Christmas in Illinois, by James BalloweChristmas in Illinois is one of our more popular titles of recent years. A fruitcake of prose bursting with stories, songs, good cheer, and recipes, Christmas in Illinois features contributions by Illinoisians from across the fame spectrum. Mike Royko and Sandra Cisneros, frontiersmen and Vermilion County schoolchildren—a chorus of Prairie Staters chime in on Yules past and present.

Longtime Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, for example, laments the decline of singing carols:

But outside churches and the occasional party, collective Christmas caroling has fallen casualty to the peculiarities and sensitivities of our age. Many schools, fearful of offending non-Christians, have axed carols from the activities. In urban neighborhoods where people don’t know their neighbors, assembling a caroling crew is harder than ever. Who knows which cranky neighbor will call the cops complaining about a disturbance of the peace?

Add to that the omnipresence of recorded music. By saturating our lives with music made by others, I’m convinced, recorded music has deterred many of us from making our own.

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