday of Advent, which is traditionally a day of celebration and rejoicing. It’s also the day my family usually decorated when we were growing up.  I’ve had a love for Gaudete Sunday since I was young and thought that everyone lit a pink candle on that day because it was my birthday week.  I’ve matured past that thinking, but I still secretly think I came into this cold world a little early so I could celebrate my birthday each year during the rose week.

So my Advent is marked by waiting– for the big celebration of Christmas and, along the way, minor celebratory days of transitions.  Gaudete Sunday is one day, my birthday is another, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is another.  Today I put my winter/Christmas sheets on my bed to celebrate.  My parents gave me a new quilt for my bed (my other quilt was very spring-y and I’ve wanted a red Christmas-y one) for my birthday this year, so I decided to celebrate the Feast by the bedding transition.

On my birthday, I will begin listening to Christmas music.  I love Christmas music so much that depriving myself of it for the first half of Advent is truly a sacrifice.  I could probably listen to Christmas music all year round.  But I don’t give into the temptation until one of my celebratory days.  Last year, to help ease the pain I made an Advent CD, which is comprised of everything from O Come, O Come Emmanuel, to Conditor Alme Siderum, to Lift Up Your Heads (from the Messiah), to my mother’s favorite, People Look East.

All of this is just introduction to the subject of my blog post: the new Carbon Leaf CD.  I’ve talked about Carbon Leaf on here before, and I probably mentioned that they left their label and are now independent, which means that we get new music from them much more frequently.

So they recently released a short little Christmas CD.  But the beauty of this CD is that it’s not so much a Christmas CD as it’s an Advent CD!  They just don’t know it.

The songs, all original, talk more about winter and preparing for Christmas than they do about Christmas itself.  The title (and first) track, “Christmas Child,” counts down to Christmas (“three weeks ’til Christmas day…”) and even mentions Advent calendars: “and on the pantry door hangs a calendar counting down the days with their little doors, ” not to mention other little fun traditions, like “I push the cloves in the tangerine.”

Christmas Child reprises as an instrumental on the CD, but the other instrumental is my absolute favorite: Sutton’s Reel.  Another blog that reviewed the CD said that they could picture the people of the Christmas Carol dancing to this song, and I have to concur– some people might wonder why it’s on a Christmas CD, but to me it just screams of a frigid wintery night when the town gathers in the local pub for a pint and, with the local musicians jamming, dance the cold away.

Other great songs are Ice and Snow, which is a waltz (I dance along in my head), and Ode to the Snow, which came on the other day as I was driving (to pick up my mail at the post office) and big, wet snowflakes were coming down pretty steadily.  I couldn’t stop smiling (even though I was on my way to pick up my mail).

Ode to the Snow might be the most Advent-y of them all, because it speaks of the world shutting down and the silence that accompanies snowfall.  I’ll let some of the lyrics speak for themselves:

Snowfall requires listening
And the silence it brings is deafening
As it whispers it echoes echoes through my bones

And the stillness drifts back in like possibility,
And in the silence is where you find the song.
And I’m blinded by the ease of letting go,
Worlds shutting down… Just an ode to the snow.

Tree limbs bend and spring up again
The snowfall fumbling down through the pines
To baptize, to confirm the frozen hallowed ground

Another song speaks of the loneliness that can accompany this time of year, and again, seems to speak of the preparation time (like writing Christmas cards, decorating, etc).

So this has been my soundtrack these last few days.  Before I begin listening to Christmas music, I’ll be listening to Carbon Leaf and my Advent CD.

And now I’m off to snuggle under my new sheets and quilt.  Goodnight!  And happy feast!

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