The Christmas Band | A story of tradition

On December 21, 2009 by Aimee

I know I’m way behind in blogging, writing and everything, but after my weekend with Grandma and Grandpa, I was motivated to write about a little holiday tradition our family has ALWAYS performed, no matter the number of people around. At one point, when I was little and we traveled to Chicago to spend Christmas with my Grandmother, there would be thirty or more of us participating in this same tradition. Today, we’re often less than ten, but we keep it up. 🙂


Gathered together, a mishmash of chairs pulled tight, some stand, others mill about impatiently.

“Which one first?”

“Silent Night!” “Here comes Santa Claus!” “Joy to the World!” Suggestions are thrown out like rice at a wedding. Why I ask is beyond me.

Words and repeating black figures fly by as pages flip between my fingers. A start other than page one is futile.

“Angels We Have Heard on High, it is!” I call out not getting past the ‘we’ before spoons clack, kazoos buzz and harmonicas begin a trill across their entire range.

Book open, I need another hand to prevent its closure. Broken binding aside, it refuses to lay flat. A bow taps me on the shoulder while I struggle.

“Can I get an ‘A’?”

My grandfather’s violin hums it’s version of the sound against that of my out-of-tune, childhood piano where I sit and press ‘A’ repeatedly with one finger. Behind one violin, sound resonates from another.

The dog, asleep as he warms toes hidden under the table, lifts his head and draws out a howl to match the cacophony of sound above him.

“Grandma? Can I play your banjo?” A small voice asks sweetly, though I hear it above the din and clatter — tuned to my children. The instrument, with a missing string replaces a harmonica.

“I want the guitar!” The kazoo, too, is unceremoniously handed off as another of my children fail to stick to plan.

“Ready?” I shouldn’t have ask so loud. My ears twitch and eyes close at the blare that follows.

Propped by a heavy ornament, the only notes and words we have stand firmly open in front of me. I play a measure, slow, lift my hands in signal and start again with the remainder of our makeshift band in tow.

We aren’t in tune. We aren’t even in sync. Voices raised, musical tools trumpeted, we are a clumsy group. One might even think we’d attempted a round with the number of mixed words; different points of the song. The dog howls again.

Our sounds mix like cookie dough under a blender, until in the end, we excitedly reach a concluding beat.

What did I expect? This is how it is every year.

I flip the page and call out, “Deck the Halls!”

And we start again.

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