Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 12.23.04
Stanstead, Quebec


Little Drummer Boy, etcetera etcetera

A news item last week reported that a school district in Illinois has apparently banned Christmas music on school buses. This being the holiday season, parents are naturally upset. This being the USA, lawyers are naturally involved.

"Your order that no Christmas carols be played under these circumstances constitutes an illegal suppression of the rights of our clients' children under the First Amendment," blustered one couple's attorney. "It also reflects illegal hostility directed against Christianity."

Not mentioned in the news story are the bus drivers themselves. Although the school district claims it is banning music of all types for safety reasons (enforcement just happens to be taking place around Christmastime), you kind of suspect it all boils down to a driver wanting to plow his bus into a tree if he hears "The Little Drummer Boy" one more freakin' time!

Christmas music is everywhere, starting sometime after Halloween. But really it has little Christian influence. No one ever hears N'Sync singing "O Holy Night" and thinks, "Hmmm, I must to church." The music is simply part of the seasonal landscape, like snow on the ground and co-workers throwing up eggnog in the parking lot. Besides, "Let It Snow" isn't really about Christmas. And Garth Brooks' "White Christmas" isn't really music.

Christmas music is more about sentiment and marketing than Christianity. The proof can be found in our old collection of Christmas LPs, passed on by my wife's family. There you will find a Sixties-era LP of Christmas favorites by a nice Jewish girl named Barbra Streisand. It was a promotional giveaway from Canada Dry.

Our collection also includes an album called The Story of Snoopy's Christmas, performed by the band The Quiet Jungle. What? You don't remember The Quiet Jungle?

When my brother-in-law was visiting recently, we had a disagreement about the quality of this so-called Christmas classic, which was his as a child. He argued that it was fantastic. I argued that he was blinded by nostalgia and that it would make even the most even-tempered bus driver start aiming for the woods. We agreed to disagree even though I know I'm right.

Two nights later, we were having a hard time getting Abby to bed. It was late and she was freaking out over something or other (wrong PJ? too many plot holes in the bedtime story?). Nothing would console her. That's when Deb suggested I go downstairs and put on some Christmas music to calm her down. The older kids, all in their own beds, called out, "Yeah!"

"Are you serious?" I said.

She was. Abby is crazy for Christmas this year (her version of "Jingle Bells": "Jingle bells, all the way, HEY!" and repeat) so why not try? I found the shortest LP I could find, one that's right up there with the Snoopy album, The Ray Conniff Singers - gaggingly schmaltzy, happy, happy music filtered through echo-chambers. God, I hate it!

As the chirpy chorus blared, I climbed into bed and turned to Deb saying, "This is NOT a precedent." She smiled and soon I found myself back downstairs putting on Side 2.

It did the trick; Abby calmed down and dozed off between us. And though I went to sleep with eyes clamped shut against the horrible images of shag rugs, leisure suits and highball glasses, I came to realize the true spirit of Christmas music. It's not about imposing your religious beliefs on others. It's about imposing your dreadful music on others. One man's "Ave Maria" is another man's Alvin & The Chipmunks. What's important is that we appreciate the gift of music, even if that gift is the equivalent of receiving a wall-mounted singing fish. Of course, now my kids want Christmas music blasting every night as they fall asleep. I think they might be calling a lawyer.