Around the holidays there are only a few things that I’ve done that I’ve felt somewhat odd about doing that I later was really glad I did. Skiing is not one of them. I felt perfectly good about skiing, and enjoyed it even though I am not that good at it.
This is true of wearing odd Christmas clothing. Now I don’t do this often—in fact, like most people, I do it only during one period of the year. Inasmuch as we live in Texas, instead of sweaters, my wife and I sometimes don matching Christmas tee-shirts, which I will occasionally put directly over my regular holiday attire. For me, that might include a Christmas tie, and at least the knot of the tie is then visible above the neck of the tee-shirt and, as you may have guessed, meant to coordinate with it (a red tie and a green shirt). But wearing a tee-shirt over an oxford shirt, itself cordoned off with a tie is, in any other circumstance, unacceptable; yet it is one of those awkward things one can do this time of year and it is fine, just fine. Anyway, it’s acceptable during this season.
The same cannot be said for eating lingua all’agrodolce (beef tongue in sweet and sour sauce), a Sicilian favorite, especially around the holidays. Some years ago when confronted with beef tongue, I must say that I felt very odd about eating it and I have never looked back upon that experience and said, “Wow, now there’s something I’m glad I did” or, “I can’t wait till I have my next bite of tongue.” In fact I’ve always felt a bit guilty about eating someone else’s tongue, even if that someone else was a cow. They have such prominent tongues, after all, the way that peacocks have tails or camels humps. Might it be akin to eating a camel’s hump? I am not sure, but at least, I don’t think, in any culture peacock tails are deemed to be edible—even fried.
Yet when it comes to visiting a nursing home and, especially, spending a few minutes with some elderly people, whether you know them or not, singing Christmas carols to them, well that’s a far cry from tongue eating. In fact, it’s the opposite, I think, as you must use your own tongue and the wind in your lungs to sing to some folks whom you may not know or who, even if you do, no longer recognize you quite; but they are, you imagine and certainly hope, enjoying your best attempt at singing.
Now, when I say “your” I mean a group, not just one person; maybe you have brought a friend with you, or even a group of friends, or some family members. It’s great that way, singing in a nursing home, I mean. And, in any case, one person singing Christmas carols might well be a bit awkward. But there is, indeed, strength in numbers. So bring some family or friends, too, if you can.
And that’s what I would like to say this Christmas. Why not put on your tackiest Christmas sweater (or in my case, pullover tee-shirt) and try something odd but good, not like beef tongue but like visiting a nursing home and putting your arm around someone who needs you to do that? I, for one, am planning to do so. And, yes, given the opportunity, I will sing, too. In so doing, hopefully I may even bring joy to someone, a new friend but one who is, in fact, old, quite old.
Merry Christmas, friends! Please do, if the spirit moves, go and sing for there is joy in the air, theological yes, even divine, but also very human, as well.