Winter: it is time when cities seem lively against winter’s early dark. That same winter dark brings deeper quiet to places in the countryside. It is a time for travel through both sorts of landscapes, a time for celebration, a time for reflection. It is a time for gatherings of those who come from near and far. It is a time for solitude, as well.
Advent and Christmas may or may not be part of your life or your faith story. They are, however, part of one of the world’s great festive seasons. The celebration in all its many facets invites you to join in, whether you travel through those winter landscapes or watch them change outside your window.
We have been many places in northern hemisphere winter, and written about them for you. Check out these adventures:
In the Netherlands, Sheila visited a Christmas market in a cave.
Brian shared his experience of a winter walk in Beijing.
Skye let you in on his tips for seeing the northern lights in Iceland.
I gave you ideas of what to expect in Ireland at the Christmas season.
Whether you are traveling through geography or by imagination this winter holiday season, music makes a good companion to share and to enjoy on your own. Here are ideas for that, too.
Ever year at Christmas for the past several years, composer and accordion player Phil Cunningham has gathered a group of his musical friends, among them Karen Matheson, Eddi Reader, Kris Dever, and John McCusker, for a Christmas season tour around their native Scotland. They always seemed to be having a great time and so did their audiences. It came time to try to put the experience on record so more folk could enjoy it. The result is Phil Cunningham’s Christmas Songbook, a mix of lively and reflective song and tune.
Are members of the under ten — as in ten years old, that is — set part of your holiday gatherings or on your gift list? They will enjoy the new and familiar songs on Matt Heaton’s album Snow Day. Kids will like the good stories, the lively guitar playing, and Matt’s wry and gentle sense of humor. Adults will like these things too. They will also appreciate that along with this the children in their lives will be learning a bit about listening, and about tolerance (Happy Holidays) as well as what to do when things do not always go as you expect (Can’t Judge a Gift) and quieter joys of the holiday (Christmas Eve With You). A song celebrating Hanukkah is there, and Rudolph and the Winter Wonderland are about, too. You may also want to take a listen to the grown up holiday album Matt has made with his wife Shannon, which is called Fine Winter’s Night. The title track of that, by the way, is one that honors the winter season without being focused on Christmas.
If you might be looking for a reflective listen for winter days, Cara Dillon’s recording Upon a Winter’s Night may be just the thing. Dillon, who comes from Northern Ireland, offers a collection of traditional and newer songs which tend toward the thoughtful and reverent side of winter and Christmas. That’s an idea Dillon and her husband and musical partner Sam Lakeman (listen for outstanding piano from Sam on the album) had in mind when they started gathering songs: they wanted to make sure their children understood that Christmas is more than glitz and tinsel.
From Texas for a Christmas Night well describes the music Tish Hinojosa shares on her album of that name. There’s her long time Austin area favorite, Arbolito. which finds her speaking to her Christmas trees over the years, in both English and Spanish. Building Number 9 reimagines the Christmas story in a way you may not expect. A la Nanita Nana is a song often sung during processions of Las Posadas. Milagro invites you to join in on the joy and hope of the holiday. There’s Silent Night sung in three languages, and a song for Hanukkah, too.
May you enjoy the winter season, and may these ideas and this music brighten your winter days.
Photograph of the northern lights by Skye Class
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