Over the next two weeks, we’re all going to hear a few Christmas songs. Make that a LOT of Christmas songs. Between next Wednesday night and next Friday morning, I will have the pleasure of attending one junior high Christmas concert, two elementary school Christmas concerts, and two preschool Christmas concerts (in case you were counting, that makes five concerts in 36 hours). By the time they’re all over, I’m sure I’ll be vacillating between cuteness overload and wanting to wear noise-canceling headphones through the New Year.
One thing that most of us can agree on is that Christmas songs are awesome. Part of it is probably because we only listen to them for six weeks out of the year (if we adhere to the “only after Thanksgiving” rule, and I refuse to acknowledge any other kind of people). Part of it is probably because we associate them with all kinds of happy memories. In my mind, Amy Grant equals baking cookies. After performing for a season with The Nutcracker, the opening strains of Tchaikovsky’s ballet will always be linked with the musty smell of my mouse costume as I watched the party scene from the wings. I associate listening to The Forgotten Carols with holiday road trips when I was a teenager (although I gathered my kids to watch a video of the production a few years ago and I was sort of shocked at how bad it was). I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Many of us have strong feelings about Christmas songs. Twenty-five years of being a Mormon can’t override my first fourteen years of Protestant existence when it comes to singing “Joy to the World” (Saints and angels? Why? I get it wrong every time). My mom and her sisters watch White Christmas every time they get together during the holidays, improvising the “Sisters” fan dance with napkins or whatever else they have nearby, and invariably end up sniffling back tears when Bing, Rosemary, Danny, and Vera croon the finale. Every year, we have a family Christmas party with my in-laws. We do a live nativity, which is wonderful (if a little irreverent, with a dozen kids and half a dozen adults who seem intent on reclaiming their childhood roles). Then we gather around the piano (yes, we really do), and sing carols. My father-in-law always picks the most obscure songs in the book. Last year’s songfest nearly ended in disaster when he picked “Fum, Fum, Fum” and all of the adults in my generation came down with an incurable case of the giggles.
I tend to like my carols dark and in a minor key. Think, “I Wonder as I Wander,” “Wexford Carol,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” and “What Child is This?” I wonder what this says about me? Does it make me a closeted Grinch that my favorite songs about the happiest time of year are the gloomy-sounding ones?
Of course the most disturbing Christmas song of all time has to be “Baby, it’s Cold Outside,” (aka “The Date Rape Christmas Song”). And yes, I have seen the Idina Menzel and Michael Buble version that came out recently. It stars two adorable kids who dance with each other in an adorable Art Deco hotel, and rather than erasing the subtext, it somehow made it even a little creepier to me. I’m not the only one who has strong feelings about certain Christmas songs. There’s even a whole movement, involving thousands of people, dedicated to avoiding hearing “The Little Drummer Boy” during an entire Christmas season.
The greatest Christmas album of all time? My vote goes to A Very Special Christmas (1987), with cover art by Keith Haring which includes songs by Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, U2, Sting, The Euryhtmics, Madonna, Bon Jovi, and my favorite line of all time: “The name’s DMC/ I got the mic in my hand/ And I’m chillin’ and coolin’/ Just like a snowman.” To be twelve again, blasting the walkman, and singing at the top of my lungs….
What Christmas songs do you have strong feelings about? Which ones do you love? Which would you like to see disappear from our collective consciousness? What do you think about celebrity Christmas carols? What about endless elementary Christmas concerts? Do you love The Killers’ Christmas songs as much as I do?