Sounds of the Season: My Favorite Christmas Songs

Last week, I wrote a fun and perhaps snarky blog about the dumbest Christmas carols of all time. Of course, those “worst” songs were some people’s favorites. And when one of those people is your wife, the trouble grows.

So rather than being clever or Scrooge-y this time, I’ll instead list a few of my favorite sounds of the season. Then people can tell me how dumb they are in the comments!

Here, in no particular order, are Christmas carols that make me turn the volume up.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”

This has been my favorite Christmas song since I was very little. My mother taped my brother and I singing it for our nana, and I didn’t know the word, “pout,” at the time. I sang “shout out” instead.

It is also one of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll covers of a Christmas carol I ever heard. Bruce Springsteen’s arrangement is electric and fun, and Clarence Clemons’s sax solo makes me want to dance. I always crank this one up when it plays and do my best Springsteen imitation as I wail along.

“Here Comes Santa Claus”

We had the Gene Autry version of this classic on a record when I was little, and since I was a kid obsessed with that jolly old elf, I loved any song celebrating his arrival. I could hear those sleigh bells jingle-jangle with little imagination.

As an adult, the third verse is my favorite: “He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. He loves you just the same. / Santa Claus knows we’re all God’s children; that makes everything right.” This is the essence of the Christmas spirit, and I wish some of the more strident faithful would remember that idea more often.

“Carol of the Bells”

I don’t care if this is sung with the words or performed instrumentally, it’s an amazing piece of music. The minor key, the fugue structure, the sheer energy of it all contribute to making virtually every arrangement of this piece fun to listen to. It’s a demanding number to perform, which makes it fun from a musician’s point of view as well.

“Do You Hear What I Hear?”

This one is mostly here for nostalgia. It was the traditional finale to the Christmas concert at my high school, and I can still sing the high tenor part of the TTBB arrangement we did from memory without even having to think about it. My choir director was the first great mentor of my life, and Christmas was a special season under his direction.

And my memories of the song are fonder due to one of my classmates locking his knees, passing out, and falling off the back riser freshman year. He landed with a loud thud right on the downbeat before the final note. Classic.

“The Chipmunk Song”

This song is ridiculous. Yet there is something so very charming about it, I look forward to hearing it every year. The tight harmonies, the high pitched voices, and the utter sincerity of three boys begging Christmas to get here before they blow it perfectly capture the wonder of a child’s Christmas. “Alvin!!!”

“Home for the Holidays”

This one makes me want to dance and sing too. Perry Como’s versions are the best, but what’s not to like about the sentiment, there’s no place like home for the holidays? This song reminds me every year to make my home a place people want to be.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

This is one of the most complicated Christmas carols of them all. I love it, because it is an attempt to enjoy the holidays even when things are sad. “Make the Yuletide gay. / Next year, all our troubles will be miles away.” It’s faith for the future, even if the present sucks.

I’ve had some rotten Christmases. I’ve suffered through unemployment twice at Christmastime, had Christmas in a hospital because a family member was sick, and tried to figure out how to buy presents for the kids when the budget was tight.  But Christmas is and should be a time of joy. It’s the one time of the year people are genuinely nice to each other for no particular reason, and I’ve learned to have faith that next year things really will be better. Or maybe the year after that.

But I don’t want to miss the happy moments of this holiday season. So pass me some egg nog and put on some Christmas records. There is something to celebrate.

That’s a list of my favorites. I like most Christmas carols anyway, and listening to them puts me in a great mood and reminds to have good will to my fellow man.

So hang a shining star upon the highest bough and have yourself a merry, little Christmas now.

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