Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The many musical Christmases

During Christmas week, I especially like to listen to Christmas music, and I enjoy pretty much all of it. Relaxing after a particularly demanding few days, I am considering the taxonomy of Christmas music. Or, to put it another way, when it comes to music, there are many Christmases:

Pelagian Christmas

Pelagius was a figure from the early age of Christianity; he argued that our salvation depends, at least to some extent, on our own effort. This is heresy, yet there's a Pelagian in all of us, and this mindset shows up at Christmas time: "He knows who's naughty or nice..." ("Santa Claus is coming to town") and "I ain't getting nuttin' for Christmas" (because I ain't been nuttin' but bad).

Mythical Christmas

It's fascinating how capacious Christmas is! It has plenty of room for themes that have developed their own rich traditions, but like a very old family tree, the junction point with the main line is very far in the past. Here I place "Frosty," "Rudolph," "Grinch," and the like.

Cozy Christmas

This is where I place all the songs emphasizing family and home: "There's no place like home for the holidays," "The Christmas Song," and I think I just heard, "Cozy Christmas."

Party Christmas

Lots of the music we love is just about celebrating, almost to a manic level: "Rock around the Christmas Tree," and "Jingle Bell Rock" come to mind; but what about, "Deck the Halls"? 

Weather Christmas

Here's where all the songs that are really about the weather go, and probably number one is "White Christmas." I bet you can think of more?

Winter songs (not really about Christmas)

Did you realize how many songs we associate with Christmas, have nothing to do with it? "Sleigh Ride," "Winter Wonderland," "Baby, it's cold outside," "Let it Snow" all come to mind.

Romantic Christmas

This is a huge category, from the terribly unsubtle, "All I want for Christmas is you," to the lovely "Christmas Waltz." 

Sad Christmas

More Christmas music is sad, I think, than people notice. For example, "I'll be home for Christmas," (if only in my dreams), and "Blue Christmas." This overlaps with the romantic category: "Baby, come home!" Shall we put here, "Do they know it's Christmas"? I also put here, "I saw Mommy kissing Santa" -- think about it. Nat King Cole did one called, "The little boy that Santa Claus forgot."

Materialistic Christmas

Here I put "Jolly Old Saint Nick," "Christmas comes but once a year"; but the definitive take must be, "Santa Baby." That said, Eartha Kitt's gem, or Chuck Berry's "Spending Christmas" are really wry commentaries on materialism, aren't they?

Cynical Christmas

"Grandma got run over" might be number-one here. And you can do a search for "anti-Christmas songs" if you wish. 

Jesus Christmas

And then, of course, there is the Reason for the Season, the Incarnation, for the salvation of humanity. These are still the chart leaders. Three that stand out to me are, "Of the Father's Love Begotten," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Joy to the World." But please don't fix the lyrics.

Would you create any categories? Where would you put any songs you have in mind?

1 comment:

rcg said...

Thought provoking. My tune this year is ‘I Wonder As I Wander”. Not sure where that fits. It seems we want Christmas to end far too soon. I like the season lasting a few weeks. I can exercise the gentle happiness and sentimental love for my fellow man and become comfortable with it. Rather than feeling childish I can learn to become child-like and unembarrassed to be kind and polite to everyone.