There’s an old Christmas tune — too made up of spoken words to call it a song — by Johnny Cash called “The Christmas Spirit.” On it, Cash reflects on how little things, like a stranger’s greeting and church bells ringing, make him “feel the Christmas spirit.”
That elusive Christmas spirit. For the past few years, 2017 included, I struggled to feel it every December.
Caught first in my teens and now my 20s, I’ve lost the idealistic, childlike euphoria that comes with Santa Claus and cookies with every meal; seemingly perpetually single, I have no significant other to shower with affection in the season of giving.
Every year, I would take the annually prescribed Christmas medicine: carols, cookies, shopping, family, presents. But I never really felt the Christmas spirit.
I first heard Johnny Cash’s rumbling voice come out of a car stereo with my dad. Many of the artists who form and still shape my own musical foundations — Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen — came from car rides with my dad.
But no artist affected me more, both in the past and present, like the Beatles.
I’ve known the words to “Yellow Submarine” as long as I can remember. I’ve meticulously studied the Beatles’ history, poring over books, interviews and Wikipedia articles. I count Revolver as my favorite album and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as the singular most revolutionary piece of music created.
And I discovered the mastery of John, Paul, George and Ringo in my dad’s car.
You’re probably wondering how this relates to me feeling the Christmas spirit.
This past Christmas Eve, I was confused when I found a gift under my grandparents’ tree tagged “To: Alex, From: Dad + Pap.”
I was stunned when I unwrapped that sturdy blue box. In it laid the Beatles’ entire British discography on vinyl, from Please Please Me to Let It Be.
When my grandfather learned I wanted a turntable for Christmas, he remembered he had purchased that box set and that framed copy of Sgt. Pepper, and he had wanted to give them to me. He sifted through boxes and boxes, but he found nothing.
At the same time, my dad thought of the same box set and album. They were in our basement. It turns out that my dad had inherited the box set from my grandfather when they moved out of their old house.
Now, he and my grandfather were passing it on to me. It’s trite to say it’s the thought that counts, but it’s still true.
As I opened that box set and heard the story of how it came to be mine, I felt the Christmas spirit for the first time in years. The tears welled in my eyes as a wave of thoughtfulness, value and tradition, all imbued in that gift, washed over me.
And every time the needle drops and the sounds of “Tomorrow Never Knows” crash into my eardrums, I’ll think about my dad, my pap and what it truly means to love and be loved.
Alex McCann is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What’s the best present you’ve ever received? Let Alex know by tweeting him @alexrmccann.