This is really a follow up to a post I wrote ages ago about singing with your children, though you can think of it as the Christmas version. As I reread through that previous post, I agree with it all (that's probably good, huh?), if not more so. I am struck with how we surround ourselves nearly continuously with music, via MP3 devices and such things, yet the ability to make music ourselves seems to continue to plummet.
Over the 15+ years of piano teaching and children's choir directing, I have noticed that more and more children are unaware of their cultural heritage of hymns. While being unaware of traditional hymns in general doesn't surprise me (churches need to sing them if children are going to learn them, usually), I am always surprised by the basic ignorance of Christmas carols. (Please note, that this is for children being raised in Christian families. If Christianity is not part of your beliefs, then it makes sense not to teach its songs to your children.) Usually these children are quite good at the secular songs... Jingle Bells, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Rudolph, etc. And while these songs are fun and I sing them with my children, they don't really communicate what the season is really about.
My plea to you is to sing with your children! Sing the carols. Sing all the verses (there is real theology in those carols). Turn off the music and make some yourselves. Singing the words is the best way to lodge them deep in your children's hearts and minds. Sing together even if you don't like the way you sing. The vocal chords strengthen with practice, the more you sing, the better you sound. You will be creating wonderful family memories.
Another of our family's favorite traditions is to sing Christmas carols together. We sing on the Sunday evenings of Advent after lighting the advent candles. We sing on Christmas Eve after dinner and before bed. And we have a carol singing party with our good friends the H-S family and the P family. This is what we did last night. It was wonderful to gather around the piano together and listen to all the voices sing the carols celebrating Jesus' birth together. And last Sunday and last night were made even better because we were joined by M.'s boyfriend who plays guitar which added to the music. Even H., who has only been home a year and a half knows some carols now and has a personal favorite (Joy to the World.).
It is the parents' responsibility to pass on the things of our faith to our children, and this includes hymns. Do not let these pieces of depth and beauty be lost, to be found only in the pages of a dusty hymnal. Teach them to your children... even if it means learning them yourselves first.
And here is a Christmas carol quiz. Some of the later verses of many carols are even more beautiful and meaningful than the first. Here are some of my favorites. Can you identify which carol they go to? (I have not written out the entire verse... to add to the challenge.) I'll give the answers tomorrow.
1. "Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth."
2. "And ye, beneath life's crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With Painful steps and slow, Look now! for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing:"
3. "Jesus to thee be all glory given; Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing!"
4. "No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found,"
5. "O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!"
6 "Therefore Christian men be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing."