Sunday, December 15, 2019

Reminiscing: Christmas Music

It’s that time of year where Christmas music is everywhere. My kids have the radio playing it on all night while they sleep. Something about sugar plums and fairies dancing. For me, it’s one of my least favorite parts of the year. It’s so rushed and crowded that it drives my anxiety right through the roof. Add the endless loop of Christmas jingles to it, and it adds up to less Santa and more Scrooge for me. But it wasn’t always that way. 

When I was growing up, Christmas was a magical time of year. The anticipation, the excitement, and the joy of visiting cousins and family made it great. As I got older, we all drifted away and some of the magic ebbed. But in those days, when the magic was still at its greatest, it was the second best time of the year. (Independence Day always has topped my favorite holidays.)

Decorating the house was a big deal at our house. When I moved my bedroom to the basement, I put up my own, small tree and decorated the railing going up the stairs. Meanwhile, for the main tree upstairs and the other decorations, it was a weekend long event topped off with music.

My mom would get a stack of records out, put them on the player, and we’d listen to that and serenade along with it as we got the house ready for Christmas. Some of the ones I can clearly remember were Bing Crosby songs, Dolly and Kenny, and The Carpenters. There were others that either fell into the “I Love It” category, or the “Meh” category.

One of my least favorite Christmas songs that my mom loved was “Blue Christmas” by Elvis. I know
it almost seems unpatriotic and anti-Christmas to hate Elvis singing Christmas tunes, but that one just makes me cringe. It did then, and it still does. 

However, some of my favorite Christmas songs were sometimes mixed into the stack of records. We’d eagerly await those songs to pop up. My favorite was probably the Chipmunk’s Christmas. The best of course, was “The Chipmunk Song.” Please Christmas, don’t be late. And poor Dave trying to keep Alvin in line. That album made me laugh. It still makes me laugh. I’m actually listening to it while writing this. It helps to loosen the memories.

The Muppets “Twelve Days of Christmas” was always one to make me pause and listen. Even my kids can quote the “Ba dum dum dum” tha Miss Piggy throws out there for the fifth day of Christmas. I had a hard time remembering all the days of Christmas for chorus, but this version of the song helped me out. I’m not sure I remember it all anymore. I guess I’ll have to relisten to relearn them all.

My favorite Christmas song of all time was not on the record stack. But I hear it often. “Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth)” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby stands heads and shoulders above the other Christmas songs among my favorites. 

One Christmas, my grandmother found an old portable organ that came with lots of Christmas music. It was in a blue suitcase and had the chords labeled on it for easy learning. For the entire we had it, it was all Christmas music all the time. My favorite one to play was “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Both my sister and I played that organ constantly. We wore it out pretty quickly, and probably our parents’ nerves, too. 

Today, Christmas music has been on all day, and radio stations play it 24 hours a day, seven days a week from Thanksgiving until Christmas. That is simply too much for me. I tend to hunker down when I hear the constant barrage of it. I don’t mind a little at a time, but the endless playlists are just too much.

If you love Christmas music, you must be in all your glory right now. Good for you. Enjoy it. If it makes you feel comfort and joy, then it is always a wonderful thing. Don’t let this Scrooge make you feel like you need to stifle your holiday cheer.

Craig Bacon is finally done with his Christmas shopping. Typically, he’s done by Thanksgiving, but this year he didn’t finish until the second weekend in December. He’ll remember to avoid all that for next year.