Christmas Eve is eight weeks today. Go ahead, take a moment to let yourself be excited. Sure, we haven’t yet hit Halloween, but it’s just you and me here. Go on, hum Jingle Bells. Indulge.
Like not wearing white after Labor Day, the old etiquette regarding Christmas carols seems to be changing—creeping up the calendar, closer and closer. Many are unabashedly breaking out their Now That’s What I Call Christmas 1, 2 and 3 CDs upon the arrival of the first strong October chill. That day you decided that, yes, a sweater would be worn was the same day you wondered, “Hmm… where did I put my Christmas music stash?” That’s the hard truth. I did it. You probably did it, too. (Come on, admit it.)
For far too many years I’ve been surrounded by Mr. Scrooges (most notably, my husband) who’ve wagged their Grinchy fingers at me and said, “No, no, not until after Thanksgiving.” So I secretly took the long way home to the tune of Rosemary Clooney reminiscing on a quiet evening, Bing and his white winter dreams, Nat King Cole discussing Eskimo apparel, Burl Ives and his oh-by-gollies, Bruce Springsteen asking who’s coming to town, Boyz II Men, Harry Connick Jr. and even a N’Sync or two. Always on the sly. I kept the CDs under the driver’s seat of my car and denied, denied, denied when caught humming the jingles in my home. My husband would inevitably roll his eyes, sigh and make me feel like my early wassailing was somehow endangering the whole Navidad. But now, I hear tell of other Christmas addicts who, like me, dream of chestnuts roasting on an open fire in July. By October, we’re feeling downright twitchy from withdrawal.
As I said earlier, it appears our shameful stigma has begun to lift. There is a small yet ardent group of merrymakers out there LISTENING and SINGING at full volume as we speak. Joy to the world! Thanks to the advent of Facebook and Twitter, people are sharing hidden moment-by-moment indulgences—Christmas carols in October being the one I keyed in on. The cherry on my sundae was when my own mother (who semi-obeyed the “No Christmas Music Until After Thanksgiving” rule and had a time or two agreed with my husband on this point) was caught red-n-green-handed listening to Christmas carols in her car. Oh, how I crowed: “FA LA-LA LA-LA!”
On that note, one of my best friends (and longtime sister elf) and I compiled a list of our favorite yuletide songs. I got such a kick out of our rationales and reasons for loving these that I thought I’d share—now, while they’re still fresh and the radio hasn’t beaten the poor things to death.
First, I must include a nursery rhyme my mom whisper-sang to me the minute the pumpkin pie was cut on Thanksgiving. It was a kind of magic. The casting spell of the Christmas season:
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Won’t you please put a penny in the old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do. If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you!
Now on to the tracks. (My heart beats faster just writing these.)
- The Christmas Song. We’re sold on Nat King Cole’s version. His voice makes me want to snuggled up in a log cabin on a snowy eve, cup of hot cocoa in hand, fireplace crackling at my feet, smell of pine in the air. Yum. Hearing this, I feel like I’ve lived this scene, which I haven’t, but I can certainly imagine.
- Walking in a Winter Wonderland. One man: Tony Bennett. This song flips my stomach topsy-turvy, and I’m immediately six years old again. My mind’s awash in snowy white and I’m happy-snappy.
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. My friend and I are split on this one. She votes for Judy Garland while I’m a Rosemary Clooney devotee. Judy gives me an ache-in-the-heart nostalgia, usually followed by tears. While Rosemary makes me hold my breath when she sings, “Next year all our troubles will be far away!” And I believe her. Truly.
- White Christmas. Mr. Bing Crosby. Here we agree: The only thing we love more than this song is the man and the movie. When the music box plays in the opening film scene, I turn to mush every time.
- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Andy Williams. I skip, literally, when this plays. If I’m driving in my car, I sit up straight, thump the steering wheel, and throw my head back, “… MOST WONDERFUL TIME of the YEEEARR!” People driving by think I’m having an epileptic fit.
- Let it Snow. Anybody can sing it, and I get goose bumps. My friend and I sing this one to each other throughout the year. (On 100-degree August afternoons, we’ll bust it out.) It’s our “feel good” song.
- It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Johnny Mathis. I hope it isn’t a sacrilege to call this my foreplay to Christmas song. Enough said. Love it.
- Silver Bells. The only woman for the job is Loretta Lynn. The twang in her voice makes my knees jellify. I love a country girl singing about city sidewalks. Admittedly, I’m partial. It’s my mom’s favorite song. Every time I hear it, I think of her.
- Merry Christmas Darling. The Carpenters. This instantaneously transports me home even if I’m thousands of miles away, which I currently am. BTW—I hope all the angels in heaven have Karen’s voice.
- There’s No Place Like Home for The Holidays. Perry Como. What other song could possibly make holiday travel sound like fun? And we sincerely do not have enough chorus girls in today’s music: “Some homemade pum-kin pie!” It just makes you smile.
I was going to cap it at ten, though there are oodles more, but I couldn’t leave this one out:
- Silent Night. A cappella. Preferably in a candlelit church. It reminds me that it’s not about Rudolph and Santa, Coca-Cola commercials and shopping sprees, twinkling lights and cheery snowmen. This song grounds me in the quietness. It shushes all my weeks and months of exuberance to remember that it is, indeed, a holy night.
That’s just a fraction of my playlist. I won’t blast these through our house just yet, but I won’t hide my bedazzled CD cases either. For my husband, I’ll wait until November to infiltrate his iPod. That seems fair. He’ll be peeved enough when he reads this post. (-;
To all my early Christmas carol listeners, I only have one thing left to say: Here we come a wassailing among the leaves so green; here we come a-wand’ring so fair to be seen. Oh, man, that one definitely needs to be on the list! Gracious, and what about We Wish You A Merry Christmas, The First Noel, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Holy Night, Jingle Bell Rock, Blue Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Away in A Manger, Deck the Halls, The Chipmunk Song…
I’ve. Opened. Pandora’s box.
Yours truly, Sarah