Christmas Music

Oh, Star of Wonder, Star of Night

Pap's writings

Every year since Pap died Granny always tells me Christmas would be just perfect if only he was still here.

A week or so ago she said “Even with all the stuff going on in the world I’m thankful we’re all okay and Christmas is here. The only thing that would make it better is if your Daddy was here too.”

Holidays always make folks think of their loved ones who’ve gone on.

I’ve been listening to Pap and Paul’s Christmas songs since the first of November, but truthfully the last few months at work have been so busy that I’ve barely had time to sit and think about anything much, including missing Pap.

Ever since Granny said she was wishing he was here Pap’s been on my mind. I dreamed about him one night, but it was only something silly and he was barely in the dream.

Yesterday I walked down to Granny’s to get her grocery list and she gave me the piece of paper at the top of this post. She said “Look I found this and it’s your Daddy’s handwriting I want you to ask Matt if he knows what it is. I think it might be the fellowship hall they built.”

I took it home and showed The Deer Hunter. He said “No it’s not the fellowship hall its a hip roof we built on a house one time. I think he drew it out to show me how it went because I’d never built a hip roof before.”

I love all the Christmas songs Pap and Paul did over the years and I savor listening to them at Christmastime. I relish each and every note like it was a fine ripe tomato or ear of corn straight from the garden.

One of my favorites is “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” When you think of all the Christmas plays that use the song you can clearly see its a favorite of others too.

John Henry Hopkins Jr. was an ordained priest of the Episcopal Church who preferred writing to preaching. He worked for a New York newspaper as a writer and as a scribe for a church journal.

In 1857 while trying to decide what Epiphany gifts to buy for his nieces and nephews, Hopkins decided to write them a song. He chose the wise men as the subject for his gift of song. As Hopkins wrote the words he tried to imagine what the wise men must have felt as they searched for the Christ Child.

After giving the song to his nieces and nephews, Hopkins published it in his own song book, “Carols, Hymns, and Songs.” During the next century when churches began to add Christmas songs to their hymnals it was among the first carols chosen ensuring “We Three Kings Of Orient Are” would become one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time.

While I was researching the history of the song, I kept coming across the tidbit that Hopkins was crazy about children even though he never had any of his own. Many scholars claimed it was Hopkins’s child like love for the Christmas season which inspired him to write the song. I think Hopkins would be pleased as punch that each Christmas children dress in bathrobes with towels tied around their heads and pretend to search for the Christ child to the sound of his song.

Seeing Pap’s handwriting left me feeling melancholy, yet thinking of the sturdy things he left behind, like the hip roof that now covers a family and the knowledge he passed on to The Deer Hunter and the rest of us made me feel better and even hopeful as we start this week of Christmas 2020.


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*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.

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  • Reply
    December 21, 2020 at 9:47 am

    I didn’t know he history of We Three Kings. Over the past few years I have written a number of articles for some small regional magazines about Christmas Carols—but I moved and this year is the first in a number of years that I didn’t have a Christmas article. I like how you brought your family into this story and the rafter drawing is interesting.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 20, 2020 at 5:18 pm

    When I looked at picture I knew immediately what it was. A drawing of the rafter length and layout of a building with a hip roof. Such drawings are usually done by a trained architect. I didn’t know Pap was an architect. Maybe he didn’t go to school to become an architect but apparently he didn’t let that get in his way. It’s just another example of Appalachian ingenuity. If I were you I would frame that and display it in a prominent place.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 20, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    We have four different hymnals at church. Only one of them has “We Three Kings”. I like the way it moves from the birth through the revelation of kingship and deity, turning to death and burial but then lastly the triumphant resurrection. We sung part of it this morning.

    I know we miss them. And we would like to be with them again. But if we really could have them back we wouldn’t do it. I have posted this before I think, but I am eternally grateful Dad anf Mom never saw this day. They had enough trouble in their life. To still be here now would have just been more.

    Randy, you are a wise man. You put me in mind of a couple of lines from my favorite cowboy movie, “Connagher” with Sam Elliott as lead actor. Kid says, “Who gave you that black eye?” Connagher, ” Nobody gave it kid. I fought for it. ” I think you fought for that ‘I don’t care what the world thinks’ wisdom. Me to.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    December 20, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Great singing on the song and fantastic guitar work!

