O Come ALL Ye Faithful: A Non-Divisive Christmas Carol That Actually Celebrates Christmas

Have you ever noticed that the words of some of your favorite Christmas carols make you uncomfortable? Maybe they frame the holy spirit in a way you don’t. Maybe their picture of Jesus isn’t yours. Or maybe they go too far in the other direction, pretending naively–or with obnoxious commercialism–that the holiday is really about Santa Claus and gifts.

I love Christmas for its traditions–food, evergreens, decorations, family, gifts, and, yeah…food. (I love food.) Raised in a vaguely Judeo-Christian tradition, I don’t call myself a Christian, but I deeply admire Jesus, and singing to celebrate his birthday seems like a good idea to me. I just need the right kind of song to sing.

So I wrote one.

Come ALL Ye Faithful  by G. Wing, 2012



O come all ye faithful and sing a Christmas song         That doesn’t make non-Christians feel as though they don’t belong

 Let’s sing about a birthday that brings so many joy

 A humble, patient mother and a tiny baby boy.


I know that we can’t all agree on what the season means

So let’s avoid divisive lines that highlight our extremes

For some Christ is the Savior, for some he is the King

But for many, Jesus’ teachings are the real gift he brings.


A man of peace, a man of prayer, who turns the other cheek

And preaches that the earth belongs to the blessed meek

Now that’s a man whose birthday anyone could celebrate

Without regard to questions of his anointed state.


So Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Jew, and yes, even atheists

Should all feel welcome in this song to join with Christian deists

And sing a joyful glo-o-ria about a starry night

Without the lyrics telling them their own beliefs aren’t right.


If you find this song offensive to your sensibilities

Just look at all the Santas and the glowing Christmas trees

If they can all be blended with a Christian world view

Then surely you can harmonize this carol with them too.


In honor of the season, here’s a classical Madonna and Child image:

Madonna with Child and Angels by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (courtesy OpenClipArtLibrary)

 And here’s one a little closer to my heart, Dorothea Lange’s 1936 Migrant Mother:

The least of these…

If you want to hear what my Christmas carol sounds like, send me your email and I’ll send you a recording. Meanwhile, whatever it means to you: Merry Christmas!

Resisting the Tyranny of Christmas Materialism…Or Not

Diamonds = true love. Therefore, lack of diamonds means…?

Owning a home = success. So renting means…?

Top-end equipment = mastery of craft. So crappy stuff means…?

We’ve probably all struggled against these Western constructs at some point. Maybe we’ve found comfortable alignment, maybe we’ve rejected the whole shebang; probably somewhere in between. But nothing raises my love-hate complex with materialism more than Christmas.

I had it all down this year. For my Mate and Sons One and Two: a special book, or an article of clothing I’ve heard them wish for. Everyone else: homemade granola.

Christmas list? Checked off. Christmas shopping? Done. Y’all can fight over my parking space at the mall.

The Mate and I have talked; he feels the same. I wasn’t expecting any gifts less modest than what I’m giving him.

And then my electric mixer broke.

You have to understand something about mixers. There are KitchenAids, which START at $250, and then there are the cheap, hand-held kind–$25. I got a cheapie as a wedding present 29 years ago. It worked fine, but I always told myself, “When this one breaks, I’ll get a KitchenAid. I’m a great baker. I should have great gear.” It lasted 16 years, but when that cheap mixer broke (in the middle of a cake), I zipped out and got a new one…for $25.

“It’s good enough,” I told myself. “Why spend ten times that much? And I’m in a hurry. A KitchenAid…that’s a commitment. I’m not ready.”

“Y’know, REAL bakers have a KitchenAid.”

“I’m a real baker! I’m a big girl! Just look at all the incredible pies and cakes I’ve made over the years with my cheap-ass hand-held.”

“Right. So don’t you deserve the good stuff now?”

“I’m not buying into your materialistic orthodoxy! Good enough is good enough!”

“Oookay…But you could have a blue one. Or purple. Just sayin.”

Fast-forward nine years. It’s Christmas season, and Cheap Mixer #2 breaks–again. In the middle of a cake. I’ve just congratulated myself on successfully fighting off the Demons of  Buy-Buy-Buy. But I have a choice to make.

This time, I caved. Or triumphed. Whichever way you choose to look at it. But from the pride with which I’m now displaying these photos, I guess you know which way I’m looking.

