Christmas, Ritual, and Repetition
Rev. David J. Fekete, Ph.D.
One of the things I like about the Christmas season are Christmas songs on the radio. They intone pleasant, special memories from my past. There’s a sublime still about Christmas that is
unique to the season. When I hear Christmas songs, I think of the hour-long, night drive we would make to grandma’s house through the wooded Michigan roads to her cottage on a lake.
During the drive, my father would have the Christmas station on the radio, playing Christmas songs. Then there were my cousins, uncles, and grandparents, gift exchange, from grandma, grandpa, and uncle Fran, and aunt Marge’s spiked egg nog. All this and special still are called up and echo in my spirit with Christmas. Yet Christmas songs are the same songs several times a day, or hour. Usually, even the same recording and artist. And that’s OK. Each time I hear these songs, the mood and the memories of grandma’s cottage and the ride there, and all, come back. It’s like egg nog. Stores here only sell it during the Christmas/New Year’s season. Then it’s off the shelves. Likewise, these old favorites are played only during the Christmas season, and hence herald the season and call forth the feelings and memories of Christmas. This is very different from pop songs when they are played over and over. I tire of hearing them and the constant repetition turns them into noise for me.
What I am talking about is the power of ritual. When chants, songs, and intoned words are used for sacred occasions, they take on a ritual power. Then, repetition enhances the spiritual experience. Each time the passage is spoken or sung it invokes the original sacred experience and experiences build and strengthen like resonance. Ritual prayers like the Lord’s Prayer or the Rosary can have a like effect. Also, sacraments such as the Eucharist, or marriage (in Catholicism), or religious liturgy itself happen in this way.
And so I love the same songs of Christmas over and over again, chants, and sacraments. Theirs is a special feeling and mental activity. My spirituality would be impoverished without them and is richer for them.