Thursday, November 23, 2023

What This Christmas Community Means To Me - A Special Guest Column from Rehya Stevens

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  A couple months ago I asked Rehya Stevens if she would be interested in writing a guest blog for Merry & Bright, and she jumped at the opportunity!  I can think of nothing better to post on this Thanksgiving Day than Rehya's beautiful column about her connections with the Christmas blogger/podcaster/online media community.  Read on my friends :-)

And thank you Rehya - you're the best!


What This Christmas Community Means To Me

by Rehya Stevens 

I’m a California girl who lived in Los Angeles for 23 years, until moving back to my hometown (in Placer County) in July of 2022. Placer county is often referred to as the midwest of California, where people say what they mean, mean what they say, or say nothing at all. In my experience, Hollywood culture is more, “get in where you fit in, then hustle hard to earn your keep — for you’re only as valuable as your most recent accolade.” Don’t get me wrong, I chiseled my craft in LA (I am forever grateful for the toolkit I now have), and made some lifelong friends who became family through steadfast support and trauma bonds that are pretty hysterical in retrospect. If you live to tell, and can laugh your butt off about it years later, pat each other on the back! You now have a psychological immune system of steel, and an indomitable spirit!

A big part of me recognizes that what has compelled me to write and record so much Christmas music through the years is the desire to create a benevolent musical space where being together is always joy filled, non-competitive and abundant in levity and mutual support. Even still, I never thought back in 2018 when I reached out to Aaron Henton, Martin Johns, Jeff Westover, Todd Killian, Ken Kessler, Art Kilmer, Gerry Davila, Duane Bailey and Jim Devers with news of my first Christmas album ("Celebrate"), that six years later, that we would feel like kindred spirits, toasting a cup of cheer over zoom every Christmas, shooting the breeze, and just “hanging” - with no agenda.

Photo by Katie Kennedy

I love Aaron’s gentle, patient disposition. He’s too wise to get too ruffled. Seems to me he’d rather preserve his energy for planting gentle seedlings by way of example. He’s a ravenous reader, so my guess is, he probably has more leadership skills than most head honchos, but the mess of their wake is best used by allowing nature take care of things, giving way to a more sustainable future. He’d rather be on the creative side of that process. Aaron’s Blog:

Martin is a treasure trove of music history, and his ideals are to me - what the founding fathers fought for - but more progressive for this complex day and age. Talking to him is like talking to your esteemed college professor who always left you with the sense that you were barely scratching the surface when you thought you’d reached the deep end of the ocean. Back to the drawing board you go! Damn. We need more thinkers like Martin on this planet. Martin’s Blog:

Jeff lives in the deep end of the intellectual and political ocean, big time! He cares deeply about the state of the world, and is clearly a fine historian. Each conversation we’ve shared has left me yearning to give him my Dad’s phone number. My Dad is a Ukrainian immigrant who spent part of his childhood in a displaced person’s camp in Germany. When he immigrated to the states, he learned to speak English by way of bibles and encyclopedias - the only reading materials allowed in the home of his sponsors. My father has fits of indignation over the teachings of the old testament, and an unquenchable thirst for truth. Jeff’s passion for history and uncovering what’s true reminds me so much of my dad. I imagine together, they could solve the problems of the world if only they could fine tune human nature to be gentler. Yes, that would be their mission statement. Jeff’s Blog/Podcast:

I love Todd’s passion for creativity - whether that’s making furniture, doing graphic design, video editing or podcasting. He’s the kind of guy you’d be lucky to have as a best friend. If we lived close by, I’m sure we would be. I picture puzzling through winter, two-week long monopoly games, and trying to convince him to make ornaments with me that have so much glitter, it speckles the floors and furniture until the following summer, evading your every deep-clean effort. Todd’s Podcast:

I love Ken’s engaging personality, and his gift of communicating from the heart. He loves Christmas for all the quirky, endearing things it brings out in us. The way his wife tapes a new strip of wrapping paper to cover the bald spot on the gifts - every year, without fail - is one example. He encourages our unique ways of celebrating the holidays - and that also applies to the unique ways we live our lives. Being a career focused singer-songwriter who felt it best to spare a husband and children from the trials and tribulations of my roller coaster lifestyle, I think Ken would say, “Great!! More Christmas for us!!” Rather than, “Oh, that’s so tragic.” Thank you Ken ๐Ÿ™Ken’s Radio Station:

I love Gerry’s keen intellect and sense of humor. Not much gets past him - hence, nuance is everything in his arena. He strikes me as a sophisticated thinker, with a wicked sense of humor. That combination of gifts could easily boil up and over a deep pot, but he keeps it on a perfect simmer, for a steady, concentrated flavor. Whatever he’s serving up is going to be delicious! Gerry’s Podcast:

I love the way Art revels in the beauty of simple moments that bring us closer. I fully relate, because I live for those things! A shared cookie making afternoon, swapping lines from a favorite movie together as you go. Recipe swapping. Movie and popcorn nights with a s’mores station set up by the fire. There is something so re-energizing about the simple side of the holiday season. Everyone come as you are, no pressure. The moment we’re in is the only one that matters. Yes!! More of this please. Art’s Podcast:

Duane syncopates the Christmas lights on his house to “Jingle Jangle” every year and sends me the videos. It feels like tradition now, and I look forward to it every December. Seriously, it’s a pretty incredible light show. His neighbors ought to hire him for a pretty penny to dress their houses. I have plenty of other Christmas songs for them too ๐Ÿ˜‰Duane’s Podcast:

Jim Devers recently got married and welcomed a new baby this year - she’s just beautiful! I figure, 6 years from now, he’ll start doing music interviews again. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing pictures from his Christmas mornings - all mayhem and bed hair! Jim’s Blog:

So, you see… this community is about so much more than music. It’s about community!! Isn’t it funny how life often appears to be about one thing — and it’s about so much more than we can possibly see at the outset of any endeavor? Knowing and being part of this community is enriching because of all the people in it, sharing who we are, sharing our love of Christmas, and seeking connection from that heart space. The spirit of Christmas is a wonderful thing. In essence, it’s about friendship, care and community. That’s what I’ve found here. Thank you Aaron, Martin, Jeff, Todd, Ken, Gerry, Art, Duane and Jim for brightening my world all these years. Your friendship and support has made all the difference on my journey, and you hold such a unique place in my heart by just being YOU! I’m so glad we found each-other through our shared love of this magical season.

Merry Christmas to you & yours!




  1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Rehya! Your music is such a gift, and I'm grateful that you share it with us (and so excited that even though there was a new Christmas album this year, there's still more to come)! It's rare to find an artist that loves Christmas music almost as much as I do, and it's so wonderful to listen to your songs (especially your original Christmas tunes) and feel that, while it isn't always about something ideal, you're singing from the heart, and I believe every note you sing!

    1. Thank you Ken! It’s such a gift to know you, and to share friendship ๐Ÿ’ Thank you for believing in my music, and playing it for you listeners. It means so much to me!