Who's a big girl now? I'm a big girl now!

Who’s a big girl now? I’m a big girl now!

Lesson? I’m going to try and be less judgy about materialism. If something new and expensive makes me or someone else feel fulfilled…I’m going to consider why. That might be enough.




All I Want For Christmas: Not To Feel So Conflicted About Wrapping Paper

What’s better than Christmas presents? If you’ve had a toddler in your life recently, or been one yourself, you know: Wrapping paper! Especially that foil kind which holds its shape. If I had digital copies of my photos from the early 90s, I’d share some ADORABLE pics of my boys wearing Christmas wrap like armor. I have no idea what present was inside; the resulting shiny togs, and the boys’ joyful faces, is all I remember.

Problem is, that stuff’s not recyclable. Too high of a metallic content. In fact, most Christmas wrap, glommed all over with tape, gets rejected in the end: too much plastic. 

This year, to add to my perennial conflict between wanting the brightest, shiniest, bring-back-my-innocent-childhoodiest gift wrap and wanting to, y’know, save the Earth, I was asked by our local Dump to write an article promoting zero waste in the Christmas season. The info they sent me included stats like this:

Garbage increases by 25% nationally over the holidays—that’s an extra 25 million tons. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable, due to metal or plastic content or tape. Then there are those 2.65 billion annually discarded Christmas cards, not to mention 38,000 miles of discarded ribbon, enough to tie a bow around the whole earth.

Sigh…I felt like I was writing that article to myself.

The Dump folks also included a link to this wonderful, crafty blog, Suburble, written by a way-cooler-sounding-than-Martha-Stewart woman named Tara. Tara walks you through the steps of making your own reusable Christmas bags, like this:

I could do that! I could even wear that!

I could do that! I could even wear that!

I have a sewing machine. I have tons of cool fabric bits. What remains is to wrestle my pre-awareness-of-global-crisis enthusiasm for VERY BAD WRAP and translate it into enough enthusiasm for FABRIC BAGS that I will actually sit down and make some.


I could take my own advice from that article, and make gift wrap out of decorated paper bags. That sounds like a fun day for my inner child.


I could take some more advice and collect pretty grasses and dried flowers to tie onto gifts. But it’s pretty wet out there. That inner-child thing’s looking better all the time.

Anyone else wrestling with this? A support group would be nice.

Germany Says “Enough!” To Christmas Commercialization Creep; What Do You Say?

How early is too early to hear Christmas carols in a shopping center? Does “Black Friday” ruin the Thanksgiving holiday? Is there something wrong with Christmas lights going up in November?

These are not new questions for us Americans. The tug-of-war between keeping Christmas special and maximizing both its joy and its bottom line has been going on since I can remember, and I’m not what they call “young.”

But I’ve been interested to notice lately, on the edges of the news, stories about Germans pushing back against “Christmas Creep.” There is even talk of regulating when Christmasy treats can begin to be sold! The Christian Science Monitor cites a recent German poll on the subject:

According to the survey, done by the polling institute YouGov for the news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 1 in 3 Germans want the government to regulate when stores can start selling Christmas gingerbread cakes and other Christmas goodies. Most of the survey’s 1,000 respondents say that that date should be Nov. 30. Half say the early display of Christmas commercialism erodes the meaning of Christmas.

Yep, that’s right: the government telling stores when they’re allowed to start selling. Can you wrap your head around such an idea even being uttered in America, let alone approved of?

Sigh. Of COURSE I don’t want that kind of regulation in my own country. But. I sure wish consumers and advertisers could get together and make their own “regulation”–i.e., common sense. Respect. Dare I say “honor”–of the meaning of Christmas?

What a hoot. Get a grip, Wing.

Germany and Austria are also apparently waging a war against Santa Claus–bless their hearts. According to the website dw.de, 

Bettina Schade says she doesn’t have anything personal against Santa Claus. In fact, she likes a lot of things about today’s celebrations of Christmas — the lighted trees, the gold ornaments, the silver stars.

But all the material things, the hectic rush to buy gifts, and the ubiquity of the bearded man in the red suit are taking away from the core meaning of Christmas. She’d like to see things changed, or at least toned down a little.

