“What are five songs where it Just Isn’t Christmas if you haven’t heard them?”
It’s as good a blog prompt as any, and it’s something Lori and I were discussing the other day, so let’s put up my list. Please enjoy adding these five songs to your own Christmas canon, because they are inarguably that good. (lol jk but I hope you like them)
I didn’t grow up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas or listening to the music. I’ve mentioned in other places that my mom once DVRed every Christmas-adjacent program she could find on their satellite TV one year, and then made it her mission to at least try every recording she made. (She was still watching Christmas stuff well into the next year)
This program was one of the recordings. I was an adult when I joined her out of curiosity to watch it, and we both enjoyed it so much that it instantly became a staple of our holiday tradition. Of course, with that comes listening to the soundtrack on its own. However, each year I forget that this song is not the first track on the album, and I’m mildly surprised by this fact.
Anyway. The first thirty seconds are so cozy and warm that I want to build a little house in there and move in.
Now on the other hand I absolutely did grow up listening to Boney M on the house radio at Christmastime. So, I suspect, did many folks of a certain age in Southern Manitoba Mennonite households. This song was an absolute staple of the local AM radio’s programming, something that hasn’t really puzzled me until this year. I mean, how did a flashy German/Carribbean disco band become so beloved by such traditionally conservative people?
I guess musical greatness transcends boundaries.
To be clear on this one, I don’t mean the Beta Radio version of this song in specific, although it is very nice. O Holy Night is the pick no matter who does it. It’s lovely, has lyrics that are meaningful to me, and if you want to you can really ham it up and belt out parts of it as loud as you can. It’s got range!
Most years I try to find new Christmas music to enjoy, because as much as we all love Nat King Cole and Mariah Carey, listening to the same twenty standards for a whole month gets old. And so I followed a rec from a random user on MetaFilter to Awake Arise – A Winter Album, which has become a staple of my December. To the point that I really look forward to the holiday season just because I know I’ll get to put this album on.
When discussing this list with Lori I actually slotted the entire album into one of my song choices, because it Just Isn’t Christmas without listening to the whole thing at least once. But if I was forced to narrow it down, I’d say one of the standout tracks for me is this one, Snow Falls. Over and over I resonate with its idea that the cold can’t last forever, that the hard times will give way to better ones. And likewise: the good times aren’t infinite either, so cherish them while you can. Also the harmonies are lovely and it’s comfortably in my singing range, so I get to join in.
Sometimes jokingly referred to as the Mennonite Hallelujah Chorus, this Low German multi-part choral song is the only legal way to end a Christmas Day church service in Southern Manitoba. Well maybe not, but it sure is a favorite. And listen, even if I only know enough Low German to understand maybe one in ten words, I am absolutely going to be trying to make the appropriate mouth sounds to sing along as strongly as I can.
Every video is a poor substitute for actually being in a church on Christmas Day as the first line — “Horch! Die engelchöre singen” (Hark, the angel choirs are singing!) goes out. Because, as you’ll hear, the -en part of “singen” is when it explodes from unison into four-part harmony and I experience such the frisson and everybody is trying to raise the roof of the church right off.
Also, it was saved for the last slot because in my experience it is almost always sung to close out a church service.
Thing I Saw: My little (now nearly 2-year-old) boy turning heads as we walk past the school to its attached daycare. I’m biased, but he is a total cutie pie, and he’s often bright-eyed and smiling when he gets to “go-owsai”. More than once we’ve passed junior high girls that have openly squee’d at his cuteness, and he just tramps along, oblivious.
Thing I Learned: We have a small humidifer with a water reservoir that you have to flip over onto the base after filling. But if you don’t replace the cap after filling, you’ll just, you know, pour a bunch of water on your daughter’s bedroom floor when you flip the tank over
I’m Grateful For: Getting out for an evening to watch Die Hard with friends and drink a beer called “The Toques of Hazzard”. Both were really good.
I’m Dreaming Of: Wassailing! The aforementioned Awake Arise album has been a gateway into learning about Wassail (the drink, usually a combination of apples, hot beer, and cinnamon among other things) and Wassailing (the English tradition of going around with a bowl of the stuff and giving it to your neighbors while singing a delightful tune). I have found a recipe I’d like to try, and I can think of at least two nearby households to bring it to. Unfortunately, I don’t know anybody who’s going to learn the song with me, so probably I’ll just have to show up with a travel mug and say “here, Happy New Year” and scuttle away.