Christmas Words

My five year old notices words. When he was three he started spelling words that he saw out in public.

“S-T-O-P,” he would announce as we approach an intersection.

“Will you tell me if you need to go potty?” I would ask. “O-K-A-Y,” he would say. “I will T-R-Y.”

When he was four he started to read books out loud to himself. Books like The Cat in the Hat and Fox in Socks. At first, we knew he had likely memorized the books because we’d read them to him so many times. But when we started to bring home Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books from the library, we knew he could read. He didn’t have those memorized, yet he sat on his bed, reading them out loud (and at the top of his lungs).

In the last few months he has started to show a greater interest in music. My wife and I both played the piano growing up, so we like to bang out songs at home on the old spinet grandma gave us. During the holidays we were constantly singing and playing Christmas songs.

My son is perceptive. He picked up on the words to the songs we sang and has been repeating them. He can’t pronounce all of them perfectly, but he can (more or less) sing his way through “The Christmas Song,” “Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and 8-10 others. While listening to him sing the other day I realized that Christmas comes packed with its own suitcase of vocabulary words and phrases.

“Why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?”
“Heedless of the wind and weather”
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot… in days of auld lang syne”
“…bearing gifts we traverse afar”
“The cattle are lowing”
“O tannenbaum, O tannenbaum”
“O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel”
“Late in time, behold him come”

Not to mention the other vocabulary words that spring up during Christmastime like: advent, census, Noel, nativity, manger, magi, mistletoe, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and of course, nog. 

It has brought me incredible joy to listen to my (now) five year old boy stumble through Christmas words this season. I have enjoyed explaining things like, “Traverse afar is just an old way of saying travel so far. Isn’t that cool?” Or “Heedless of the wind and weather means that, no matter how cold it is outside, no matter how much the wind blows or how much snow there is, we’re coming!”

I’ve always enjoyed Christmastime. The story of Jesus and all the mystery and wonder that envelops it; the incredible food; the time off of work; the reunions with family and friends; the music; the gift giving . . . all of these things have made it a favorite season of mine for years. But this year it came with an extra gift. This year I got to hear my son enunciating old, poetic phrases, hopefully burying them deep in his heart and brain. This year I got to hear him sing the carols of the incarnation.

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