Author: Karen

My Favorite Christmas Songs

The kids and I spent yesterday morning rolling dough and using the cookie cutters we’ve acquired over the years. Growing up, frosted sugar cookies were as much a part of the Christmas experience as Santa Claus. My mom would spend hours preparing the dough in the days leading up to our cookie making and decorating bonanza and us four kids would fight over who got to lick the colored frosting spoons (I still believe that yellow frosting tastes the best). And now I am the mom preparing dough the night before and my children each licked a beater with remnants of homemade buttercream frosting.

We listed to Christmas music on an Apple Music station as I attempted to teach my little elves about dough thickness and the perils of too much flour. The general population seems to fall into two camps – those who like/love Christmas music and those who don’t or at least grow tired of it quickly. And while I certainly classify myself as a former, I am not an equal opportunity lover of all Christmas music. In fact, there are some songs that I downright despise and quickly tap the right arrow in effort to end my misery. But the following are not such songs – in fact, these are my all-time favorite Christmas and holiday songs. Do you agree or disagree with my selections?

Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth) by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. During the Bing Crosby Christmas Special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas (1977), David Bowie stopped by and performed this song with Bing. By the time that the special aired, Bing Crosby had already passed away, making the song one of his last recordings. Rumor has it that David Bowie hated the song Little Drummer Boy and asked if there was another song that he could sing to accompany Bing.  Writers with the special then quickly wrote Peace of Earth, and music history was made.

All Alone on Christmas by Darlene Love. I am a sucker for a prominent saxophone and this song does not disappoint. If you’re a David Letterman fan, or familiar with the Home Alone 2 or Love, Actually soundtracks, then you’re aware the Darlene Love sleighs (hardee har har) this song.

Ding Dong Merrily on High by any choir, anywhere. If there was a soundtrack to my life, this song would play upon the opening of my eyes on Christmas morning. It fully captures the joy that surrounds the true meaning of Christmas. And it is in the movie Little Women, which was a favorite of mine growing up. As much as I thought Christian Bale’s Laurie was cute, I was all about Gabriel Byrne’s character – yes, I was quite the odd adolescent girl.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters. While the song was known through the years, it didn’t become popular with later generations until a version by Johnny Mathis was included in Home Alone. It has been a Top 10 Christmas hit ever since. All the more reason that Home Alone is one of the best Christmas movies ever made. Period.

Oh Holy Night by Josh Groban. Clay and I have a strict rule when it comes to Oh Holy Night – if the singer can’t hit the high G, we want nothing to do with it. We are not equal opportunity music listeners…we’re hard core. Besides, Josh Groban is awesome and funny. And does it really get much better than Oh Holy Night? Yeah, I don’t think so either.

Carol of the Bells by Mormon Tabernacle Choir. To be honest, any version will do but I just love this one. Carol of the Bells is beautifully haunting and reminds me of the sense of urgency that often surrounds the holidays. I wish I could sing so I could join a choir, put on a robe, harmonize, hold a candle, and sing this song at a Christmas concert. Ding. Dong.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra. Judy’s version from Meet Me in St. Louis is good too but I have nothing but love for this song sung by Old Blue Eyes. This song makes me think of sipping hot cocoa while wearing warm socks in front of the fireplace. And the song is true, for many, Christmas is the one day a year where our troubles really do feel miles away. Regardless of religious affiliation, presents, and decorations, Christmas is about humanity and we’re given a glimpse at the true meaning of our existence – to love and to be loved by family and friends.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by any choir, anywhere. After much consideration, I have deemed this hymn my favorite to sing in church. After the last note is sung, it really does feel like there is Peace on Earth for a couple of moments.

The First Noel by any choir, anywhere. My favorite version of this traditional carol is from the New English Hymnal. What is amusing is that for how popular The First Noel is this time of year, very little is known about it’s origins.

Auld Lang Syne by Sissel. While traditionally sung at the start of the new year, this song is often incorporated in the Christmas mix. I am a sucker for anything Scottish (it’s the McIntyre in me) and I can’t help but ponder the main message –  should old times be forgotten? I don’t think so. I am shaped by my experiences and each ‘old time’ is a moment that contributes to who I am today.

Christmas Decor for $1.00 {What to Buy at Dollar Tree This Year}

When I was in 5th grade, my friend’s mom let my friend and I explore the mall on our own – we went to Claires, Afterthoughts, and the dollar store. We giggled when we passed Victoria’s Secret and looked admiringly at the older girls shopping at 5*7*9. We then ate junior roast beef sandwiches from Arby’s before meeting back up with her mom at the agreed upon time. We were practically adults that afternoon. And there was nothing I loved more during my childhood than feeling like an adult. That’s probably why I was enamored with that dollar store at Westridge Mall in Phoenix, Arizona – I could afford buy what I wanted in that store with my paltry allowance.

Nowadays, my patronage dollar stores – particularly Dollar Tree – is limited to when I need certain craft supplies and inexpensive holiday decorations and gift receptacles. As with most things at Dollar Tree – Christmas decor can be hit or miss, which is why I decided to compile a list of my favorite things that I’ve picked up this year. The inventory at Dollar Tree is constantly changing and can vary by store so there is no guarantee if your store will has these items in stock but it’s worth popping in and checking out the selection. After all – you never know what you might find!

Hanging wooden sign. The store near me had quite the large selection of wooden holiday signs but this one was by far my favorite. The quality is fantastic for $1 and I love that it isn’t overly Christmas-y, which means it can stay up longer!

Thick cardboard gift boxes. These are a great deal for $1 – use them for cookies, gifts, or just as decoration on their own. Some had separate lids but most where bi-fold, which I absolutely love (see example below).

Gift tags.  I’m trying to up my wrapping game and these gift tags will allow me to do so without breaking the bank. In the past, I’ve just used the sticker-type tags that I’d buy in sheets at Target but there is just something so charming about a hand-tied gift tag so I’m going to try these this year.

Glass jars with garland and ribbon detail. How pretty are these simple glass jars? They’d be perfect for a bouquet of candy canes or cinnamon sticks to give as gifts, wouldn’t they?

Ornaments. These metal ornaments are my favorite. I tie them around door handles for a little extra Christmas cheer and use them as gift decorations. I’ve also hot glued them to wreaths and use them as part of centerpieces. They’re just a great universal holiday item at Dollar Tree.

Ornament-making supplies. A perfect inexpensive craft for kids (and adults).

Wreath-making supplies. Are these high-end craft supplies? No. Are they inexpensive? Yes. The wreath frames are a steal for $1 – at craft stores they are much higher priced.

Mugs. I thought these festive mugs were cute. They’d be good to fill with a homemade hot chocolate kit and give to neighbors and people you see out and about in the community.

As evident by this post, I still like to visit the dollar store from time to time. The kids enjoy going as well because it sort of feels like a treasure hunt each time we step foot in the store. And while I may not be able to visit Afterthoughts and 5*7*9 with my children (RIP), I can still take them to Dollar Tree and share a little bit of my childhood – at least around Christmas time.