“The Christian origins of Christmas, like the birth of Jesus, have receded into the background,” she said. “It’s becoming more and more a festival that is reduced to simply worldly gifts and to commerce.”

She is part of a campaign called the Frankfurter Nicholas Initiative, founded by a Roman Catholic priest in Frankfurt, Eckhard Bieger. Alarmed by the growing commercialization of Christmas in Germany, he launched the initiative that’s aimed at putting St. Nicholas, a fourth-century monk, back in the Christmas spotlight where he used to be.

The article goes on to point out what all Americans ought to know (though I’m guessing that most don’t), which is that our current image of Jolly Old Saint Nick was created for, and promoted by, the Coca-Cola Company. The “real” St. Nicholas would probably not have sold too many fizzy drinks. Which is kinda the point.

Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia; Jonathan Meath portraying Santa)

Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia; Jonathan Meath portraying Santa)

I am not intending here a discussion of the so-called “War on Christmas”–you’ll need to go to someone else’s blog for that. But I am interested to hear if my readers have similar ideas on when is a good season for Christmassy “stuff,” and when is not. Perhaps you hate seeing wrapping paper on sale in October, for example, but still enjoy Christmas lights as soon as Daylight Savings Time kicks in.

Can you articulate when you like to begin to see, hear and smell “Christmas,” and when you do not–and why?

Moo-rry Cow-ristmas: Letting Holiday Traditions Evolve

We’ve added a new tradition to our family Christmas: cow-catching.

Following the special breakfast, which I’d gotten up early to bake, and the gift-opening, which didn’t take that long since there are only four of us and we’re all adults now (despite the fact that my husband and I can still be pretty immature), and the mid-morning hike, and the preliminary, early-afternoon dinner prep, Son #2 and I took our dog for a walk. When we returned, we found cows in our front yard.

Lucy 1
Two of ’em. Well, one cow and one steer. (Hey, I’m a country girl, I know my farm animals.) Basic black–at least from a distance. Up close, the female turned out to be much more stylish. Her back was a nice russet color, her udder nearly white, and she sported a gorgeous red topknot–or would that be a cowlick?–on her forehead. We named her Lucy. Her escort, the steer, was a little plainer, and more shy. Bo, we decided. Bo kept his distance while Lucy accepted the carrot we fed her and licked our hands with her giant tongue.

My little family sprang into action. While I made phone calls to neighbors, then the sheriff, trying to determine if anyone knew whose cows these were, husband procured rope and Son #1 hid it behind his back while #2 distracted Lucy with another carrot. Soon she was tied to a handy telephone pole. (No attempt was made to capture Bo. Hey, we’re Washingtonians, not Texans. Real roping? Forget it.)

Unfortunately all our neighborliness went for naught. Despite someone from the sheriff’s office assuring me they’d find someone to “take care of it,” no one called us back. When darkness fell, we decided we couldn’t leave poor Lucy tied up all night, so we let her loose to find the feckless Bo, who’d ditched her. (I heard ’em walk past our bedroom window last night, so I guess she did, then returned hoping for another carrot snack.)

Lucy 2

We don’t have many Christmas traditions, we Wings. Extended family is too far away to visit, and we’re a pretty pagan bunch, so The Church of the Great Outdoors is where we go to “worship.” We always go for a hike or at least a walk, even if it’s raining sideways like a couple of years ago. Here are our others:

Preparing food, then eating it, that’s a biggie. (This year, Son #2 made the chocolate pecan pie; I was so proud!)

Playing silly games like Yahtzee or Bananagrams–check.

Watching dumb movies on TV–check. Last night we switched back and forth between Pirates of the Caribbean III and Ocean’s 13.

Calling far-flung family members and friends–check.

Ummm…guess that’s about it. I know I could feel more sentimental or nostalgic about our lack of special traditions. We don’t have special dishes that we use only on Christmas, or a special grace to say. We don’t even have one special meal that we always have.

We just enjoy each other’s company. That’s our tradition, and it evolves beautifully with our evolving ages. (The four of us now total 163 years, if that tells you anything.) These days both boys have been playing a lot of guitar, teaching each other new chords and strums. Who knows what it will be next year? More cows? Sheep, pigs? Bring ’em on. As long as we can catch them TOGETHER, it’ll be plenty traditional for me.

What about you? What are your favorite holiday traditions? Any new ones evolving? Do share!

