And it really is. Though it doesn’t feel wintry outside, stores are buzzing, traffic is fierce, and office parties are a dime-a-dozen. Parking lots are full of shoppers more than willing to empty their wallets for the perfect gift, only to do it all over again at the next store. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the tangible things that the season brings; after all, we’re bombarded with commercials, advertising and tinsel earlier and earlier every year. I’ve found that each person has something that really defines the holidays for him or her, and without it, Christmas just isn’t the same. Be it green bean casserole, a real tree, lights on the house a la Clark Griswold or your grandmother’s Nativity scene, people begin to associate their holiday with a favorite aspect of the season.
For me, it’s the music. Last night I began putting together an all-inclusive Christmas CD for a friend, and through the beauty and magic of iTunes, a new galaxy of holiday hits opened the compilation to songs old and new, secular and religious, unique and repetitive. However, I found myself still gravitating toward the songs I’d always loved. My own personal catalog has evolved over time but essentially hasn’t changed much. Here’s my abridged list along with my favorite versions:
“Carol of the Bells” – my all-time favorite. I was very influential in Mrs. Moore’s choosing this one for our performance in high school chorus. I love the idea of voices sounding like bells and that everyone knows the tune, but not the words. I can teach them to you if you’d like. Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition is the best I’ve heard, but I also love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s electric guitar version.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – my favorite secular Christmas song. From James Taylor to Coldplay to Old Blue Eyes, I’ve never found a version that I don’t like. I love its message of enjoying time together with the ones you love and keeping your troubles “out of sight.” It’s a little mournful, but there’s nothing I’d rather hear.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Again, a little mournful. I like to imagine a young man working really hard at his office and writing this song as a letter home to his mom. If I were Michael Buble’s mom, I would think he really was coming home for Christmas.
“Ave Maria” – The Charles Gounod version. I love it so much I made it a part of my May wedding. But, if you can’t get Janie Diaz to perform it for you personally, believe it or not, Jewel does a great job with this one.
“Step into Christmas” – Sir Elton John’s Christmas song makes me dance every time I hear it. It’s kind of flamboyant…just like him.
“Little Drummer Boy” (a.k.a. Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum) – My dad’s favorite has now become mine as well. This endearing song embodies so much that is Christianity and is a musical reminder to always humble ourselves before God. Everyone’s gift is valuable, and we should use them always to His glory. Plus, I like that the ox and lamb keep time – I imagine them wagging their tails with the beat of the drum. Jars of Clay has a great interpretation of this one.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – Only one version of this song will do for me. Though the silver screen adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic is good, the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is superlative. There’s a reason it’s been around for over 40 years. How can you argue with a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce?
“The Christmas Song” – Does it get any more “classic” Christmas than this? Have you ever seen a Christmas movie that doesn’t weave it in at some point? Almost every phrase is a dedication to the most wonderful time of the year. I don’t think I need to say that Nat King Cole owns this song, but Stevie Wonder and India.Arie also put a jazzy spin on it.
“Breath of Heaven” – Amy Grant
“Must Have Been Old Santa Claus” – Harry Connick, Jr.
“Merry Christmas, Baby” – Otis Redding
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – Jackson 5
“O Holy Night” – Martina McBride
If you’re not familiar with the songs on my list, give them a try. You won’t be disappointed, and you may find a new favorite of your own. Did I leave off your favorite? Please share…