Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh, Come, All Ye Seasonally Overwrought ...

We are now officially into the Christmas season, which began unofficially in most major retail establishments just after the Fourth of July. Trees twinkle with lights, the streets are draped with garlands of artificial pine, commercials extol the holiday virtues of everything from high-tech toys to ladies' depilatories, and Christmas music blares from every direction.

I don't think I would have liked Ebeneezer Scrooge, but there are days I think I understand him.

Let's talk for a moment about the music of Christmas.

I admit it ... I'm an emotional sucker for Christmas music. I can get teary listening to a good version of The Little Drummer Boy, and I get flashbacks to an earlier and simpler time when I hear the old standbys like White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and Adeste Fideles. But there are also the holiday clinkers, like Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, which can drive me to wear four sets of noise-canceling headsets at once. We have a wide range of Christmas songs from the religious (Silent Night) to the secular (O, Christmas Tree). Even rap "musicians" can get into the act (Silent &*^#! Night, %@!#). There's something for everybody.

Apropos of Christmas songs, I read a very interesting article a few weeks ago: Christmas Carols: Why We Keep Singing Them, by Nathan Heller. You have to love an article that contains this wonderful passage:

"At face value, the Christmas carol may be the least captivating style of occasional song. While other popular tunes arise from passion or desire, heroism or defeat, the Yuletide songbook is a catalog of modest thrills and postindustrial neuroses. A quick survey turns up portraits of manic stress release (Jingle Bells), overwrought hallucination (Do You Hear What I Hear?), complex Freudian trauma (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus), desperate midlife lechery (Baby, It’s Cold Outside), forced enthusiasm (It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year), and thinly veiled xenophobia (Dominick the Donkey … the Italian Christmas Donkey)."

Betcha never thought about Christmas songs in that way, did you?

Consider that we don't have a huge canon of music for other holidays. When was the last time you went from house to house in the evening, stopping by each residence to sing an Arbor Day song? Why don't we have books of Martin Luther King Day carols?

I think we enjoy Christmas carols for a lot of reasons. Because they remind us of our safer, happier, less-complicated youth. Because they provide some cheer in an otherwise cold, bleak time of the year. Because they help us celebrate surviving another year of Congressional hypocrisy and ineptitude.

Whatever the reason we sing them, however tired we get of them by the time the season is over, we love our Christmas songs. So join me in a rousing chorus of Good King Wenceslaus, raise that cup of egg nog high, and let's toast the season when we act like the people we should be the rest of the year.

Have a good day. Enjoy the music.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Bandit said...

I also love, yes I'll say it, the Christmas music. I state that because of this reason. I started teaching high school band in 1974 and always had a Christmas concert. In the early 1990's I had to start calling it a winter concert. I'll also reveal my inner nerdness and say that one of the Christmas albums I love best is "The Carpenter's Christmas Portrait."

The best way to judge whether music is great or not is how it stands the test of time. Many of the carols you mentioned were written as far back as 1500.

KKTSews said...

I also love the Carpenter's covers of Christmas favorites. The internet has provided my latest happy Christmas group--Straight No Chaser. Google them, or sample on iTunes. A Male a cappella group started at Indiana University, they are a different take on some of the classics without obliterating them.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I like Christmas carols; but get sated with them along about the week before Christmas.

I look for Super Bowl carols to appear in the near future.

I have almost a rabid reaction to "Santa Baby." Santa should not be sexy!

KathyA said...

I agree with you about carols remind us all of gentler times. I used to also love watching all the old Christmas movies. So different now from the plug in plots of Lifetime movies.

Amanda said...

I've been listening to carols since the beginning of November and I usually don't stop till the end of January! I love them so much and you are so right to say that its because they remind us of a happier, less-complicated youth. I want my children to have that to remember too....