Yesterday, I described what I think is the best Christmas recording and one that I definitely love.
Today I am focusing on my very favorite holiday song and why I hold it in special esteem.
I heard “Happy Holiday/Holiday Season” by Andy Williams plenty of times growing up. I remember liking it mildly but not paying all that much attention to it.
In a similar way, I always liked Christmas music, but never really was as appreciative of it then as I am now. My family and I listened to the songs often while I was a child. Over the years, as I grew older and then met my husband, we formed our own joint music collection and accumulated many Christmas CDs. But the music was always there more as a background, as a way to set a scene, as an adjunct to a festive atmosphere.
Without going into too many details or turning my blog into a keyboard confessional, about two and a half years ago, I went through a tough time. The preceding years had brought turmoil, separations, stress, and disappointment. Changes kept being foisted upon me; in response, I began making my own changes. By autumn 2010, my emotions were quite confused, and for many of those days, anxiety and depression fought for the central place in my life.
Things started to improve a bit as Thanksgiving approached. And, as I have shared in the past with some close to me, one thing that helped me to eclipse my difficulties was preparing for and enjoying the holidays. I tried to focus on other people instead of on my own problems. And I listened to Christmas music almost non-stop that year, to help both distract me from negative thoughts and also remind me of the beautiful concepts and ideas the holiday represents: birth, promise, hope, joy, family, fellowship, love.
For reasons I cannot explain, the song that always left me feeling the best when I heard it was “Happy Holiday.” Maybe I finally tuned into the positive upbeat lyrics. Or maybe it was Andy’s salesman-like delivery of the song. Probably it was both. My son loved this song, too, and seeing his eyes light up in response to my own as we heard those “merry bells” start ringing also had something to do with my great affection for this.
In the two years since, whenever I hear this song, I still enjoy it on its own merits. But I’ve also come to associate it with a certain self-assurance that comes only after experiencing and getting through hard times and, ultimately, being a better person for them. In a recent article (a link to it is posted below), Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote about the power that personal anthems can hold for us. I have had many of those “anthems” at and for different times in my life. “Happy Holiday” by Andy Williams will always be one of them.
Many people criticize the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” as being areligious, taking Christ out of Christmas, emphasizing the secular. I understand the viewpoint.
But when I hear that phrase, I think of this song, and I feel more spiritual and redeemed. The year it began to hold meaning for me, it helped me regain strength and faith, even if the faith was mainly in myself.
So who’s to determine what makes for a sacred experience?