Christmas always puts me into a myriad of emotions and thoughts. Memories of celebrations from decades past, a reflection on how many things have changed or have not changed enough, the familiar but possibly uncomfortable dynamics that are unearthed by seeing certain family members.
No matter how you’re feeling at any given moment during the holidays, chances are there is a Christmas themed song that matches your mood perfectly.
There are songs that are tinged with sadness or regret, songs about missing your lover, the chaos of the holiday, the joy, the wonder, um, songs about crossdressing…
Perhaps I am cynical but I think most traditional Christmas music is really bad. Songs like ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ are played again and again and again because they are “classics”. Contemporary Christmas music… well, it tries. I think it would be tricky to write a modern song about Christmas. A lot of “classic” holiday music talks about things that are, well, from a bygone era. Figgy pudding? Caroling? These are things that are stuck in a Dickensian period.
That is not inherently bad, mind you. Sometimes a lyric can bring you back to a less complicated, happier mood even if you’ve never had figgy pudding or went caroling.
I suppose a modern Christmas song, a Christmas song that people in the 21st century could relate would be about praying your flight doesn’t get delayed or wondering if the iPad you ordered from Amazon will arrive on time.
I do like Christmas music, if I am being honest. I know it sounds like I am over critical of it but that’s not necessarily true. There’s a feeling, a sense of peace that comes with finding the perfect song that captures whatever I am thinking during this complicated holiday. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” can really pull at my heartstrings if it hits me right.
A modern Christmas song doesn’t have to be about being stuck at airports or maxing out your credit card. A song like “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” is a beautiful Christmas wish. “Wonderful Christmastime” not so much. How is that two members of the Beatles each wrote a Christmas song that couldn’t be further from each other in terms of quality?
Joni Mitchell’s “River” is beautiful too.
I suppose my favorite contemporary holiday song is “Wintersong” by Sarah McLachlan.
No matter how you celebrate the holidays, I hope they are filled with peace and amazing food.