November 30, 2021
As our family makes a list – and is checking it twice – of all the Christmas movies, shows, Hallmark specials, etc., that we want to see, high on our list is Burl Ives and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Made in 1964, this “clay stop motion” TV special tells the story of Rudolph in a very ingenious way. With his glowing red nose, Rudolph is often treated as a freak and outcast at the North Pole. His parents try to hide their son’s uniqueness, and they are embarrassed by Rudolph’s red nose.
Mixed into this is a little elf named Hermey, who doesn’t want to be a toymaker. Instead, Hermey dreams of being a dentist. On top of all of this, there is the Island of Misfit Toys (e.g., a pink spotted elephant, a train with square wheels, and a boat that can’t float).
Burl Ives – who voices Sam the Snowman – starts the show by crooning:
Have a holly jolly Christmas
It’s the best time of the year
Now I don’t know if there’ll be snow
But have a cup of cheer
Have a holly jolly Christmas
And when you walk down the street
Say hello to friends you know
And everyone you meet
For many, Burl Ives’ singing snowman really captures the mood of this season. They would agree with other song lyrics: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
But for many others, the King – Elvis Presley – hit the old proverbial nail on the head when he sang: “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.”
For many, either because of death, COVID-19, distance, family disputes, breakups, and more, the Christmas season will feel like “down at the end of Lonely Street, at Heartbreak Hotel.” Surveys by mental health experts document the grief some people feel during this time of year.
The singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell wrote about a breakup that occurred during the holiday season. She felt doubly miserable about it because everyone around her was so merry and full of joy. She sang, “I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”
At my old home church, Unity of Fairfax, we held something called “Blue Christmas” around this time of year. Everybody was invited, and both those who were “down” and those who were “up” would attend. Those feeling down were given several positive suggestions for coping with the Christmas blues. Those who felt up were also given some very good ideas about how to help people experiencing a “blue Christmas.”
I remember some of those sage suggestions:
- Don’t give up on gratitude: Keep writing gratitude lists – center on the many wonderful things you have.
- Enjoy what you can: A key loved one may be gone or missing from the table, but there are many great things to enjoy this time of year – from free concerts to beautiful lights.
- Be of love and service to others: The best way to get out of your garbage is to help somebody else get out of their garbage.
- When feeling the joy, pass it on: Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was thanked by thousands of people for what he did. Bill would always respond by saying, “Pass it on!”
- You don’t have to do everything and go to every party this time of year: “No” is a complete sentence. And if you go, you don’t have to be the last one to leave.
- Remember a key Buddhist concept for Christmas: All things in this world end – even the holiday season. This can be taken two different ways. First, this pain or blue feeling will pass, and/or second, the Christmas season will not last forever. So enjoy it while you can!
- It is okay to be different and feel blue even if it seems that the rest of the world is holly and jolly.
If the truth be told, I bet even Burl Ives said “Bah, humbug” at least once in his life during the Christmas season.