Tuesday, December 6, 2016

ten favorite Christmas songs.

Now that December is upon us, it is finally ok to start listening to Christmas music.

But you've been hearing it for months already, haven't you?

As soon as the first autumn leaf hits the ground, Christmas stuff is inescapable. It's in every store and on every radio station. It's in your head - especially when you REALLY don't want it to be in your head.

And by the time December actually rolls around, you're pretty sick of Christmas music.

Well, that's me, anyway. I have a Christmas hangover before the Christmas season has even really begun.

The early onslaught of all things Christmas has made me a little Scroogey, I must admit. I'm mostly annoyed because Christmas merchandise always encroaches the Halloween territory, and Halloween is my favorite holiday so just BACK OFF ALREADY CHRISTMAS.

But now that we're a few days into December, I'm going to try and leave my grinchy attitude behind and get into the Christmas spirit.

And I'm going to do that with Christmas music.

So hopefully you're not as Christmas-ed out as I am and will enjoy my ten favorite Christmas songs!

"Little Drummer Boy"
David Bowie and Bing Crosby

This is my favorite Christmas song of all time. Period. I obviously love David Bowie, and I have a solid appreciation for Bing Crosby. Put them together, and what you get is pure Christmas magic. What I don’t really understand is what exactly is going on in this skit: this particular video cuts right to the song, but in the original video, there's all sorts of weird banter and general confusion. But then THE SONG. I’m not a goosebumps kind of person, but seriously: chills.

“Christmas Don’t Be Late”
Alvin and the Chipmunks
This song is very much a polarizing “love it or hate it” song. I am firmly in the “love it” camp. I grew up with Chipmunks songs and the Chipmunks cartoons, and I am happy to look past the completely bizarre baseline plot of a weirdo single guy living and singing with three chipmunks he refers to as his sons. Anyway. Whether you are pro- or anti-Chipmunk, this song is catchy as hell, and it’s rare that I can resist a waltz. If you can’t stand the Chipmunks, check out She & Him’s version of the song. You’ll like it.

“Carol of the Bells”
Home Alone version
Home Alone was my childhood, and everything about it brings me back to snowy days in our tiny old house, with all five of us snuggled up in our cozy living room. “Carol of the Bells” is the background music as Kevin is setting the booby traps in his house, so of course, it’s very intense. Even though I’ve seen this movie approximately one million times, it’s always very stressful because THE WET BANDITS ARE COMING and IS KEVIN GOING TO GET EVERYTHING DONE ON TIME??!

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
Simon and Garfunkel
Simon and Garfunkel aren’t especially known for their Christmas music, but they do have some hidden gems. They have a delightfully cheesy version of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” on their first album, and they also did a haunting rendition of “Silent Night” with the 7 o’clock news playing the background. But my favorite is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” which is a pretty great (and underutilized) carol to begin with. Add in the flawless harmonies that Simon and Garfunkel are known for, and the result is freaking magical.

“Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
The Piano Guys
The Piano Guys have been having a moment for the past few years, and I’m totally into it. They released a Christmas album a few years ago, and one of the songs was a "Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" combination. It’s all instrumental and totally amazing.

“Father Christmas”
The Kinks
I like my Christmas music (and most things, really) with a healthy dose of irreverence. Enter “Father Christmas.” It’s about a guy who dresses up like Santa and gets beaten up by some kids who demand money. These kids are not so well off, and they tell him to “give all the toys to the little rich boys.” It does take a turn for the heartbreaking when one of the kids says, “Give my daddy a job cause he needs one/he’s got lots of mouths to feed.” And one of the last lines is, “Have yourself a very merry Christmas/have yourself a good time/but remember the kids who got nothing/while you’re drinking down your wine.” Thanks for the reminder – we need it from time to time.

Mele Kalikimaka
She & Him
This is a pretty new addition to my list of Christmas favorites – I heard it for the first time when I first watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – which, shamefully, was just a few years ago. The version in the movie is Bing Crosby’s, but I really appreciate She & Him (and really, who doesn’t like Zooey Deschanel?). “Mele Kalikimaka” is pretty much the antithesis to every Christmas song ever, as it’s about Christmas in Hawaii and makes no reference to snow or any of the other wintery grossness with which we tend to be stuck on Christmas. Listening to the song with its Hawaiian music almost makes you feel warmer, and we can always use that in December.

“It Feels Like Christmas”
The Muppet Christmas Carol
There are SO MANY great Christmas songs in The Muppet Christmas Carol; it was hard for me to choose just one. There’s “One More Sleep Til Christmas,” which Kermit (Bob Cratchit) sings on Christmas Eve, and there’s “Thankful Heart,” performed by Michael Caine (Scrooge) after he has seen the Christmas light. And then there's “Bless Us All,” which Tiny Tim sings as his family is seated around their meager Christmas dinner and I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING. But ultimately, my favorite is “It Feels Like Christmas,” which the Ghost of Christmas Present sings to Scrooge as they are standing in the town square on Christmas Day. The Ghost of Christmas Present tells Scrooge that Christmas is all about kindness: “wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.” Warm fuzzies.

Snoopy’s Christmas”
The Royal Guardsmen
As we’ve established, I was a super weird kid (who has since become a super weird adult). I was listening to exclusively oldies radio stations by the time I was twelve, and that’s how I became acquainted with “Snoopy’s Christmas.” Starting in mid-November, the oldies stations would play this on a near-constant loop. Having read scores of Peanuts anthologies at my grandma Sheila’s house, I was familiar with Snoopy’s WWI flying ace alter ego and his battles with the Red Baron. However, until my foray into the oldies stations, I had no idea that Snoopy and the Red Baron had their own Christmas song. It’s just bizarre enough for me to totally love it.

“Holly Jolly Christmas”
Burl Ives
As a kid, I LOVED the television Christmas specials (but who didn’t?). We waited for those with almost as much anticipation as we waited to open our presents. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was (obviously) one of our favorites, and to this day, I have a healthy appreciation for all things Rankin Bass. Rudolph was not only a harbinger of Christmas spirit, but it had great songs: notably, “Holly Jolly Christmas.” Nothing sounds as much like Christmas as Burl Ives singing this song.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Home Alone/Mel Torme
There are eight hundred thousand versions of this song, but as a 90s kid, the Mel Torme/Home Alone version will always be my favorite. It’s at the almost-end when (spoiler alert) the Wet Bandits are getting hauled away in a police car. I’ve always thought it was a nice song, and it gained meaning as I grew older. My sister was in the military and couldn’t always make it home for Christmas, thus: “someday soon, we all will be together/if the fates align.” And for the past few years, the fates have indeed aligned.


For all my poo-pooing of the early onslaught of Christmas music,  I really do love it. (After December 1, that is.) There are still plenty of songs that didn’t quite make my top ten list, and I plan to listen to all of them. On repeat. From now until December 25.

Because on December 26, Christmas music once again becomes verboten. That means that Christmas music stays special – if there are only 25 days out of the year I can listen to it, I get excited about it every year. Every December 1, it feels like a treat to once again listen to these songs that I’ve filed away for the last almost-year. And every year, they feel like old friends.

Whatever your Christmas music listening preferences, I hope you have yourselves a merry little Christmas!

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