Sing a Song of Christmas
My friend Randy has an app on his phone that counts down the days until Christmas. All year long, starting the day after Christmas, he keeps track. If you go to a baseball game with him in July, he’s likely to mention during the seventh inning stretch that Christmas will arrive in 157 days. He just loves Christmas.
I have to admit to not sharing his enthusiasm. I remember as a child feeling giddy delight as the holiday season loomed seductively around the corner. These days I think of Christmas as a mean little kid hiding behind the door, waiting to jump out and say “gotcha” when I haven’t finished my shopping by the 24th. The headline of a recent story about holiday stress prods me to WRAP that present, BAKE that cookie, MAKE those lists and CHECK ‘em twice! It seems endless, and just the thought of a tall stack of envelopes waiting to be addressed makes me want to go take a nap.
As a Christian, I know that Christmas isn’t about the trappings. It’s a celebration of the birth of our Savior. The joy that knowledge evokes, however, sometimes gets lost in the secular hubbub. Consequently, my inner Grinch is ready to emerge at any point during the month of December.
Bright spot alert! I have a secret weapon that helps me keep that Grinch at bay, at least most of the time. The one aspect of the Christmas season that brings me good cheer is music. I adore it all, from traditional carols to contemporary pop numbers. Rod Stewart can soothe my holiday-crazed soul just as easily as George Frideric Handel. Christmas music is integral to the season for me, and my affinity for it goes way back.
In my earliest memories there are three records playing on the hi-fi. Yes, the hi-fi; it was the 50s and stereo wasn’t really a thing yet. The records were called LPs, which stood for long play. They spun at 33 and a third rpms after dropping one at a time onto the turntable. We no doubt wore out the grooves in Percy Faith’s Music of Christmas and Mantovani’s Christmas Carols, but my favorite was Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. In addition to the title blockbuster, it included a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells featuring the Andrews Sisters, as well as quirkier numbers like Mele Kalikimaka and Christmas in Killarney. Christmas around the world, you might say. I can still remember every word of every song, having danced around the living room to each one a million—make that a jillion—times.
So much was it a part of Christmas for me that I obtained my own copy as an adult, replacing it later with a cassette tape and still later with a compact disc.
Speaking of compact discs, I have an obscenely hefty collection of Christmas CDs and (even more embarrassingly) two six-disc CD players in my home. One of my annual day-after-Thanksgiving tasks is to load both of them with my favorites. A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio will always be there, since it just isn’t Christmas without Christmas Time is Here from Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. A mix-CD made by my son for me one long-ago Christmas when he was broke is a sure thing. It includes Barbara Mandrell’s It Must Have Been the Mistletoe, a number he knew to be a favorite of mine. It always touches me that he thought to include it.
Technology has taken us, however, beyond CDs to a place where even we, techno-losers that we are, have a music streaming platform. Amazing, when you think about the LPs on the turntable sixty years ago. I spent some time last Christmas putting together a playlist, which I named Patsy’s Christmas Picks, and it has become the backdrop for the Christmas season around our house. (We could also play it in the car if we knew how, but we haven’t yet figured that out.)
What’s great about it is we don’t have to listen to the boring songs amid the favorites like we would on a CD. My Picks list only includes songs that make me light up with joy. You’ll find every genre there. Yes, I love that Mariah Carey song, despite its level of overexposure. And the Beachboys’ Little Saint Nick? It just doesn’t get any better. The Hallelujah Chorus is there, too, because … it’s The Hallelujah Chorus.
I’m going to leave you, though, with my absolute favorite Christmas song. You might not be familiar with it, as the only recording of it I’m aware of was made by The Vocal Majority, a Dallas men’s chorus. It has a lovely tune, decidedly enhanced by the velvety blend of 150 male voices, but its real magic lies in its lyrics.
The Secret of Christmas by the Vocal Majority. I’ll be listening to it this season. May your holidays be joyous.
The Secret of Christmas
It’s not the glow you feel when snow appears.
It’s not the Christmas card you’ve sent for years.
Not the joyful sound when sleigh bells ring,
Nor the merry song children sing.
The little gift you send on Christmas day
Will not bring back the friend you’ve turned away.
So may I suggest the secret of Christmas
Is not the things you do at Christmas time,
But the Christmas things you do all year through?
Songwriters: Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Concord Music Publishing LLC