I love Christmas music. There. I admit it.
As soon as the leftover Thanksgiving turkey is tucked away in the fridge, it’s nonstop Christmas music for me. Some might say it’s tacky or overly sentimental or just plain cheesy, but I can’t help myself.
Then I wondered why. I realized that it’s the writer in me that loves the Christmas music, and the songs I love best contain a story—whether it’s funny or sad or sweet, it’s the story that gets me every time.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas, written in 1943, tells the story of a World War II soldier writing to his family. Although it was written during a time when many of us hadn’t even been born, we can all relate. Many have different reasons for not being able to spend the holidays with the ones they love. Maybe they were deployed. Or they can’t afford a plane ticket or haven’t accrued vacation leave. Maybe divorces and custody issues play a part. No matter the reason, we can all relate. And if you listen to the lyrics and can keep a dry eye when Bing Crosby croons at the end, “I’ll be home for Christmas…if only in my dreams,” then you’re heartless.
On the flip side of the sentimental song, I also love Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. It, too, tells a story. And it throws a few good lessons in there for good measure. Don’t overindulge in eggnog. Don’t forget your medication. And, for God’s sake, don’t wander out into the snow, especially when Santa is recklessly driving a sleigh. It also presents the listener with a question. What would you do with Grandma’s gifts? Open them or send them back?
The song that grates on my nerves is The Christmas Shoes. That one gets me—but not in a good way. It’s so overly sentimental and designed to pull at my heartstrings. When I know that’s what’s being done, I resist at all costs. I. Will. Not. Be. Moved! The boy in line buying shoes for his dying mommy doesn’t do a thing for me, story or no story. I’m not so sure Jesus will be all that impressed with her new shoes. There. I’m going straight to hell in a handbasket. During the Christmas Season no less.
I remember sitting at a church puppet show when I was in second grade and watched the performance of Mommy kissing Santa Claus. I was absolutely appalled. Appalled! I looked around at the adults chuckling, and I remember distinctly feeling like they were all messed up. Why would it have been funny if Daddy had seen Mommy kissing Santa? Isn’t it still cheating even if it’s with Father Christmas? I asked my mom about it in the car on the way home, and she looked troubled, too. She never did answer my question. But, again, the story is what got me.
I love the sentimental songs. One of my favorites (and my mom’s) is Merry Christmas, Darling by the Carpenters. When Karen Carpenter sings in that sweetly melancholy voice about “being apart, that’s true” but “on this Christmas Eve, I wish I were with you…” Oh. That’s so heartbreaking. They could be apart for any reason, and it always gets me. He could have died. He could be deployed right now. He could have moved on to a different relationship, and she could be a psychotic stalker, but the words are so beautifully sung that none of that matters. The story remains for you to fill in between the lines. It can be your story. Or your sister’s. Or the crazy lady next door. But, it’s someone’s.
My two favorite songs of the season are relatively new. Believe by Josh Groban goes hand-in-hand with one of my favorite movies—Polar Express. It’s a movie about growing up, of letting magic slip away and giving up dreams. But, there’s a positive side. You can find the magic again. I love the lines: “Believe in what you feel inside, and give your dreams the wings to fly. You have everything you need…if you just believe.”
And my favorite Christmas song of all time? Drum roll, please… My Grown-Up Christmas List. Holy Cow. I can’t keep a dry eye. Seriously. I get chills and my heart feels like the Grinch’s—growing three times the normal size during that one song. My favorite version is Kelly Clarkson’s, when she sings about writing to Santa with childhood fantasies but now, as a grown up, her wish list is different. She wants “not for myself but for a world in need.” To me, it’s the epitome of the season. Moving from selfish requests—wrapped presents—to righting the wrongs of the world.
So, what are your favorite songs, and why? That’s the important part. I don’t want to hear that the 1984 version of Do They Know it’s Christmas? is the best. I want to know why. Because it’s chock-full of super star musicians or because it tells of the famine to hit Ethiopa in that year and our power to help those suffering?
When you decide your favorite, maybe you’ll realize that often it’s the story behind the tune that touches your heart. And what better time to have music touch your heart than Christmas? So, give it up! What’s your favorite Christmas song and why?
I wish you a Merry Christmas… I wish you a Merry Christmas…I wish you a Merry Christmas… and a Happy New Year!