To most of us the holiday season is intimately intertwined with family. Often its the center of our world. When we’re away at college or when we’ve made our home far away, coming home for Christmas is the hub that drives the rest of the year. That notion is also important in several Christmas songs like Driving Home for Christmas or I’ll Be Home for Christmas where the being home with kith and kin is a certainty. The Long Christmas Dinner by Carrie Newcomer might not focus on that longing, but instead the importance of gathering during those times.
Song number ten on this list is a somber chronicle of a family centered around a dining room table. It tells the story of Cal and June who move into town so that the former can work on the railroad and it follows the life around the very table he has built himself. They have four children and the listener is treated to their stories from going off to war, being abandoned by spouses and grandchildren appearing. The carefully laid out tune perfectly plays out the scenes before us and we feel like we know this family, maybe because Newcomer so effortlessly describes a reality most people can relate to. It’s all about how that one time of year when everyone is gathered is what keeps us together and how important family is. With that it also forces us to lend a thought to those who might not be so fortunate.
Carrie Newcomer was born in Michigan in 1958 and is, contrary to her surname, no rookie in the music industry. Being active in several folk groups during the 1980s she has been a solo act since 1991. Now she is a permanent fixture as a singer-songwriter on the contemporary folk scene. Her music is a mix of political, witty, emotional and spiritual content, but never becoming too heavy in any direction. The Long Christmas Dinner almost perfectly represents her style and may be a great introduction to her catalogue.
The deep sense of family and how those dinners around the old table document what is going on in our lives is why The Long Christmas Dinner is the tenth song on our Christmas List of Songs