The view from my chair - The Charlie Brown Christmas tree


Submitted by Alan Gillies

G.E.M. Media

I’ve become so racially sensitive that I actually become self-conscious when I’m separating the whites from the coloureds to do laundry. Just as I do whenever I’m singing about a “white Christmas”.

As much as last week I was struggling to resurrect the Christmas spirit within myself, searching for it within both religious and secular music, it remains elusive.

It’s that time of year, and I can no longer deny it. While this past year I’ve sung the national anthem more than any other song, and around the world Canada is often thought of as being “Christmas-y” year-round, I eventually realized that it’s past time that I once again load actual holiday music into the rotation. I’d postponed it for far too long.

This time of year is rough for a singer/songwriter of my generation. John Lennon, the Beatle who protested for peace, who gave the world “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, was shot by an obsessed “fan” on Dec. 8, 1980. I still remember seeing the news that night on the television in my family’s home on Mountain Avenue.

Besides Lennon’s song, I’ve also been brushing up on performing personal favourites ranging from Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” off the old Phil Spector Christmas album and Elvis Presley’s (or maybe Porky Pig’s) “Blue Christmas”, and Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph”, to the classic “O Holy Night”.

Then last week, after walking through the falling snow, I found myself sitting at one of the pianos in the new recording studio in the back of the G.E.M. building, writing a new up-tempo piece entitled “Christmas Without You”.

I always seem to find inspiration in the oddest of places, this time from a Charlie Brown Christmas tree; technically, I now own three of the “officially licensed” seasonal decorative items, but there’s a tiny artificial shrub that I inherited from my Grandma Nancy that’s always been referred to by the same moniker.

It reminds me of loved ones lost or long gone, at a time of year when I most of all wish that they were still close by.

So, perhaps the name of my latest composition seems apt, even if lyrically it’s more of a broken-hearted love song.

This week, despite working seemingly non-stop to prepare for deadlines set for Christmas, the end of the year, and (of course) publishable materials, I’ve elected to find some time for what the Holidays have always meant most to me: friends, family and music. 

Those are also the three things I love most in life, only more so at Christmas.

Throw in snow and shortbread and for me it's perfect.

I have no doubt that Christmas will find me taking some time away from the office and studio to enjoy a turkey dinner and Granny Gillies' Christmas cake with family, before unwrapping new socks and underwear from Mom.

I no longer need toys as gifts; I probably own or have owned so many over the years that they would have to invent new ones for me to covet.

I will, however, be donating a number of new, unwrapped children’s toys to the N.A.C.I.’s H.O.P.E. group’s Christmas Toy Drive on Sunday night at the Yellowhead Arena, where the Neepawa Natives will host the Portage Terriers at 6:30.

Meanwhile, much of my time will continue to be spent at work, “Gathered ‘round my Charlie Brown Christmas tree… with the yule log burning bright on TV”, as I wrote last Friday night.

It’s funny; I’m reminded that Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schultz was criticized for including the story of Christ’s birth (as retold by the character of Linus) within the original “A Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special.

While satirizing the commercialism and secularism that has overtaken the holiday season, Schultz remained adamant regarding Linus’ reading from the Bible, that the special focus on the “true meaning of Christmas”. He said, “If we don’t do it, who will?”

And there it is.

Once upon a time, a child was born. It’s that simple.

Christmas should be about children and should awaken the child within all of us, Christian or not. It should be a time of year for giving to all, but especially to children. It should be a time when we all try a little bit harder to be happy, to spread joy so that everyone else is happy, but especially the children.

So donate to a food bank and donate to a toy drive, if you can. No one should be hungry and every child should smile on Christmas morning.

Lift your voice in song. Pray, if you believe. Eat, drink and most of all be merry. Remind the ones you love most just how you feel. You’ll feel better.

I get it now. Better still, I’ve got it now.

God bless us, ev’ry one, and Merry Christmas.