Christmas and Ed Sheeran

By: JASON BAGUIA January 09,2018 - 08:55 PM


The phrase “Christmas in January” may sound jarring, but as anyone who went to Mass on any day until last Sunday would have noticed, Christmas is one long season rather than just a 24-hour holiday.

One would have noticed the Mass prayers referring to the Word of God becoming flesh apart from the more telling signs of the season: The lanterns and blinking lights that decked the church, the Nativity scene in the sanctuary, the songs chosen by musicians.

In at least three different churches in Metro Cebu — Santo Rosario Parish, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and Saint Joseph the Worker Parish — “Silent Night” was sung during the liturgy of the Eucharist in the days before the seventh of January when we celebrated the Epiphany — the revelation of the Savior to all nations represented by the magi who visited him in Bethlehem.

Music on the radio was a different story. Most of us noticed Christmas carols and secular holiday songs being played by starting September last year all the way through Allhallowtide and Advent. Then the Christmas music just stopped soon after Christmas Day. A notable exception could be heard on one radio station that still played the soundtrack of its Christmas station ID as I wrote this piece.

Many of us are still a long way from understanding the liturgical calendar, whose major feasts and seasons are movable depending on the waxing and waning of the moon. This is part of the legacy of Judaism on Christianity, just like how days are counted starting with sundown (which is why a Saturday evening Mass is called a Sunday Mass, Saturday by Jewish reckoning being already Sunday). This year, Christmas ended January 8, but it will end, due to lunar calculations, on January 13. For those who follow the Julian calendar rather than our Gregorian one, our January 7 was their December 25, so our brethren in both the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, respectively the second and third largest Christian confessions after Catholicism just began their 12 days of Christmas.

In any case, while popular radio has different ways, this does not mean the realities for which Christmas happened were lost to the airwaves. Even a song as mushy and ordinary as “All I Want for Christmas (Is You)” bespeaks human relationships that the Christ-child came to redeem and infuse with quality.

In the United Kingdom, the “Christmas No. 1,” — a coveted position atop the music charts during the week on which Christmas Day falls — went to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” a song that celebrates young love and the meeting of a soul mate, a track that is rather easy to sing along to and sounds familiar on first listen.

The video of the song which is set amid a wintry world may seem contrived. After all, ice and snow are not essential to the definition and celebration of Christmas. But I hazard that the song captured the popular imagination especially during Christmas through at least two routes.

First path is made up of the chords that accompany the song, which are very similar to that of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Second are the references in the lyrics to domestic life, to child-rearing, to home-making, intimations that go against the grain of much of popular music today, even Sheeran’s whose repertoire includes the carnal “Shape of You.”

In short, the lyrics of “Perfect” is pro-life, so much so that I started wondering whether the singer is Catholic. Through a background search on the Internet, I found out that Sheeran came from “a large Catholic family.” In addition, one version of “Perfect” is a duet with Beyonce Knowles (there is also a Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli version) who has an original “Ave Maria” inspired by Schubert’s. Schubert’s original has become a standard in Christmas albums and Catholic wedding rites since the 19th century.

“Perfect” exemplifies an original song that is beautiful because it honors the past and dignifies a primal human desire, the desire to build a family, and it is fitting for Christmas because it comes from a line of compositions that echo that crucial point of the Christmas story, when in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent to Galilee, to a town called Nazareth, to a woman named Mary, whom the angel greeted with “Ave Maria.”

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TAGS: carols, Christmas, during, Easter, ED, January, music, sheeran, track

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