I have always loved the Christmas season, ever since I was a child. The snow (in some places), the bright red and green decorations, the quality time spent with family opening presents and watching countless Christmas specials—what’s not to love? Working in the customer service industry has shown me why some people aren’t as enthusiastic as I am about this time of year, but even when I’m working, there’s one part of the holiday season that keeps a smile on my face: the Christmas music.
Every year, a week or two before Thanksgiving, the radio station we have our speakers set on begins spouting nothing but Christmas music. I’ve had several coworkers complain how they wish radio stations would wait until Black Friday to start playing these songs, to which I respond by singing every Christmas song I can think of at the top of my lungs. I understand their frustrations, but Christmas music always fills me with such joy and a positive outlook on life. We all know them by heart and they are a big part of why many people love Christmas so much. This is why I’ve decided to make a playlist of my favorite Christmas songs and give my reasons for choosing them.
My playlist starts off with one of my all-time favorites, “Carol of the Bells,” specifically performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. There are so many iterations of this song, but this version tops the rest for its grandiose instrumentals. There is a lot of build-up in this song, and as I listen to it, I feel like this should be played during a large fight on Christmas Eve. Mutant snowmen are terrorizing the populace and Santa is fighting against them with elves, reindeer, and toy soldiers. Frosty is heading the wintry soldiers and Rudolph is leading aerial attacks from above. It’s not the kind of imagery you would expect a Christmas song to conjure, but that’s why I love this song so much.
Speaking of Rudolph, Burl Ives comes next with his famous track, “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” This song always reminds me of the Rankin/Bass specials I grew up on as a child, taking me to the scene in Rudolph where everyone is preparing for Santa to head out into the howling storms outside. There is a lot of holiday imagery in these lyrics, as Ives mentions snow, mistletoe, and the kissing done under it. As well, the line “Have a cup of cheer” is so creative; it makes me want to say it to anyone who is having a bad day around the holidays. This song is definitely a classic I couldn’t live without.
“Jingle Bells” is third on my list, but the version I’ve chosen is the rock variation sung by Drake Bell. Much like the previous song on my list, this song is all about the memories, but in this case, the ones I had with my brothers. This song originally appeared in “Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh,” a Nickelodeon TV movie that was first shown over a year after the end of the hit show Drake & Josh. This show was one of my favorite things to watch when I was younger, resonating with me and my brothers because even though we don’t typically get along, we love each other anyway. As well, the jokes and situations used in the show were always hilarious. When the show ended, my brothers and I were quite distraught, but as soon as this special was announced and this song played on the commercials, we knew we had to watch the premiere together. After all, this show brought us together, so we had to end it together.
We continue the memory train with “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” sung by Thurl Ravenscroft in the 1966 TV special, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! This was another one of my favorite Christmas specials growing up, using such brilliant animation and spectacular voice work. There are many great moments in this special, but the best is when the Grinch is stealing all the Whos’ presents and decorations, scenes accompanied by this amazing song. The song itself is full of memorable lines, such as “I wouldn’t touch you with a forty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!” I didn’t even have to look up the lyrics to write that one because the special ingrained it in my brain. Now, Jim Carrey does a variation of it in the live action movie, but I’ve always preferred this version because of Ravenscroft’s deep, yet smooth voice. Because Ravenscroft was uncredited when the special came out, many people don’t realize it’s him singing the song, even though he was also famous for being the longest-running voice for Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger and singing many songs for Disney’s rides and attractions, like the Haunted Mansion. Well, regardless whether most people realize this or not, I realize who it is and I will never forget him singing this song.
Now, Christmas is more than lights and TV specials. It’s a time of giving, peace, and joy, as we take the time to reunite with our loved ones. And for my family, it’s also a time to celebrate the miracle of Jesus’s birth. That is why the last two songs on my playlist are “Mary, Did You Know?” by Jeremy Camp and “The Christmas Shoes” by Newsong. Like some of the other songs, the former has a lot of variations, but I made the decision to include Camp’s version simply because I enjoy his vocals. He really gives off the emotional impression of how powerful the story of Jesus’s birth and death are. After all, you have to wonder if Mary really did know all the things Jesus would do in his life, death, and resurrection. He was born in such humble circumstances, in a stable of all things, even though he was God’s son. The angel had told her about this, but in that moment, could Mary have realized just how important the baby in her arms was? Could any of us? This is definitely something to consider as we come closer and closer to Christmas.
Despite its bad reputation with a number of people, I chose the last song because of its touching story of selflessness. “The Christmas Shoes” is a story about a boy wanting to buy some shoes for his mother, who is terminally ill and might even pass away that very night. If this does happen, the boy wants his mother to look good when she sees Jesus. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the money to pay for them, but the narrator decides to pay for them himself, which delights the boy.
I can see why a number of people dislike this song, considering how depressing it is, but at the same time, Christmas isn’t always joyful for everyone. There are some people who have to forgo paying their electric bills so they can buy presents for their children. There are others who can’t even do that. There are people sick in hospitals, on the verge of dying like this mother. Actually, there was one Christmas morning my family went to church and an old man died right in front of our eyes. Unlike my beloved Christmas specials where everything ends well, these people struggle. However, that’s the best thing about Christmas—it’s a time of peace and goodwill. We can all easily help our fellow man by donating to great causes, inviting people to join them for Christmas, and even simply being kind to them. We all struggle doing this throughout the year, but this season reminds us to try harder with every special, decoration, and song we encounter.