24 December, 2010

Advent Calendar in Song: Christians and the Pagans

Dar Williams is a great storyteller. Many of her songs sparkle with wit, insight and humanity. The miniature passion play of alienation and loneliness in Mortal City, the heartbreaking failing relationship of February, and the hippie stoner farce of The Pointless, Yet Poignant, Crisis of a Co-Ed are prime examples of her talent.

Christians and The Pagans appears on Williams' album Mortal City, but it also earned itself an appearance as an EP subsequently released for the holidays. The song is a great vignette of familial tolerance and tension. A family is brought together by the holidays religious, seasonal and ancient. A mother must cope with her niece's affirmation of being a witch. The son innocently winds up the adults with questions about comparative religion. The niece expresses her joyful practice of wicca and her wonder in all things. Christine O'Donnell was clearly not at this party.

I find the line about pumpkin pie both funny and strangely touching, perhaps as it gives a hopeful note of progress and tolerance. The sentiments of the uncle reflecting on his familial bond, strikes the right balance, and is all the more affecting for it. This is a sweet, humorous reflection on the season optimistically creating common ground for our clashing multi-cultures.

So, on the eve of the holiday that we'll all enjoy despite our different faiths (or principled abstentions from faith), be mindful of the families, biological, extended, and chosen that bring us all together.

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