I love Christmas music. The whole “chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire-Jack-Frost-nipping-at-your- nose” thing. The first item I pull out of my Christmas closet the day after Thanksgiving is my box of Christmas CDs. All my old — and new — favorites are there.
I love Christmas music. The whole “chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire-Jack-Frost-nipping-at-your- nose” thing.
The first item I pull out of my Christmas closet the day after Thanksgiving is my box of Christmas CDs. All my old — and new — favorites are there.
Elvis: I ah, ah, ah’ll ha ha have a bluuue Christmas without you.
The Blind Boys of Alabama. The Black Nativity. Nat King Cole. B.B. King. The Beach Boys. Burl Ives. The CD that has the German choir music, remade from a record my mom used to play — I still remember the electric jolt of joy when I found when thumbing through a stack of Christmas CDs. The Boston Pops. Vince Guarldi. I must have about 30 or 40 in all.
Last year, I even added Bob Dylan. Hearing him croak through “Hark the Herald” is certainly an acquired taste, but I’ve concluded he made it in all sincerity, and the whole thing has a kind of a joyous polka-fest upper Midwest accent to it that makes me like it the more I listen to it.
So, you’d think I’d be delighted with the two radio stations in my local market that play nothing but Christmas music. I’d think I’d be delighted with them, too. I listen to them. I sing along with the words, which is now easier since I know things like it’s not a one-horse soap and sleigh, we’re not walking around in our winter underwear, the snowman isn’t sparse and brown and virgin isn’t round.
But the whole thing makes me feel uneasy and fake, and I’m not sure why.
The fact that these stations start playing Christmas music sometime around Veterans Day might be part of this unease. They keep pushing up the date. At this rate, we’ll be tuning into Christmas music the day after the Fourth of July.
Starting so early takes some of the fun out of it. What makes Christmas music fun is, well, it’s Christmas music. Play it too soon and too much, and we suck the joy right out of it and make it yet another holiday marketing tool designed to get us to spend more money.
And then, then, thennnnn! At midnight Christmas Day, they stop. Bang. It’s over. No more Christmas music. They started playing it a month too early, and at midnight Dec. 25, everything turns back into a pumpkin.
It would be nicer if they started going to the Christmas music format a few weeks later and kept the holiday music going through New Year’s. It would take some of the pressure off everything having to be done in only one day and give us leave to enjoy a week of meeting with friends and family and exchanging gifts, so we can truly enjoy one another’s company instead of having to rush here and go there, landing exhausted and irritable Christmas night.
Beyond the timing, I have a sneaking feeling the stations play the music on a large loop. Playing the same songs over and over. Year after year.
Way back when I was a kid and we had to walk to see Santa, barefoot, in the snow, uphill, both ways, we would wait to hear the first Christmas song — get this — after Thanksgiving. It was the signal the holiday season had started, and we all waited for the moment with anticipation.
And regular radio stations played Christmas music. You’d hear regular pop tunes, along with the holiday music, which made picking up a Christmas song an unexpected bit of joy and excitement.
The stations also played new and traditional Christmas songs by popular artists of the day. This gave the music a chance to expand and grow each year. Once upon a time, “The Little St. Nick” was a new song. And people hotly debated Elvis’ version of “White Christmas.” Today? How do we give today’s musicians and singers a crack at the Christmas canon when practically the only Christmas music played is the same oldies we’ve heard year after year?
Maybe iPods and downloadable music will keep the tradition alive for today’s youth. Maybe the hot Christmas download will be as eagerly anticipated as that first Christmas song I’d strain my ears for as it came from the car radio.
One can hope — and, after all, this is the season for hope.
Dan Mac Alpine lives in Ipswich, Mass., and is the senior editor of the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle and the Ipswich Chronicle..