The modern celebration of Christmas is anything but silent, isn't it? We seem to do more, go more, buy more, eat more, drive more...and it all adds up to noise! I know it seems Grinch-like to complain about noise at Christmas, but I think we all crave a bit of calm this time of year. Just consider our response to the song "Silent Night."
"Silent Night" is one of the most beloved carols in the world.
It was declared "an intangible cultural heritage" by UNESCO in 2011. It's been recorded hundreds of times by singers in every genre, and Bing Crosby's rendition is the third best-selling single of all time. For many who go to church on Christmas Eve, singing "Silent Night" with family and strangers while holding a lighted candle is one of the highlights of the season.
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
'Round yon virgin mother and child,
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
What is the appeal of this simple song? Is it the melody, a beautiful lullaby with a rocking lilt? Is it the words, which speak of an awe and wonder that lead to peace and rest?
The candle-lit "Silent Night" that we love is the still point between the bustle of holiday activities and the excitement of Christmas morning.
It's the eye of the storm. The holiday whirlwind can be a lot of fun, but I think we also need a bit of quiet and contemplation.
Why not give yourself the gift of at least one silent night this holiday season? Take a break from baking and wrapping and Christmas card addressing. Turn off the TV, the computer, your phone, and the oft-repeated jangle of Santa songs and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Take a few deep cleansing breaths and get ready to enjoy some awe and peace.
Choose a clear night, if you can. Bundle up and take a walk to admire your neighborhood's holiday lights. Stroll. This isn't a race or a workout. If there's a park near you, walk away from the busy street so you can see the moon and stars. The winter constellations are so brilliant! My favorite is Orion, with the orange star Betelgeuse, diamond-blue Rigel, and the incredibly bright Sirius following behind.
For just a few minutes, sit on a bench in the silence and the darkness and the radiance of the sky.
Make your way back home. In a quiet room, light several candles. If you're in the living room, turn on the Christmas tree lights and start a blaze in the fireplace or wood stove. Sit quietly and sip on some hot cocoa, hot cider, a glass of wine, or some herbal tea. Continue to breath deeply, enjoying the warmth of the fire and the candlelight.
If you start to feel sleepy, why not go to bed early? You can always get up early and do the chores you feel are pressing. Or you can catch up on needed sleep by getting up at your usual time.
If your mind is awake as you sit in silence and firelight, you could write in your gratitude journal, or read a Christmas story such as "The Gift of the Magi," "The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey," or "The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree." Sure, these are children's books, but the stories are timeless and true to the heart of Christmas.
If you feel even more inspired, why not draw a picture or write a poem? I don't consider myself a poet, but last year I was inspired to try.
Sun goes down,
Lamps turned on all over town.
Moon in mist,
First star's light,
Long awaited Christmas night.
Joy and peace
Come to you,
May Christmas fill your heart anew.
End the evening by softly singing "Silent Night," or play it on an instrument if you know how. Even though it means using your phone or the computer, you could listen to Bing Crosby's 1947 recording on YouTube, or check out recordings by Stevie Nicks, Kathleen Battle, and Pentatonix.
You may love this light-filled, quiet interlude so much that you want to make time to do it more than once during the season.
Alone, or with your family joining you, a Silent Night may be the making of your holiday.