On “The Little Drummer Boy”
Because December’s here, it’s going to be a month of Christmas posts.
My favourite Christmas carol has always been “The Little Drummer Boy.” The first time I heard it was on my dad’s cassette tape when I was around five or six years old (ode to the days of yore when cassette decks ruled). It was initially the slow bass at the beginning of the song that got me – it sounded so grand and…big, like it was really heralding this earth-shaking event. Also, I got a kick out of all the “pa-rum-pum-pum-pums.”
When I got older and was able to fully comprehend the lyrics, “The Little Drummer Boy” solidified its status on my list of Christmas carols. It’s the story of a poor boy who went to the Nativity with the Magi. The Magi had brought with them their “finest gifts to lay before the King,” in reference to the baby Jesus. The little drummer boy had nothing but himself and brought nothing else but his drum, so he “played his best for Him” as a tribute.
I get teary-eyed whenever I first hear the song come Christmas time. No matter what anyone’s religious beliefs or non-beliefs may be, the simple act of giving who you are instead of what you have is one of the most sincere and meaningful things you can do. Material gifts are easy, especially if it’s the store-bought kind for people we don’t really know or like but are somehow obligated to buy presents for. But in giving, it’s our actions and the thoughts behind it that really matter the most. When we choose to give the things that money cannot buy, like time or effort or talents or abstract ideas like love or peace of mind, to those we care about, we are in essence giving them a part of ourselves.
Not everyone may agree or appreciate this idea, and it is after all still exciting to receive gifts during Christmas. But the message of the little drummer boy, in stripping away all pretences and humbly offering himself at his best, serves to remind us that in this modern world of consumerism and in a season that has become dominated by capitalism, there is still a lot of good in this world. And if we just stop for a moment in our busy lives to truly give something of who we are to someone else without any agenda, not just during Christmas but the rest of the year too, maybe happiness wouldn’t be so hard to find.
Bing Crosby’s wonderful bass makes this version a personal preference.