Count my blessings? I'll have to take off my shoes and socks
Recently my wife asked me to name my favorite non-traditional Christmas song. I said "Christmas in Hollis", by Run-DMC, then mumbled about until I finally had to concede that one of my favorite modern holiday tunes is "Do They Know It's Christmas" -- the 1986 benefit song by British artists performing as Band-Aid.
Sure, the song's synthesizer-driven pop sound and concern for starving Ethiopian children is sooo 1980s. (Though it's a far superior piece of music than its American counterpart, "We are the World".) And there's a patronizing, white-man's-burden quality to the song's charitable tone. (What! No snow in Africa! How can you have a bleedin' proper Christmas without any snow!)
Yet for all its cheesiness, the song gets to me. When Bono belts out "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you," I belt it out, too. (Assuming I'm alone.) There's something about that lyric that's like a kick in the gut. How many times have we heard people say "There but for the grace of God go I", either as a figure of speech or as a sincere belief that they have been blessed by the Almighty. What many of us should be saying is "There but for being born to educated, middle-class parents in one of the most prosperous nations on Earth go I."
Trite as it sounds, the holidays offer the starkest reminder of this good fortune. There's nothing like pushing yourself away, stuffed, from the Christmas table, or loading up the car with your bounty of gifts, to make you realize that most of the problems in your life -- to borrow a phrase -- don't add up to a hill of beans. That's what that song says to me.
The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that my favorite modern holiday song is probably "The Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams, followed closely by "Fairy Tale of New York" as performed by the Pogues. In their own way, they each speak to loss and reconciliation, perfect themes for the holidays and the new year to come.