Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Feeling 'Christmassy'? No, well sing a carol . . .

Are you feeling ‘Christmassy’ yet?

This is a question that people often ask each other throughout December and it is usually, in my experience, asked by people who feel somewhat nervous that they aren’t yet in the ‘zone’ that leads up to December 25 and want reassurances others aren’t too.

I must admit I didn’t feel ‘Christmassy’ at all this year until – and I can almost name the exact time – about 6.40pm last Thursday, December 8. That was when I first heard the line ‘Away in a manger, no crib for a bed’ being lustily sung at the Chronicle/Rotary Club of Bath’s annual carol service at the abbey.

And it ‘got’ me.

For those who were around last Thursday night you will remember it was a horrible, cold, wet and miserable evening.

If ever there was a reason to not attend an event in the city centre on an evening, Mother Nature had provided the perfect one and it could have been entirely understandable if the abbey was half-empty for the proceedings.

But it wasn’t. Oh no.

There wasn’t a seat spare to be found and the abbey was packed to the rafters because people know that this annual city centre carol service is the one that can actually kick off Christmas for Bath people – and it certainly did for me.

The key to its success I think is revisiting much-loved carols in a communal atmosphere. There is something about Christmas carols that really seems to move people – whether they are regular church-goers or just those who attend such places for weddings or the odd funeral.

Our love for carols probably goes back to the fun of doing school nativity plays – a Christmas tradition that, if anything, seems to be getting stronger. Next week’s Chronicle will feature no fewer than 24 pages worth of pictures of such nativities and all will reveal the sheer joy that young people have in taking part in this special event at this time of the year. And no decent nativity is complete without a carol or two. There are many new ones these days –- and probably a lot of them are rather funkier than the ‘old faves’ – but the traditional tunes are still as popular as ever and just as nearly everyone still knows the Lord’s Prayer, everyone also seems to know what follows the words ‘the cattles are lowing’. . .

These tunes are just something in our consciousness now and you don’t have to be remotely religious to know that carols can touch the parts other spiritual songs can’t.

Of course, for many people the impact of even some of the ‘top of the pops’ in carol terms has been diluted by the fact they seem to be on a permanent loop in the shops at this festive time. You go from Noddy Holder in one shop to Hark The Herald in another and both, after a while, can get equally annoying.

But, put in the right context – and there is no possible better context than the Bath Abbey on a December evening – carols can truly touch the heart, lift the spirits and can really make people stop and think amidst all the other Christmas chaos around them about what is the actual ‘reason for the season’.

Christmassy? Yep, I am now.

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