Why Christmas Songs Stir Us

Joseph Bottum, the critic and author, explains why he has taken to writing Christmas songs – they are “one of the last few enchantments left in our public world”:

Think of it this way: If meaning comes only from us — if meaning arrives only via the human outlook on the world — then there is nothing meaningful in itself. Oh, sure, we have great emotions and great hungers. That’s part of what we want art to express. But what outside ourselves is inherently worthy of having our great feelings attached to it? In a thin world, nothing is enchanted. Nothing is naturally weighty, meaningful, infused with power. Nothing is rich, thick, and alive with the kind of true beauty that art needs to survive beyond a few generations.

Throw in a few zombies, however, and you’ve got a world, for screenwriters and viewers, that thrums with all the deep meaning of the apocalypse and the end of days. Toss in some vampires, ghosts, and demons, and you have a world in which evil and good have palpable presence.

In other words, a hunger for a metaphysically rich, supernaturally thick, emotionally wrought world is written across our age. And Christmas still provides it to artist and audience.

(Video for the Bottom-penned “Some Come to See the Lord”)