Friday, January 28th, 2022

O Shopper Columns


I love all things Christmas, but if I had to choose one aspect of the season that I cherish most of all, it would be the music. Whether the songs are traditional carols commemorating Jesus's birth or secular songs celebrating Santa, snowmen, red-nosed reindeers, or winter weather- I love hearing them and singing them. By mid-November, my car radio is tuned to those channels that broadcast this holiday cheer 24 hours a day. If on Thanksgiving Day, my voice sounds a little hoarse, it's not because I'm fighting off a cold. No, it's because I've been singing along with the radio at the top of my lungs during my morning and evening commutes.

I know there are Scrooge types who grimace and grouch about this annual assault of musical merriment. Still, I wonder if they're complaining just to stand out from the crowd. I'll admit that much of Christmas music is overly-sentimental, even contrived. (I mean, how emotional can one honestly get over snow? And I ask that as one of those rare Southerners who absolutely loves winter and wouldn't mind having the ground blanketed in white from late October through early March.) But what's wrong with a little sentimentality? Humans are uniquely designed for it. In fact, as far as I know, we're the only creatures on earth capable of it.

And so, I welcome the music of the season with an open mind and an open heart. I marvel at the way it can bring communities together- at how thousands of strangers attending the public lighting of a tree will start to move in rhythmic unison when the sound system begins blaring Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You." I'm touched by how the gentle strains of "Silent Night" bring a sense of calm to listeners, be they believers or non-believers. I laugh within myself when people from all walks of life, sit through the painful screeching of an elementary school orchestra's holiday concert and afterward applaud as if Yo-Yo Ma himself just performed.

By mid-November, my car radio
is tuned to those channels that broadcast
this holiday cheer 24 hours a day.

Getting a group of friends together and then caroling door to door through one's neighborhood is a beautiful way not only to spend an evening but to connect with others. Three years ago, my partner, Carey, and I became fast friends with another couple we met while singing carols for patients at the Hampton VA Hospital. These friends are Jewish, but having heard Christmas carols all their lives, they knew the words as well as we did. Our friends, though belonging to another faith tradition, appreciated the emotional attachments that many of those hospitalized vets had to those carols. So, they offered their singing in gratitude for the military service these men and women gave our country.

Is all of the goodwill associated with Christmas music merely the result of cultural conditioning? Absolutely! But such conditioning has the power to bring out the best in us- as individuals and as communities- and with Nephew Fred from Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I say, "God bless it!"

Rob Lauer is an award-winning, nationally-produced and published playwright with over 35 years of experience in the entertainment industry. His national credits include production work for MGA Films, Time/Warner TV, The Learning Channel and The History Channel. Locally, Rob has been producing, directing and hosting three TV series for PCTV (the City of Portsmouth’s official channel) since 2011.