Enduring Christmas Music

By , December 8, 2014

As I mentioned in Christmas Now and Then, it’s Christmas time on the Zeiger Family “Homestead.” This means that almost all the music played here these days is Christmas music. Every year we add to our rather impressive collection of Christmas CDs (which may be seen in our essay, Finding Storage Space for Bulk Purchases).

Of course, we’re as selective in our Christmas music as we are in anything else. The other day we had a conversation about this, as I admitted to Michelle that I had “accepted” a new recording of a Christmas standard that we always approach with caution.

Let’s face it: many traditions are observed because they are traditions, even if we don’t like them very much. This applies particularly to music, a subject on which personal tastes differ widely.

When we discussed it, we realized that we have certain rules or guidelines that we follow to ensure that our Christmas listening remains comfortable through the season.

I’ve spoken before about “dealing” with certain Christmas songs that often get overplayed or otherwise out of hand during the season (see Surviving the 12 Days of Christmas). That essay laid out particular “rules” we’ve developed that apply to other Christmas songs as well.

We found it humorous when we realized our preferences and tolerance for “novelty” Christmas songs. We can handle the ones we grew up listening to, which is why we can stand hearing All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas, or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus once or twice, provided the recordings aren’t too over the top. Those silly songs are part of our tradition, while I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas is not—thankfully, that song never played in our homes, and it’s not welcome here now! Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is anathema in our house; The Barking Dogs version of Jingle Bells is completely beyond the pale!

But, even non-novelty or parody tunes don’t always work for us. I’ve never been real fond of What Child is This? because it is, after all, merely Christmas lyrics sung to a popular tune of its day, Greensleeves. It’s not a favorite, but not one I feel I have to avoid. Unless it’s Michael Hedges’s version of it. Even as an instrumental, I consider his take on it unbearable.

The discussion initiated because of The Little Drummer Boy. This seems like a traditional song to us, as the Harry Simeone Chorale introduced it around the time we were born. Their version adds to our holiday listening enjoyment, but many other renditions of the tune do not. I’d commented to Michelle that a newly recorded version provided enough musical variety within the piece to keep the repetitive lyrics from grating.

Unfortunately, songs we don’t care for inevitably appear on compilation CDs. This is precisely why I made sure our most recent house stereo (which is, of course, a car stereo deck—we are a 12 volt household, after all!) featured a remote control. After years of listening to these discs, we know the song orders, and know exactly when to skip tracks to avoid offending our sensibilities.

I used to have the perfect tool for seamless Christmas music listening. which I miss most at this time of year. We had a 100 disc CD changer in our Juneau home. I could program it to skip any song we didn’t want to hear through the season. With the touch of a button, we could virtually stream our Christmas collection throughout the day!

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