My mother always passes along her copies of “Our Iowa,” a magazine that celebrates living in this great state. I finally got around to reading them over the summer and on one particularly warm summer night I found myself enjoying the Christmas 2019 issue. From holiday recipes to childhood memories, the authors savor nostalgia similarly to how I savor the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. As I read story after story, I found my eyes welling with tears knowing that somehow this year would be different.
It was around that same time that we made the tough decision to move Christmas at Luther to a “virtual” format. As all tough decisions are, the many Luther voices on the Zoom call expressed the many challenges of hosting Christmas at Luther on campus during a pandemic. Yet, collectively everyone was hesitant to be the first voice to say, “this just isn’t possible.”
And so, the wheels of motion began. A production company was contracted, dates were finalized to record, and the theme was changed. The artistic team strongly believed that trying to replicate the “feeling” a live audience enjoys in the CFL during a Christmas at Luther performance (the surround sound, the lighting, the backdrop, the candle lighting) would be a huge misstep. We needed to create a performance that would translate to the virtual format. Rather than thinking about all the traditions that would be absent from the production, we began thinking about the incredible possibilities of this new format.
The result is a production that I believe will serve as sustenance at a time when we are hungry for inspiration, community, holidays, and music. The video footage is beautiful. We see the campus vibrant with fall leaves. We see the stately CFL that has proudly served as our only option for full ensemble rehearsals. We see the masked faces of students so passionate about creating art that those masks essentially disappear as their gratitude for singing and connecting are “seen” through layers of fabric, filters, and elastic.
And YOU…you have embraced the opportunity of being in community (while physically distanced) with Luther College. As we promoted this event, it became evident that you needed Christmas at Luther as much as we did. Donations rolled in for the Luther Fund. Registrations for the performance are approaching 6000; there are 48 states (c’mon Rhode Island and West Virginia), nineteen countries in almost every continent (know anyone from Antarctica?) that will be viewing. Well over one thousand gift boxes were sold. If those kinds of numbers are any indication, it shows that we are all in need of a little Christmas.
You may be surprised to find out that outside of school, my Christmas music consumption consists of all “cheesy” Christmas classics. I believe it stems from my childhood when I would gather all of the record albums from my parent’s collection and essentially play them non-stop from Thanksgiving through Christmas. One of my favorites still is the Angela Lansbury cover of “We Need a Little Christmas.” Recently, I was reminded of the lyrics, “For I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little older, and I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder. Need a little Christmas now.”
With the holidays looking very different this year, we all need a little Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Christmahanukwanzadan (see the Urban dictionary). I’m determined not to be sad and instead committed to look for the opportunities presented this season. I will cook my first turkey. I will be fully present for every Zoom conversation with friends and family. I will be forced to slow down and simply be still. Yet, it is my hope that I will continue to feel the Luther community come together December 4 to lift up the spirit and hard work of everyone involved with Christmas at Luther 2020. Our theme reminds us that just as Christ was born into this world amidst strife, we, too, look for peace, justice, and inclusivity “For Everyone Born.”
Over the next several weeks, I now choose to focus on another verse of that holiday classic. “For we need a little music, need a little laughter, need a little singing, ringing through the rafter. And we need a little snappy happy ever after. Need a little Christmas now.”