Christmas With a Hole In It

A good friend of mine lost her husband the other day. He was 93, and failing, and everyone, my friend included, saw his gentle departure as a release. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. And now, here comes Christmas.

I have been incredibly, ridiculously, blessed thus far in my life to be practically untouched by tragedy. When I was fifteen I lost my grandmother who lived next door to us (actually, in a little house in our pasture–my sisters and I used to have to escort her visiting friends past our vicious geese), my Oma. But Oma died suddenly, in a car accident during a vacation back to her native Germany. My father had her buried there. My grief was shocked by suddenness and muffled by distance, and took decades to work itself out. But to date, that has been my only experience with family tragedy, and it was never immediate in the way of someone dying at home.

But even when I wasn’t fully attuned to my grief, I missed Oma most at Christmas. 

(courtesy yamahahometheatre.org)

(courtesy yamahahometheatre.org)

There are so many reasons why it’s hardest to lose someone at this time of year, or why earlier losses become sharper in December. It’s dark. It’s cold. Everyone else is so damn cheery. Happy music plays everywhere. Lights twinkle. And someone is missing.

Maybe the hole is a place at the table. Maybe it’s a dish they used to make. (Oma, super-German, baked herself silly at Weihnachten: Lebkuchen, Pfeffernusse, Stollen. Even though I love to bake, I never make her special treats–they were too much hers.)

Maybe it’s a dish your loved one used to adore, like mashed potatoes, or perhaps an ornament they made that catches at your heart as you hang it on the tree. Christmas brings up the past so beautifully, and so relentlessly.

So I wonder, now that Solstice is past and we begin our slow move back toward the lighter days that still seem so far away: who are you thinking of this holiday? What holes do you wish you could fill? How do you honor your grief in such a happy season? How do you help others honor theirs?

Christmas Shopping. Shopping, Period. Is it Really an X-chromosome Thing, and If So, Am I a Guy?

I’ve said this before: You know those license-plate frames, “I’d Rather Be Shopping At Nordstrom’s?” If I owned one of those, it would have a big red slash through it.

In other words, I’d rather be doing almost ANYTHING than shopping at Nordstrom’s. Or any place attached to a mall.

(orig. image courtesy lenenaevdal.com)

(orig. image courtesy lenenaevdal.com)

But still, I entered the gaping maw of the Beast this past Monday in order to “allow” my husband to buy me my (late) birthday gift, a gold chain to replace the one I lost this summer.

I’m still feeling guilty about going to a chain store (HA! pun SO not intended!) to buy that chain. Somewhere out there is a lil’ mom ‘n’ pop jewelry store, and I’m positive that my missing $$$ in their till is probably what will make the difference in sliding them into bankruptcy this year. Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Pop.

But you see, husband & I were in Eugene…we weren’t expected at our friends’ house for another hour…we had some time to kill…and my birthday was six weeks ago…and there are NO jewelry stores that sell plain old jewelry on our island. (Adorable earrings made from shells and crystals–yes. Gold chains–no.)

And…chain stores are way cheaper. And gold is expensive already. Dang it–still feeling guilty. ANYWAY.

As soon as I walked into the mall, I remember why I rarely walk into malls, and my husband felt it even worse. At Christmastime, yet! At least it was Monday–“Cyber Monday,” in fact–so it wasn’t all that crowded. But the music and the displays were still overwhelming. I picked out my chain, tried it on, watched husband pay for it, and we got out of there. I swear he was shuddering.

Later, we compared notes with our friends, who have two middle school-aged daughters…who adore shopping. Their mom, who’s more like me, sighed, saying she forces herself to go to the mall with her girls from time to time because they enjoy it so much. Didn’t I do that with my kids?

Nope. I have BOYS. They “love” the mall as much as their dad does.

That led to a spirited discussion of whether and why boys are less into malls than girls. Is it because boys are less into clothing, and malls are more about clothes shopping than, say, Legos, or electronics?

(orig. image courtesy publicdomainpictures.net)

(orig. image courtesy publicdomainpictures.net)

We decided we needed more “data.” Not the kind where you do actual research. I mean the kind where I ask,

What do y’all think? In your experience, are girls truly more into shopping than boys, or is this just a stereotype? IF this happens, what, in your opinion, is driving it?

And then I sit back and wait to hear what you have to say.