Now that Thanksgiving is over, I no longer have to feel guilty about listening to Christmas carols. I’m not referring to the holiday music played all day and all night by local radio stations. That’s a bit much — and I would rather be boiled in my own pudding, a stake of holly through my heart.
No, I like my own collection of Christmas music — music that I can listen to when I want and as often as I want — even if it’s in June or July. Sometimes, you just need some old fashioned, familiar merriment. Besides, it’s a great way to think cool thoughts during a heatwave.
While many aspects of the holiday season — like the coal-deserving behavior of many shoppers on Black Friday and the corporate leaders who opened their doors to do business on Thanksgiving, ala Scrooge & Marley — have left me feeling like a not-right-jolly-old-elf, Christmas carols remain at the top of my holiday list.
When it comes to carols, I prefer mine straight up, especially when performed by a choir. Just give them to me the way they were originally written — none of this new-fangled, computer-enhanced, riff-driven, vocally-overdone stuff. I understand that there is a competition among today’s performers to make each carol their own, but if everyone keeps making it their own, the original language of the carol gets lost for all time.
Besides, have you ever tried to sing along to a newer version of a classic? My voice goes the tried-and-true way, and then the performer-of-the-moment has other ideas and goes off on a vocal escapade. That might work well on non-holiday music, but leave the soulful stuff to Mahalia Jackson, thank you very much.
As joyous as the season is, many of the carols make me sad. Yes, it’s true. There are songs celebrating this most wonderful time of year that can reduce me to tears — and the older I get, it seems more and more carols become part of my holiday crying game.
This can be pretty awkward for a grown man. I can be in a restaurant or a mall — and I gradually hear the carol playing in the background, and with my awareness comes the lyrics, and with the lyrics comes emotion, and with emotion comes tears. It’s not an ugly cry — just a misting over of the eyes that can sometimes spill over; a drip rather than a cascade.
There really is no rhyme or reason to my carol cry. Many times, I’m simply moved by the singer’s passion — like Mahalia Jackson’s “Silent Night” or the next clip from Whitney Houston.
Other times, it may be listening to the lyric with grown-up ears for the first time, or reminiscing for a more nostalgic time, or just becoming lost in the music.
Fortunately, my Christmas playlist has enough variety so that my Yule is more cool than blue — and the music can last for several days! There’s jazz and rock, lounge and classics — each carol a testament to hours and hours, days and days spent scouring iTunes and my local library’s collection. (For the record, there is no one cooler for the Yule than Brian Setzer. If he’s performing in your area, give yourself a gift of tickets for his show!)
If I could, I would share my playlist with all of you, but that would make me little better than those radio stations with the round-the-clock Christmas formats.
Hey, there’s an idea. If you like, I could post a Christmas song each day for the month — which might be kind of nice now that the WordPress snow is falling. Let me know what you think . . .
In the meantime, on this December 1, let me be the first to wish all of you a Mele Kalikimaka.