The Sounds of the SeasonPosted: December 24, 2012 Filed under: Culture | Tags: Christmas, culture, music, pop culture 2 Comments
Ah, Christmas. There’s no other holiday quite like it. Even if you aren’t Christian, you can still get into the secular spirit by drinking heavily, decorating your house with enough lights to divert traffic from the nearest airport, and maxing out your credit cards on things that people will enjoy for as long as it takes them to unwrap the next present. I do so love this holiday. And nothing says “Christmas spirit” like the music of Christmas.
We all have our favorite Christmas ditties. For me, there are a handful of songs that just say, “Let the merriment commence.” I thought I’d take a little time to share them with you, along with some of the reasons that make them so special to me.
First up is the one song that I have to hear before I can officially declare it to be Christmas. That song, of course, is the immortal “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. Now I can hear some of you thinking “are you out of your damn mind?” Others of you may not even be that polite. Allow me to explain. For those of you old enough, cast your minds back to 1987. The very first A Very Special Christmas album had been released, and my dad bought it the first chance he got. He was a huge fan of Christmas music, dad was, and he loved so many of the performers. He couldn’t wait to put it on. He so loved every single one of the tracks, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp, even Sting… until…
Let’s just say Dad wasn’t a fan of rap music.
My sister and I, of course, knew what was coming. We were even waiting for it. The look on his face when the song started was priceless. We made him sit through the whole thing, and every year after that it just wasn’t Christmas until we broke out his ever-growing collection of Christmas CDs, dug out A Very Special Christmas, and made sure Dad got his chance to enjoy “Christmas in Hollis” (the fact that Mom grew up in Queens just made it that much funnier). This will be our first Christmas without Dad, but every time I hear that song, I remember him fondly, and I dance just a little in his honor.
The next song that I love at Christmas time is “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” by Blink-182. Okay, I’ll admit it, this one puts me squarely in the Grinch category, but I swear it’s for a lot of good reasons. First, I’m a Grinch, so there. Second, as far as anti-carols go, this one takes the cake. It is a perfect summary of every negative feeling I have ever had in the Christmas season, bundled together into a zippy pop-punk bundle. The chorus alone is a treasure, with such gems as “it’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year.” Who can deny feeling some shred of that cynicism at least at some point? The fact that my sister knew me well enough to include this song on the Christmas album she put together for me one year makes it all the sweeter, since it turned it from sheer nihilistic anti-commercialistic rebellion into heartwarming, family affirming, nihilistic anti-commercialistic rebellion.
And speaking of My Not So Humble Sister, I’m going to have to loop back around to A Very Special Christmas (that album played very prominently in my childhood Christmas memory) and mention “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” by U2. Every year, as soon as this one came on, my sister and I would sing this one together, dancing around with abandon, acting like fools, having a grand time. For just a few moments we would forget to be antagonistic teenagers and actually enjoy each others’ company, if only for the length of one song. Anyone who knew my sister and I at that age (or pretty much anytime before the age of 25) realizes the astonishing power that represents, and why I treasure those memories now.
The next song on my parade of Christmas delights is “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms.
What, I’m not allowed to love a classic?
Okay, so here’s the story, even if it is a little embarrassing. As my family will gladly (or ruefully) attest, when I was a little kid I first discovered this song. I thought it was pretty neat until I found out the singer was named Bobby, and then I become obsessed with it. I listened to it practically non-stop for something close to a year. No, not that year. A year, as in 365 calendar days. Did I mention I was obsessed? Anyway, I finally got over it (I think my sister finally hid the record from me), but I still love that song.
To be sure, there are a lot of other songs that I love to hear this time of year, but those are my “must hear” list. Whenever I hear them it’s as if they’re speaking to me directly, and what they’re saying is “Merry Christmas, Bob.” And that’s what I’d like to say to you now.
Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.
How could you not include “Frosty the Snowman” by Leon Redbone?
Two words: Good. Taste.