Surfjam Estabanopolis Christmas Spectacular Seasonal Affective Disorder Sing-a-long Sensation

or, Why Emily Is Still a Little Hoarse Two Days Later

With the Nativity season starting mid-November, and with Thanksgiving being rather earlier than usual this year, it feels like we’ve been in the Christmas zone for a looong time already. My tree has been up for over a week, my cubicle was decked out even before that, and I don’t want to admit to how many times I’ve watched The Office‘s Christmas episodes (because nothing says holiday spirit like horrible, horrible social discomfort)

But all of that has just been a prelude to this past Saturday, the first day o’ December, the real kick-off for the Christmas season, the day…

of song.

I’d been up until 7:30 that morning, having conversed for nearly twelve straight hours with a friend who is entirely too awesome (and not just because we share startlingly wide breadth of interests). I suppose that much talking could be considered an overzealous vocal warm-up but, at any rate, when I woke up much later in the day I had only a couple hours to get myself fed, sufficiently caffeinated, and dressed in a truly festive combo of jeans, sparkly gold shoes, and a Fanta t-shirt, because this is Austin and OF COURSE the first day of December would hit the mid-80’s.

We started the evening at the Capitol Christmas Sing-a-long (and tree lighting, though we missed that part). It was packed with people singing their lungs out, from soulful Christmas hymns to the tongue-twisting ballad that is “The 12 Days of Christmas” to a wildly enthusiastic rendition of “Feliz Navidad”.

You can forget, sometimes, how many Christmas songs revolved around winter, cold, and snow, until you’re standing there in the balmy Texas air singing about a white Christmas “just like the ones I used to know” and you realize that many of the people around you have never seen snow, and you wonder what that’s like or how they imagine it. Is it just like this magical Christmas-y substance that imbues peace and holiday cheer? (spoiler alert: the cheer wears off mid-January)

Also, there were a lot of people there dressed as elves.

From the Capitol celebration we headed on to more Sufjan-y things…

Here’s a fact: I don’t love concerts.

I love music, but there are very few musicians that can compel me to overcome my intense dislike of crowds and loud noises in order to see them perform live.

Emo’s was both crowded and noisy, and we waited there for over an hour, through a truly bizarre opening act and several attempts at group chanting, while we drained our wine glasses and chatted up the new friends around us.

But what happened, in the end, was worth the wait.

It was both a concert and a mass experience in group participation, where the only rule was if you know the words: SING. It was a mix of the original and the traditional, where somehow it made sense that we were dancing Gangam Style to the chorus of “Sleigh Ride” and not twenty minutes later joining in an honest and transcendent rendition of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

There were Lenten hymns in Christmas hats.

And the quite possibly the highlight of the whole evening was the song about CHRISTMAS UNICORNS.

It was ridiculous and intense and impossible to totally describe (a lot like Sufjan’s albums, actually). And it wasn’t just Christmas music either: at the end of the show, when the band stepped down and Sufjan took the stage to sing some of his older stuff, it was as though there was this moment where we were all transported back to our college days, and we sang along with Sufjan.

Just like we’ve been doing for years.

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