It’s December, and this time of year is a heady mix of selflessness and selfishness. Surrounded by lights, greenery, and our loved ones we are at once reminded to do for others but to honor our own traditions and wishes. We’re accustomed to share our deeply personal beliefs at this time of year with the decorations on our homes, our acts in the community, and the greetings we give each other as we arrive at work and finish a purchase at the store. One of the most ubiquitous expressions of holiday cheer is the continuous stream of Christmas music that plays in stores, cars, homes, and even dental offices from the week of Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas.
As hearing people make their way through the world from Thanksgiving to Christmas, we may hear “The Christmas Song,” “You Make it Feel Like Christmas,” and “I’ll be Home for Christmas” at least once a day. Depending on their relationship to Christmas, these and songs like it can be an integral part of the listener’s tradition. These songs inform how we look at the holiday, how we treat our loved ones, and how hard we work to be together over the holiday. They’re treasures of the Christmas season. Kind of cool that they’re written and performed by Jews, huh?
These writers and singers are easily searched online, but one interview with Barry Manilow was particularly enlightening. As a Jewish person, he performs Christmas music because so many of the songs are classics that he enjoys as a professional, and that touch the hearts of his Christian friends. To this end he’s released entire albums of Christmas music.
As interpreters, this is a fantastic reminder. We can bring literal joy and a feeling of community to those we serve if we can set aside our own beliefs for a few minutes. We can accept the honor of being part of someone’s life even while we don’t personally believe as they do.
Photo by Thomas Tolkien