Churches and theatres across the country share a common phenomenon at Christmas time: people you don’t see in those buildings any other time of year walk through the front doors. I propose that those visitors make their annual appearances at both establishments for some of the same reasons.
I don’t mean to sound trite, but this annual pilgrimage phenomenon is so consistent in the theatre world that we sometimes refer to the Christmas show as our “cash cow,” because we know you will come to that show in droves. You’ll bring the kids, your employees and their families, grandma, dad and your daughter’s chatty friends. Not unlike the late December trek to Church, you’ll dress a little nicer. You will also laugh a little louder and clap a little longer and sometimes you’ll cry softly. Regardless of the show, the venue or performers, you will most likely enjoy yourself and you’ll be back next year for more of the same.
Much like Christmas services at Church, in the world of Christmas entertainment, relatively little has changed over the years (it seems The Sound of Music has inexplicably slipped into the Christmas movie and music repertoire… but that’s another editorial altogether). From A Christmas Carol to A Christmas Story, we consumers who love “new” and “better,” find ourselves lining up for “old” and “exactly the same.”
There are three forces converging to make those Christmas shows so special. First, the stories themselves are wonderful affirmations of humanity and hope. They are stories of family, redemption, the joy of giving, all-conquering love and of a brilliant little baby’s humble birth. Whether it is a grand production or a grade school pageant, those stories touch our hearts.
What makes those stories so impactful is the second force at play here: we all want very, very badly to feel those emotions of togetherness, warmth, generosity and the promise of unwavering love. Let’s face it, we can’t always guarantee those feelings on our own, but we can feel them every year when Ebenezer Scrooge realizes he hasn’t slept through December 25th. Those warm fuzzies are as reliable as tears at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life every year.
And that brings us to the third wallop delivered by those old stories: we only tell them once a year. It’s like a fabulous pair of shoes you’ll never get tired of because as soon as you wear them, they get tucked away in your closet for another year. And by the way, these Christmas shoes never go out of style.
Whether you visit a theatre – or Church – once or several times each year, I’m glad we have this season to affirm our hope and humanity together. Cherish the stories, relish the feelings and savor the shows. Let’s hold on to all of it as long as we can and have a very Merry Christmas.
Donna Blanchard is an actor, director and freelance arts grant proposal writer