There is a bit of a culture war going on in my house right now as we make our way inexorably toward Christmas Day. Since I don’t particularly enjoy gift giving or gift getting and I’m pretty much an atheist, the best part of the holiday season for me is the music. My absolute all time favorite Christmas recording is Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. The whole thing is fabulous, but, because I’m partial to sad songs and I identify with the chronically depressed, I really love “Christmas Time is Here.” Here’s a clip from the movie that features the song, as well as Charlie Brown’s rumination on the holiday.
Unfortunately, I married a man who grew up in a much more privileged and cultured environment than I did, meaning his alcoholic father got drunk on Macallan Scotch while my alcoholic father got drunk on Old Grand-Dad. Anyway, my husband’s idea of holiday music is Handel’s Messiah. Here’s the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
So while I spend the month of December dancing around to “Linus and Lucy (The Christmas Dance),” my husband is waving his arms in the air like a mad orchestra conductor to “For Unto Us a Child is Born.”
In addition to my war against holiday symphonies, I also wage a constant battle against all the awful Christmas music we’re subjected to this time of year. I’m talking specifically about those dreadful Christmas carols we were forced to sing in public school, before someone considered the fact that they might make people like Marc Goldstein, the boy who sat behind me in fifth grade, uncomfortable.
This part has nothing to do with Christmas or music or Jewish boys, but let me tell you that out of the blue one day, Marc offered me a Three Musketeers bar, which I declined, because I am suspicious by nature. Years later (I mean, years later. I think I was already married, and just beginning to understand the ways of men, by the time this occurred to me) I realized he probably liked me and the Three Musketeers bar was some sort of elementary school love offering.
Anyway, every one of those dreadful Christmas carols all pretty much sound like Eric Cartman’s rendition of “Oh, Holy Night” to me.
So here I am, doing my part in the war against bad Christmas music by providing a list of some of my favorites.
- 2000 Miles (the Pretenders) The first of many sad Christmas songs that bring me to tears in this joyous season.
- A Long December (Counting Crows) Not technically a holiday song, but it’s got “December” right there in the title.
- Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Vanessa Williams/Bobby Caldwell) Pick your version, all of them are good.
- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (U2)
- Christmas from the Family (Robert Earl Keen) Very funny song about a dysfunctional family’s holiday celebration. My family likes to sing the part about tampons at the top of our lungs.
- Happy Christmas (War is Over) (John Lennon)
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland) Another sad song if you listen closely to the lyrics.
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas (She & Him). I really like Zoey Deschanel’s voice, and she also did a nice duet with Will Ferrell of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for the movie Elf.
- River (Joni Mitchell) I heard this song for the first time last year (it was recorded in 1970) and quickly added it to my list of depressing Xmas songs.
- Santa Baby (Madonna) For whatever reason, there are some really awful covers of this song, including Taylor Swift’s attempt and Michael Buble’s bizarre “Santa Buddy.”
Let’s hear your favorites in the comments.