Memories of Holiday Music

Whether on SiriusXM or YouTube, in concert venues or churches, on busy “city sidewalks” or quietly at home, music is a special part of our holiday season.  Performed on the piano, organ, orchestral instruments, guitar or even “silver bells,” the sounds of music are all around us. 

My maternal grandparents lived on an 80-acre farm in Minnesota. Like most farmers in that era, they had a “one-horse open sleigh.” When we were children, the big, sleek horse and sleigh were long gone, but Grandpa still had the sleigh bells, photos and lots of stories. On Christmas Eve, he would shake those bells, incognito of course, to let us know Santa was on the rooftop. Oh, how we giggled with delight. 

It was easy to imagine what it was like to ride in the sleigh and one wintry day years later, I had the opportunity to ride in my cousin’s sleigh drawn by his team of magnificent Clydesdales through the “white and drifted snow.” I still have a special piece of the worn leather strap with three sleigh bells on it. I occasionally shake them and dream of  “dashing through the snow” and  “laughing all the way.”

Another of my precious holiday music memories at my Grandparents involves their big, black upright player piano – a treasure purchased from a traveling piano salesman back in the early 1900’s. They had a big stack of piano rolls and it was great fun for the grandchildren to pump the pedals making them go ‘round and ‘round, but that was for another day. On Christmas Eve, Grandma herself played the much-loved piano as we gathered around and sang Christmas carols including “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

If you’d like to share a holiday music memory or two, please do so in the comment section. 

May your days be “merry and bright” and who knows, maybe our 2021 Christmas will be white.


19 thoughts on “Memories of Holiday Music

  1. Great blog and message! Thank you……. Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you, Keith and Levi and staff!

    • That’s fun to know her piano was special in your life. At lot of children have been blessed to learn how to play piano through you.
      Keith electrified my Grandma’s piano with a motor about 45 years ago… now he installs the amazing computerized PianoDisc systems. We’ve come a long way, baby. LOL Happy Holidays to you and Jules.

  2. Sweet stories Joann. The Holidays bring those special memories to mind. Mine did not include pianos but have cousins, Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents at the top! Happy times.
    Wishing you and your family a very Blessed Holiday Season!

  3. One Christmas season back in the early 1990’s, I went into the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville after a prayer meeting, to play Christmas hymns on the grand piano there. I went through a lot of the hymns in the Baptist hymnal, thrilled by the sound of the piano in the large space, when I ended, as always, with Silent Night. All of a sudden, about halfway through, a booming, magnificent baritone voice joined in, completely and gloriously filling the sanctuary with the words to the music I was playing. When I dared to look up to see who had joined me, it was the janitor, leaning on his broom, with his hands lifted! After we finished, there was a holy hush, and finally I said, “You can sing!”, and he said, “And you can play the piano!’

    • What a precious memory! It gives me “goose bumps.” I’ve already called two people who might have known that man. Thank you for sharing!

      • Did that singing janitor have thick white hair and a football player’s build? That would have been my Daddy who passed away not long after that. ☺️

        • Strangely enough, I don’t remember exactly what the janitor looked like, just his magnificent voice! It could have been your father, though, because he was a large man, and it was somewhere around 1990. It truly was a beautiful moment in time, and still is a gift to me from God! How great is our God to give us these gifts through each other! Blessings to you, and Merry Christmas, remembering your wonderful father!

  4. In 1969 (now 52 years ago), I was working in Europe, and I took a 2 week tour (with a tour group) of the Holy Land and the Middle East. We were in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, being at the service conducted in the Church of the Nativity by the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan at midnight. (The Church of the Nativity is under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.) I must say that rather than being moving, it was more of a circus, being packed with people, and everyone jostling around trying to arrange their friends in front of the alter for a photograph as the service took place. Then after the service was over and we left the church, there was a very large farm wagon parked in the central square near the church, with a fairly large choir from the western part of the U.S. singing country western versions of Christmas Carols. This was all less than the moving experience I was expecting.

    But we were staying in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which is at least an hour or more bus ride from Bethlehem traveling on a road across the dark desert. This was just 2 years after the 6-Day War between Israel and it’s Arab neighbors and security was high. Along the dark highway, we’d see small groups (4-6) of soldiers, huddled around a fire, with their guns propped up, and usually a jeep type vehicle parked nearby. It was late and we were tired, but at some point, someone on the bus began singing “Silent Night.” A few more began to sing, and then more joined in. We spent the rest of the trip to Jerusalem singing Christmas Carols . That trip across the dark desert in the Middle East with the periodic little fires in the distance along the road and a group of tired travelers singing Christmas carols on a dark bus, has got to be the most moving holiday music event that I’ve ever experienced.

  5. Great Blog! It contained smilar Christmas memories that we 5 Merritt siblings used to experience. If you can deal with Minnesota weather in December, then vintage Minnesota Christmases are where memories are made.

  6. Nice Blog! I too share the memories you have Joann and aren’t we lucky to have grown up with the family we did! Happy holidays to all!

  7. Beautiful Story – TY
    A Christmas Record we had when I was a child was Leontyne Price’s A Christmas Offering.
    One year I caught the Flu the week before Christmas and remember not being able to sleep with fever and aches.
    I had a Stereo Hi Fi set sitting on a TV Cart in my bedroom that I would play all my LP’s on.
    One night I put on the Leontyne Price record and just kept ejecting the arm so I would play over and over. I remember not feeling well and just staring at the spinning record and listening to the beautiful Voice, singing Christmas Carols.
    It has always been a Special Christmas Album for me.

    Just looking at the Christmas Cover takes me immediately to that night I was sick and comforted by the soft Christmas Carols

  8. One of our family’s traditions was to watch Almah and the Night Visitors on b/w tv every year – Menotti’s 60 minute opera. I wish we could still do that annually! Or course it’s a fictional story, but it was such a pure emotional experience. I think if it was required viewing, we could cure the California drought quicker than the snows!

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