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  • By Susan Welsh

Could next Christmas be the year that Last, Christmas becomes the next holiday classic?

2016 is the year I begin grappling with the existential angst that accompanies retirement and late middle age. Exhausted and burnt out, it's a period of reset--learning how to relax again (as if I ever could), learning how to manage the gnawing anxiety that’s dogged me my whole life. Nice to know, again, the pleasure of truly fully enjoying, well. . .anything and everything. The return of a social life, time enough at last to read and write and just sit and think, ponder, dream. For a few months, just that.

The recognition of one’s mortality, the shedding of the mortal coil and all that is more realwhen the losses around you become personal. When old friends die, when the musical icons of your era die, too young, too still-filled-with promise and creative wonders to share with the world. It was like that in 2016— with the death of George Michael, exactly my age. This, after already grieving the loss of two equally beloved iconic artists-- Bowie and Prince.

The nostalgic, aging heart begins to long for remembrances of youth, promises of fresh energy and renewed vitality. Next Christmas promises to deliver both with the release of Last, Christmas, a Universal Pictures production based on the George Michael tune of the same name, co written by Bryony Kimmings and Emma Thompson, directed by Bridesmaids Paul Feig and starring Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke.

London and the beat of a Linn 9000 drum machine, sleigh bells, and the spirit of St. George Michael—that’s a Christmas present if ever there was one. Wrapped up in this romcom are the memories of Michael, dressed all 80’s lightdenim jeans, white sneakers, blousy shirt, and head wreathed in a crown of gloriously big, swoopy hair romping through the Swiss snow in full holiday festivity. It’s Love, Actually and Holiday all wrapped up in one new package with the promise of becoming the next holiday classic.

The 1984 hit was written, performed, and produced by Michael, who also played every instrument and donated all of the royalties to the Ethiopian Famine. Originally released on vinyl by Epic, it's an interesting juxtaposition of pure pop jolliness paired with lyrics of unrequited love more typical of blues than synth pop, lyrically similar to another favorite of mine, Blue Christmas.

I suppose the passing of every Christmas is tinged with melancholy for most of us--remembrances of those people and times that have passed coexisting with the present and the need to "gather ye rosebuds while ye may," and all of that. To quote Dickens “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

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