Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

I've always loved the Christmas season, and look forward anxiously to its arrival. And, although i know this bothers many people, I start listening to Christmas Music on November 1st, because 1 month is simply not long enough to enjoy all the music I love. One of my new favorite Christmas songs is I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Although I grew up singing this song, I never really liked it and felt no connection to the song until I learned the story behind the song (isn't is true that things aren't nearly as meaningful until we understand the story behind what we can see?).

The words to the song were penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a well known American poet from the 1800's. In the early 1860s, Longfellow's wife's dress caught on fire, and she went up in flames. Longfellow tried to put the fire out with a small rug, but the fire was too large. He then proceeded to put the fire out using his own body. His wife died the next morning, and he was so badly burned that he couldn't attend her funeral. The beard that is typical in pictures of Longfellow is there because he could no longer shave because his face was so disfigured. This was also the time of the Civil War, and Longfellow's son had been badly wounded in battle. After these challenging few years, Longfellow was in a devastated state ("inwardly bleeding to death"), and felt that there was no peace or joy left, and all he could do was hang his head in despair. But then he walked outside on Christmas morning, I heard the bells ringing... and wrote this song (see link below to listen).

Understanding the story behind the words, I'm deeply moved by this song. As a counselor, I don't like to see people in pain, and at the same time, I know that from a state of pain there can come great growth and resilience. So, in some ways, I like to see the pain, because I know that we can work from there.

Songs can deeply move us, motivate us, and touch us in ways that a conversation can't.
If that doesn't work, you can click here to listen to the song!

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