Category: Year of Intention

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.

Craving a Nostalgic Christmas

Clay and I have been in a nostalgic mood lately – at least when it comes to this holiday season. We’re making an effort not to focus too much on the gifts receive – although in full disclosure, I am asking for an Apple Watch so please don’t think that I’m putting myself up on a restraint and moderation pedestal. But we are definitely scaling back how we approach Christmas. It’s like we’re experiencing the old-fashioned holiday season we’ve been craving – one filled with family, warm embraces, and a thankful spirit. We may not have a fireplace in our current house but gosh golly, it sure does feel cozy this year.

The four of us have been cuddling on the couch under our favorite soft oversized blanket watching movies. On the drive home from our Thanksgiving holiday in Pennsylvania, we made a list of holiday movies to watch this year – most as a family and a handful for just Clay and I (the kids aren’t quite ready for Die Hard). Included on the list are classics such as Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Shop Around the Corner – none of which (I’m somewhat embarrassed to type this) we’ve seen in their entirety. After we put the kids to bed the other night, Clay and watched Holiday Inn on Turner Classic Movies. Aside from a shocking (!) musical number in blackface, we enjoyed watching Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance their way across our screen.

The movie prompted a search of how the celebration of Christmas has changed over time. I stumbled across this article from Professor Arthur Purdue where he explores the fascination with the 18th-century countryside Christmas experience. I also found this Pew Research Center article about how Americans celebrate the holiday season now compared to their childhood. Both are worth a read and prove that we’re not alone in our desire for a less-commercialized Christmas experience.

In effort to capture some of the nostalgic Christmas spirit, we took the kids to the 48th Annual Scottish Walk Parade over the weekend. The sky was overcast and rain fell at various speeds as we watched Scottish clans, bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, dogs, and reenactment groups march through Old Town Alexandria. The weather was reminiscent of the day we spent in Edinburgh a few years ago and as we dined on mussels and steak frites at Columbia Firehouse afterwards, we all agreed that it was the perfect start to December.