Nothing to me evokes the holidays like Christmas music. My family can tell you, I start listening to Christmas music way too early for their taste. I used to sing in a large choir, and we started practicing for our “Singing Christmas Tree” in early September. I still remember listening to my practice tape in the car, blasting out White Christmas, and realizing I was stopped at a stoplight, with my windows down (the temperature was in the 80s), and the person in the car next to me was looking at me like I was insane. Why is Christmas music one of the few genres that can only be listened to one month out of the year?
Music goes a lot further than just being something nice to listen to. Music has been used as therapy for seizures, to lower blood pressure, treat children with A.D.D., treat mental illness, treat depression, aid in healing, treat stress, and even insomnia. In his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks says “Listening to music is not just auditory or emotional, it is motoric as well. We keep time to music, involuntarily, even if we are not consciously attending to it.” It is believed that there is no one single musical center of the brain, but rather it is the involvement of dozens of scattered networks of the brain working together (this is a great book, by the way).
On an emotional level, who doesn’t feel like a kid again, when singing Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? And there’s always the modern favorite, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. But now that I’m a grandma, I kind of understand why my grandmother never quite got the humor of that song.
By far my favorite Christmas song of all time is O Holy Night. This is largely due to memories of my father, with his beautiful tenor voice, singing this every year at our church. And when I was old enough, I got to accompany him on the piano. Not only do I have over 600 different Christmas songs on my iPod, I have 28 different versions of O Holy Night, including versions by the Canadian Brass, Mannheim Steamroller, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Bing Crosby, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I cannot listen to this song quietly, or non-physically. It just has that effect on me. Some people feel the same way about the Hallelujah Chorus.
I do love the classics, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas, Frank Sinatra’s Silent Night, Tony Bennett singing The Christmas Song (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”). But here are a few of my newer favorites:
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Lost Christmas Eve–orchestral music set behind driving electric guitar
- Il Divo: The Christmas Collection–Great Italian male quartet.
- Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration.
- Gaither Vocal Band: Christmas GVB Style or Still the Greatest Story Ever Told
- Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: Oh What A Love
- Mannheim Steamroller: Any Fresh Aire Christmas
- Woody Phillips: A Toolbox Christmas–Christmas carols played on various hand and power tools
- For something really bizarre and irreverent, Bob Rivers’ More Twisted Christmas or Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire.
Whatever your musical preference, crank it up and enjoy the music of the season — soon enough there will be people saying, “Why are you still listening to Christmas music?!”