Thanksgiving has passed, and the holiday season is well underway. As is now American tradition, there’s outcry about how commercialized Christmas and other December holidays have become, but there are also the more heartwarming parts. There’s the tree decorating that I don’t do because I just go home a few days before Christmas. There’s the gift shopping that I don’t do because my family is too pragmatic to leave purchase suitability is to chance. There’s even the family time that my family can’t quite make because we’re all using our vacation time differently.
I personally only have two holiday traditions. First, I start wearing my Santa hat 2 or 3 weeks before Christmas. It’s not particularly creative, but it’s rare enough that strangers may be incorrectly convinced of my holiday spirit. It also happens to be a great way to keep my head warm since my haircut is not optimized for winter.
Second, I listen to my Christmas Music playlist almost continuously. It contains 41 songs covering just over two hours, and I think it includes the most important standards. It is a little lacking on Christmas carols, but without a canonical recording of old music, why even try? Instead, I listen to what is basically a bunch of 50s and 60s music because today, we seem to agree that those are the true “classics” of a holiday that has been around for far more lifetimes than just my parents’.
Since I don’t actually have that much to say about the music, I have come up with an arbitrary top 10 list for Christmas songs. I’m certain you will disagree, but quibbling over unimportant details during a merry time may just be the true Christmas spirit for some of you. Let me know what you think.
10. Have A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burt Ives
This seems like the right song to start the top 10 with. It’s holly, it’s jolly, and it’s about Christmas. Oddly, I think I can sing the song from memory, but I haven’t thought about what any of the lyrics mean.
9. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Elmo & Patsy
Apparently Dr. Elmo is a veterinarian. Also, he’s no longer married to Patsy. Either way, this is a pretty ridiculous song
8. Sleigh Ride – Johnny Mathis OR an orchestral arrangement
If you played it in junior high or high school with your band or orchestra, you may be biased towards some arrangement, but most of it probably just know the Johnny Mathis version. Bonus points if you did the horse whinny on trumpet.
7. Christmas Eve – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
I saw them perform live a few years ago. I was aware that seasonal amusement parks and stores existed, but I think the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the only seasonal band that I know. The rest of the album this song is on is good, but this is definitely the best.
6. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
I have to wonder if Rudolph would be so important today if NBC hadn’t made that one stop motion TV movie. Well, it happened, so Rudolph makes it in the top 10, despite some pretty grim themes.
5. Frosty the Snowman – Gene Autry
Ditto on the TV movie. Apparently Frosty was aired by CBS, but clearly the big winner in all of this was Gene Autry.
4. Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
50s music continues, though this is slightly more upbeat.
3. Rocking Around the Christmas Eve – Brenda Lee
I think it’s my personal bias that ranks the rock & roll standards over the kiddy ones. This is a close one with #4, but I have to give the nod to the fuzzier recording for feeling more homey.
2. Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano
Proof that you don’t have to be any good with lyrics to make a great song. I’ll at least give props to Jose for making the Spanish and English parts different.
1. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
Undeniably the greatest Christmas hit ever. It’s upbeat, it’s modern (but so ubiquitous that it seems timeless), and everyone sounds ridiculous singing along. It also imparts the most important holiday theme of romantic longing instead of things like family bonding or charity.