Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is one of my favorite Christmas songs. When the hectic hurry up and get it done insanity of holiday preparations has taken its toll and left throbbing aches in your head and back and feet and shredded the thin veil of your patience, there are few things more reinvigorating than turning up the volume, closing your eyes and letting this music fill all the depleted spaces. So I went looking for a worthy version to post over here for you all to enjoy. During my search I wandered over to Wikipedia and found some interesting history about the song:
Paul O’Neill explained the story behind Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 in an interview published on ChristianityToday.com:
… We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago (Vedran Smailović) who left when he was fairly young to go on to become a well-respected musician, playing with various symphonies throughout Europe. Many decades later, he returned to Sarajevo as an elderly man—at the height of the Bosnian War, only to find his city in complete ruins.
I think what most broke this man’s heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed.
He came every night and began playing Christmas carols from that same spot. It was just such a powerful image—a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves. Some time later, a reporter traced him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing. The old man said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.
The song basically wrapped itself around him. We used some of the oldest Christmas melodies we could find, like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells” (which is from Ukraine, near that region). The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.
But the video clips I found left me unimpressed and disappointed. I mean really, who wants to watch an animated light display some guy set up in his front yard? And then I saw a version that told a story. Maybe not quite the same story as the one related above, but a story nonetheless. I found it intriguing, full of the possibilities of “what if.”
May your Christmas be one of magic and wonder and hope, and may you be filled with the fierce stirring strains of the spirit of humanity.