Days of Christmas Time
A Video Christmas Card
Have you noticed? I’ve taken a two month break from Loose Cannon Boost. It has been lovely, no weekly deadline. But in spite of my silence, I’ve been thinking about you, dear subscribers, and wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays with this video greeting card. I hope to build up some writing steam again after the holidays.
“Days of Christmas Time” Background
This song is based on an old California Gold Rush song, “The Days of ’49,” with which it shares a sentimental view of the past. Whether the good old days were all that good can be debated, but there is something about the original song that is beguiling, particularly when the protagonist sings that he is a “relic of bygone days.” Those simple words have always struck me as both poetic and prophetic. Nostalgia is a disparaged emotion these days, but the root of nostalgia in the Greek literally means “the return to home.” We can all relate to that.
I’m proud of my Christmas song because it’s true and, while based on an old song, it is original in its message. So many new Christmas songs are cheap copies of the old ones.
For the holiday season of 2020, I decided to release the song as a single. I hired an expert to help get the song played on the radio and we did a small publicity campaign. I hoped this song would captivate the world. I loved the arrangement, with its old-timey, street brass band feel, and most of all, I was confident in its message. The song questions our obsessive materialism. It suggests that we deserve coal in our stockings and that Mr. Santa is going away until we open our hearts again to the spirit of giving. It’s not just about material generosity; it’s about a society that can’t seem to get along or display a generosity of spirit, particularly for those in need or those who don’t think like we do.
I might have been right about the validity of the message but I could not have been more wrong about the song’s chance for success. They say it’s all about timing and this was the season where humanity got slapped in face with the COVID-19 pandemic. People lost their jobs. They could not be together at Christmas. Many people lost dear friends and family. We wanted comfort and familiarity over the holidays. It was exactly the wrong time to wag my finger and chide the world.
A Navajo Christmas
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to interview the late Diné humorist, songwriter, lecturer, and cartoonist Vincent Craig—a friend and a true Renaissance man. He recalled Christmas with his seven siblings and his single mother growing up poor on the edge of Route 66 in New Mexico. His mom would hitchhike from Fort Wingate to Gallup each day where she earrned a meager living cleaning hotel rooms in order to feed her children. Vincent wondered aloud where she got any extra money at all for Christmas, but she always found small, thoughtful gifts for each child. As we talked, I remarked that Christmas is a Christian holiday based on the giving of gifts and that it seemed to me that the gift is also a central theme in Native American ceremony.
I had struck a chord. Vincent started talking excitedly, going back and forth between English and Navajo about how the concept of the gift is central to the philosophy of every Indian prayer he could think of. He told me, “When the Navajo pray, they don’t say, ‘I want this and I want that.’ It’s always, ‘May my gift be this or may I be able to glean my gift into something better and may I be of service to you and my family and mankind.’ You don’t get in the position of bargaining with the creator. Rather, you say ‘Thank you for all you’ve given me. Thank you for this. Thank you for that.’ And then those things you want to be relieved of, you leave those in the hands of the creator: ‘May these things pass from me.’ It’s almost like saying, ‘May this cloud be lifted.’”
We all know, deep down, that the meaning of this day and other days of faith, regardless of religious affiliation, abounds in private acts of tradition, faith and giving. Like Saint Nick as I imagined him in this song, I hope we find the way.
You see before you old Saint Nick
A relic of bygone days
The people call me Santa Claus
But what care I for praise
For when I think of the days that’s passed
It makes me weep and pine
For the days of old and the stories bold
And the days of Christmas time
My friends all call me old Kris K
You’ve seen me with the bell
I walk your streets with flowing beard
And ring in the Noël
You turn from me and gaily step
Into your Christmas cheer
And in the cold I walk that road
To hunger and despair
There’s Joe the Elf, one of the boys
You’ll find him on the street
He walks the aisles of church bazaars
And picks a pocket neat
He used to work with his good hands
When those jobs paid just fine
But now he’s found that he’s hell bound
In the days of Christmas time
There’s Prancer and Dancer and Donner and Blitzen
A snorty bunch were they
All around the northern plains
They galloped and they played
They’re rounded up and tethered down
They are the rich man’s pet
No more they fly on Christmas Eve
And yet we all forget
Of all the comrades I had then, there’s none left but me
And now I’ve left your city lights for a life of charity
But I’ll return when faith’s renewed
On some grand Christmas Day
I’ll see you then, God bless you friends
I hope you’ll find the way
Petition: May we recognize saints on the street
“The Days Of Christmas Time” is a traditional melody based on “The Days of ’49.” Lyrics are by Hal Cannon. Musical arrangement is by Ricklen Nobis. The paintings and animation for the lyric video are by Lisa Bastoni: http://www.lisabastoni.com
Michael Greene and Ryan Tilby recorded the song. Dave Tate mixed it. And James Anderson did the mastering.
Hal Cannon–vocal, banjo-guitar; Gus Bigdanow and Evan Taylor–trumpets; Mark Robinette–euphonium; Dan Bryce–tuba; Glenn Webb–percussion.