It seems that at the end of the year when the air gets colder, the nights get longer and the colors of summer wilt away, we attempt to stave off winter melancholy by celebrating a lot of holidays. It starts in October and runs all the way to New Year’s Day. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are crammed together before year’s end as if we need one last hurrah before we start again. Few other holidays consume an entire month with festive decorations, entertainment and anticipation.
Today, on Halloween itself, my less festive coworkers indulged the rest of us by not changing the Halloween station we had playing on Pandora. Between Rocky Horror, Nightmare Before Christmas, and songs about spells, witches or devils we had a pretty good playlist. Unfortunately, no one at work actually knows how to Monster Mash and the station repeated John Carpenter’s Halloween theme one too many times for our collective sanity.
There is no music for November. November is an in-between month. I see it as a pit stop– and a hearty meal– after the sugar fueled fun of Halloween as we make our way to the magic lights of Christmas. This means that tomorrow I will be pulling out the Christmas music. The Christmas music is always close at hand and ready for listening no matter the month. I just have to be careful during “Christmas in July,” when the car windows are rolled down for a breezy drive, and I realize that I’m going to look like a weirdo if the people at the stoplights hear Nat King Cole singing O Tannenbaum out of my speakers. It’s best to keep a low profile when enjoying songs like this out of season.
Some people are not as fond of Christmas music as I. They may say that anytime before Thanksgiving is too early. I smile and nod at those people, and put on my headphones.
I have to fess up to being one of those who don’t really fancy Christmas music, at any time of the year. Loved it as a kid, but now it grates, especially the modern stuff (Mel Torme’s Christmas Song and White Christmas, and all the Rudolph/Frosty/Holly-Jolly-Burl-Frickin’-Ives guff). I can tolerate a bit of Joy To The World, and O Little Town of Bethlehem always makes me think of my Dad, b ut beyond that – Pfeh.
November does have “We Gather Together … blah blah” and “Over The River and Through The Woods,” dedicated to Thanksgiving. What else is in November? We shut off Daylight Savings time, no songs for that. Veterans’ Day, nee Armistice Day; I suppose we could appropriate the wealth of war songs from WWs I&II, everything from “Over There” to “American Patrol.” Other than that it’s just a bleak month all around.
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Ah, Burl Ives makes me happy. This is probably because I always imagine him as a claymation snowman. It also helps that my taste in music is mostly unfiltered.
We do get a parade in November, but again, that’s not everyone’s idea of excitement. If we consider all holidays, Easter has a lot of church hymns, but the only secular song I can think of is the one about Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail. The 4th of July could claim any song about the flag. Not quite the same though.
There’s “Easter Parade” by Irving Berlin. Interestingly, it appeared in “Holiday Inn” (1942) with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, which also introduced “White Christmas” and 10 other Berlin titles about holidays.
I had a close friend in high school whose mother put the Christmas records on in late August every year, and she played them straight through to January. Some sort of delicate truce had been arranged over the years between her and her husband around this behavior.
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I feel a kinship with this woman. Luckily the advent of digital music has made it much easier to indulge privately so as to not annoy loved ones.
As for myself, I don’t mind traditional Christmas music, although I tend to enjoy (surprise, surprise) more historic songs. Like Dean, the post-World War II stuff just doesn’t resonate, and comes across to me as blatantly commercial. (Truth is, almost all modern Christmas music is tied to commercial origins, but, well…) My favorite Christmas album is one created by the then-Hungarian state music publishing company of a modern recording of medieval Christmas Gregorian chants from Hungary, mostly sung in Latin. Christmas music is sappy and sentimental but it offers a kind of hope, the original redemptive message that’s supposed to be at the heart of religion. That’s why I think many people, even atheists, tend to love Christmas, this holiday of family, bright lights, warm foods and fireplaces — and Christmas music is a part of that atmosphere, this one time a year that people feel compelled to be nice to one another.