A Christmas song

I love this song. Every year on the first Sunday of advent it gets played over Sunday lunch (and many times thereafter). It was originally written by Johannes Brahms, the German Romantic composer, and is sung below by Celine Dion in French. Not sure why I love it really – but here are a few suggestions:

  • The fact that it is in French makes me listen a little harder
  • The sound of  distant bells which introduces it reminds me of many happy visits to Backi Petrovac – a Slovak village where the sound of such bells often filled the air.
  • I love its evocation of homeliness, nestling amongst the mighty mountains.
  • It reminds me of a German text I had to study many years ago – Bergkristall by Adalbert Stifter (see explanation below)

In Stifter’s little book, two children who are crossing the mountains from one village to another on Christmas Eve are trapped overnight on the mountain top. They survive the night, and return safely to their worried and angry families. During the night they have a miraculous encounter with something which may be the Northern Lights…or may be Christ himself. The children are in no doubt, with the youngest scampering straight into the arms of his mother crying “Mutti, Mutti, ich hab’ das Kristkind gesehen’ (‘mummy, mummy, I saw the Christchild). The adults in the story, along with those who read it, are left with a choice between scepticism and wonder. Those twin polarities face many at Christmastime, I suppose.

'Winter, by Friedrich Caspar - image: creative commons

Every time I look at this painting, by another German Romantic, I wonder what the story is.(You can click on the image  for a larger version)  Has the man discarded his crutches in despair, or joy? Is he healed or desperate? Why is is he praying at the wayside cross when there is a church nearby? Like Stifter’s adults, maybe I must make a choice between scepticism and wonder.

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