Thursday, January 7, 2010

Woodward: The Christmas Season

Technically, the Season of Christmas will continue for three more days, until the Baptism of the Lord this coming Sunday, January 10. But the Woodward Christmas tree came down today, and that brings the season to a close for us, sentimentally if not liturgically.

If there is a historical place and time associated with Christmas in the popular imagination (other than first-century Palestine, I mean) it's surely Victorian England, thanks to Charles Dickens. (Who wouldn't have enjoyed spending Christmas with the Cratchits, or the members of the Pickwick Club?) But for a long time now I have also thought of Christmas as a medieval holiday. Maybe because we have to go back pretty much that far to encounter a time when the feast was relatively free of the secularism and commercialism that disfigures Christmas nowadays.

I discovered this wonderful collection of medieval and Renaissance Christmas music, performed by Lionheart, only towards the end of the season this year, or I would have recommended it sooner. It is full of the quiet joy that Christmas itself must once have been full of. And it includes music devoted to almost every one of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. For example there is a song for December 29, "Seynt Thomas Honour We," to be sung on the feast of St. Thomas Becket. It includes this beguiling -- if unsettlingly graphic--pair of lines describing Thomas's martyrdom:

"The king but little while him spared:
Knights in church his crown off-pared."

Despite the lyrics, it's a lovely song.

Here's a downloadable sample--a medieval carol still popular today--to show you just how good Lionheart and this CD are.

See you in Ordinary Time.