  • Reply
    December 20, 2020 at 11:52 am

    It is nice to live a long and productive life, but we do keep leaving a lot of loved ones and friends behind. It is so much better if there are young ones in our lives, and harder to become sad or miss people with a child’s laughter or sometimes their tears filling our days. We were blessed with two young boys right after we lost our Dad, and right or wrong we felt it was to replace such a deep void. We must use distractions, or there would be no joy. I always appreciate the stories of your wonderful Pap. I do not know that another generation can ever reproduce the quality of men from that generation. I am always taken aback when I have heard stories from friends of dead beat dads. May all the Blind Pig family and readers feel the many blessings we do have this Christmas holiday and throughout the coming year.

  • Reply
    December 20, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Thank you, Tipper, for providing the background on this song. Paul and Pap did a fine job of singing it. I remember my Daddy had this fancy bathrobe he rarely wore, and it was used for a Wise Man costume in our Christmas pageant when my brother and I were children. The Wise Men carried empty perfume bottles and boxes wrapped in gold paper. My family has passed on, too, and I miss them, but I have my memories.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 20, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Beautiful song, but makes me want cry..I miss Pap one of the finest men ans sweetest spirit I’ve ever known!

  • Reply
    Tammy Howard
    December 20, 2020 at 10:03 am

    Thank you for sharing that memory!

  • Reply
    December 20, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful song by Pap and Paul. I know how Granny felt when she found the paper with Pap’s handwriting. I have spent several days looking through a box of pictures while making a Christmas gift for a woman I have never met. Some of the notes and homemade cards put me on an emotional rollercoaster that delayed my project several times. One card was addressed to me and my oldest sister from my grandmother we called Mammy. She had used Christmas seals to cover up the name of the previous sender. I cried when I held the card and knew her hands held the same card so many years ago as she gave us the only gift she could afford. It didn’t take long before I was laughing at a card my grandson made for me when he was six years old. He wrote, “I love my Nanny. She eats, sleeps and fishes.” The cards I found are worth more than any store bought gift I can ever receive.

  • Reply
    December 20, 2020 at 9:18 am

    I miss my so many of my family, my parents, my father and mother in law, especially our daughter. I miss the others too.I was very close to my daddy, he heated their home with a wood heater and for the last 10 years of his life, I cut every stick of firewood he used. He had a heart attack and was told to never touch a chainsaw or weed eater again. We had our own wood and he would always go with me when I cut the wood.. I teased him and told him he wanted to save anything bigger than a matchstick, he would cut some of the small tree top limbs with an axe. I saved some of these sticks from the last time we cut wood. At my age I couldn’t care less about what someone thinks about what I do as long I am not hurting anyone or breaking the law. I tell everyone that is hurting from the lose of a love one to do whatever brings comfort to you, as long as it does not hurt someone or break the law and to not worry about what people may think.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    December 20, 2020 at 8:13 am

    I have said it before and I will say it again PAUL AND PAP are professional musicians that any great musician would love to JAM with!!! I guess this time of year is bittersweet for all of us. The older I get I plainly see all that really matters does not involve STUFF but loving people. I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas filled with peace, love and joy that only comes from JESUS the beloved Christ!!! Know Jesus know peace! No Jesus no peace….

  • Reply
    December 20, 2020 at 6:46 am

    Christmas is suppose to be full of joy because the world was given the greatest gift that ever was and will be given, but when those whom use to help in this celebration are not here it does bring a bit of sadness, Dad lost his Brother yesterday its down to just him and one other. Mom is the only one left in her family, but one day we’ll once again rejoice in a different celebration. Merry Christmas everyone try to enjoy and appreciate every minute you can.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    December 20, 2020 at 6:30 am

    Although I, myself, was always very musical, (Singing, piano, guitar, listening, appreciating), my family wasn’t. Daddy had a mind for fixing things. Mama cooked and raised four kids. Seeing Pap’s writing reminded me that I saved many of his notes and designs. Each of them has such a connection to him for me. Mama left recipes that she handwrote, but the most personal thing I found after she passed was a Kleenex that she used to blot her lipstick. I saw her do it a thousand times, and having saved just one was like saving one of her kisses. There is the perfect impression of her kiss, in Avon Blue Flame, her favorite color. Merry Christmas….

    • Reply
      December 20, 2020 at 11:01 am

      My Mama wore Avon Blue Flame until we weren’t able to get Avon, and then I gave her a similar color from Clinique.

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