I am not a Christian and yet, every time I hear “Silent Night”, or Adeste Fidelis” or “White Christmas”, I get goose

bumps. What is it about some Christmas carols that induces a sense of reverence in a listener, irrespective of what religion he or she belongs to – or even if he professes to be an atheist? Speaking for myself, when I hear a choir belting out “O come, let us adore Him” three times, rising to a crescendo, I do want to adore Him – even if the Lord I’m thinking of may not be Jesus Christ.

We are living in an age where loyalty is fleeting and yesterday’s music is consigned to the junk heap of forgotten songs. And yet, the carols endure; not just from year to year, but from generation to generation. It’s a minor miracle, when you come to think of it. Perhaps they provide a comfortable sense of permanence in a world where events appear to gallop by us at a dizzying pace and everything changes so quickly. No matter how hassled you are, when you’re walking down a street and you hear “Jingle Bells” wafting through a store window, you know you’re in the holiday season. You involuntarily slow down; a smile creeps into that harried face; and a general feeling of well being descends. For a more mature generation, it brings back fond memories of an earlier, gentler time; when Santa Claus was almost real – well, at least he was perceived as flesh and blood; and not just a soulless character in a video game. It was a time when children were genuinely thrilled at the activity of decorating a tree and hanging up stockings; today most would regard it with an amused disdain – some old-fogey tradition to be endured, before they rushed back to the latest star wars mayhem on Playstation II.

Then there are the songs themselves: wickedly wanton Eartha Kitt crooning Santa Baby, in a voice sultry enough to make even Father Christmas forget his manners: Elvis (The King) pleading with Santa to Bring His Baby Back To him: Judy Garland choking us up with emotion while Having Herself A Very Merry Christmas. The list is endless.

I’ll leave you with the warm feeling of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and mommy kissing Santa Claus (how the heck does she find his mouth among all those whiskers?). God rest ye merry Gatherers.