by Lawrence J. J. Leonard
Holidays used to be about family and friends. Every business except a few gas stations would close down so that we could be contemplative. This was the time for focusing on faith and the less fortunate. Most holidays are still big travel intervals. Years ago it was because relatives would go back home to visit their parents. These days we are encouraged to stay at home instead of going away to see family. To have a ‘stay-cation’ and populate the malls. To make money. To get into debt. There is no real cheer on this present path.
Christmas and Chanukkah usually occur about the same time each year. Mostly in December. The stress of getting ready for this season is particularly intensified when our hopes run high in the event we can visit with a special person in the family. All those anxieties can be relieved when that travelling person finally graces our door. That can be the most appreciated gift of all. Just having someone who wants to be with you is a treasure. American blues singer and pianist Charles Brown understood this when he was inspired to write a song about this holiday season. He even put out an entire album called “Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs” in 1960. This particular song he co-wrote with Gene Redd.
The song’s popularity got only as far as #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 and only in its second year, 1961. But radio fans new a hit when they heard it and the song reappeared on the Top 40 Singles charts every December for nine years in a row. It finally hit the #1 spot in 1972. The lyrics beg the question of how long it might take for that loved one to appear.
But not until 1978 when the rock band Eagles covered the track, did the song regain its popularity. The band released it as an A side holiday single. This rendition was the first Christmas song since Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Paper” in 1963 to have made it into the Top 20. When Don Henley (drums/vocals), Glenn Frey (piano, backing vocals), Don Felder (lead guitar) and Joe Walsh (guitar, backing vocals) released the song, they had Timothy B. Schmit on bass (who replaced founding member Randy Meisner). Their version made it to the #18 spot in the U.S. It also was a Top 40 hit in the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and New Zealand.
Why is it so important to reconnect with family? Is it primal or something we have learned to do? Why do we feel the need to connect with others, even when it is not a holiday or special occasion?