I’ve been thinking about Christmas and sadness lately, in the face of C’s apparently pure childlike joy in the preparation, all the small rituals of the season, shopping, wrapping, decorating. I’m letting myself enjoy it, too, more and more, despite whatever reservations I have had, which all sort of pool around consumption, consumerism, and Christianists (all those hard C’s).

My favorite Christmas songs are the sad ones. That doesn’t necessarily mean much because my favorite songs of any kind are the sad ones. But there’s so much about Christmas that is sad: longing to be with distant loved ones, missing those who’ve died (and, statistically speaking, likely died at Christmastime), our fixation on the needy. Somehow the poor are more innocent this time of year.

And then I heard this song that a friend posted on facebook this morning – by Tracey Thorn, who for decades has been writing so beautifully and simply about our messy complicated adult emotional lives – and my thoughts crystalized in a way that a great song can make your thoughts crystalize (in fact, come to think of it, maybe that’s actually the whole purpose of a song, hm…).

Christmas doesn’t work without the sadness. Sadness is the background. The winter holiday (which, sorry, predates the perfectly illustrative and beautiful story of the birth of Christ) is a ritual of hope that joy survives sadness. And has no meaning without sadness. I guess everybody but me already knew this.

No matter how bad things may get, there’s a moment when it stops getting worse and starts to get better. The world turns.