I love music.
Music energizes. It comforts. It soothes. It delivers a much-needed catharsis of emotion and an occasional ugly cry.
Music is my friend.
I have music playing constantly in my house, in my car, at the gym – wherever I am, I’m tapping, grooving, singing, swaying. At any given moment, I will bust a move. Music lifts my mood like nothing else.
Except for Christmas music. We have a frenemy-type relationship. Some songs I truly enjoy. Others cause me to strangle myself with the nearest branch of mistletoe.
Last year, Christmas Music and I met for coffee and attempted to reconcile. I’m happy and fun! he insisted. You’re trite and annoying, I countered. But I tell a joyful tale! he argued. Joyful tale I can handle. Crooning over imaginary mythical characters and nonexistent winter precipitation I cannot.
So we left Starbuck’s on amicable terms, but I still harbored a handful of ill-will, and I kept my ever-faithful, hollyjolly-less iPod close by.
This year, Christmas Music returned, begging for another chance. I slammed the door in its face when it showed up the week before Thanksgiving, but it hobbled meekly back after we buried Gertrude’s remains. I was so happy to be finally rid of Gertrude that I decided to indulge Christmas Music, and I invited him in.
We pulled out the decorations, poured some hot chocolate, and dove headfirst into Holiday Joy.
I’m kinda enjoying his company. He has nestled in nicely with our new house and the renewed Christmas spirit that has accompanied our new digs. There’s something about finally living in your dream house – and the assumed permanence – that makes me want to bust out the holly and the jolly like never before.
I began a mental list of Christmas music I love…and those that cause me to choke on my candy cane.
First, the loathes:
- Anything by Burl Ives, (I can only hear “The Ugly Bug Ball” when Mr. Ives voice comes across the radio waves, which does nothing to promote goodwill toward men), Bing Crosby, Karen Carpenter, the Beach Boys, or a Jamaican reggae band, and while I’m sure they celebrate the holidays on the beach, there is something very wrong with singing about snow and St. Nick while wearing bermuda shorts.
- “Away in a Manger.” This song has always bugged me. First, I don’t think baby Jesus laid there amongst the cow dung without crying. I think he probably had colic. And “stay by my cradle til morning is nigh”? What is that? (Besides ridiculous.) Not my favorite tune.
- Anything by Amy Grant. OK, true confessions time here. Get ready. This gets ugly. I grew up listening to Amy Grant. Loved her. I had every cassette she ever recorded, starting with the scandalous Unguarded album, where she wore the leopard-print jacket and her name emblazoned the cover in hot pink block caps. And, at least once on every album, she sang a tune about how she was not going to give up on her wayward husband, how she loved him, how she would stay and work it out. And then, sometime after Behind the Eyes, she up and left poor Gary Chapman and married Vince Gill (who I also can’t stomach, but I’ve never liked him anyway). The odd part of this ugly soul-searching scenario is that I have since stood by several friends and family members who have gone through divorces – wept with them, wholeheartedly supported them, and witnessed how they really are better unmarried. But I am unable to get over Amy Grant. I flip the station every time she comes on, and I avoid looking at her cute little face on the cover of Good Housekeeping when I’m in the checkout line at Tom Thumb.
There ya have it. Just keeping it real, folks. I hate that I feel this way, and I need to get over it.
Let’s talk about my very favorite Christmas music, shall we?
- Anything coming forth from the sweet pipes of Mr. Josh Groban. Oh, Josh. Joshjoshjoshjoshjooooosh. I could slather you all over a sugar cookie and gobble you up with a cold glass of milk (while cuddled under the mistletoe with my beloved husband, of course). Hubba hubba.
- Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” I especially love the end of the song when one of the band members ho-ho-hos, and The Boss can’t sing for laughing. Makes me smile every time.
- “Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – the Trans-Siberian Orchestra electric guitar version. Rockin’ around the Christmas tree at its finest.
- “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The happier I become about the holidays, the more these grow on me. Cheery little ditties, these are.
- The Muppets’ “Twelve Days of Christmas” (BAH-DAH-DUM-DUM) and, conversely but oh-so-delightful, “The Twelve Pains of Christmas.”
- Faith Hill’s “Where Are You, Christmas?” I’ve heard this one before, but I listened to the lyrics for the first time last week, and it gave me chills. I love the raw authenticity of it – a woman jaded and scarred by the world, having lost all Christmas joy but wanting desperately to get it back. Yeah, I can relate. Awesome song.
- “O Come, Emmanuel.” My all-time favorite Christmas hymn, for many of the same reasons – except that instead of searching for Christmas spirit, the writer is begging for Christ Himself. Israel, mourning in exile, was waiting expectantly for the Messiah, and now we, likewise burdened and weary from sin, wait expectantly for His return. The beautiful, haunting melody draws me into worship like no other Christmas tune.
So the Christmas season is in full swing in our house. I’d forgotten how fun and exciting it can be. When I focus on the giving and serving part of the holidays, when I choose to absorb the love, to remember the Gift that causes us to celebrate, it’s not so bad. It’s actually rather enjoyable.
Carols and all.