Winter came late to Tennessee this year. Although it is December, there are still leaves on the trees in my front yard. Two days of moderate rainfall hearkened the start of the cold season, and, wonder of wonders, aided in efforts to combat the nearby Gatlinburg fires.
But it has definitely turned cold. And speaking of fires, I wish I had a fireplace of my own to curl up in front of, perhaps with a glass of red wine in one hand and the dog by my side while we listen to some of my favorite holiday carols. And with that, I present, for the third year in a row, my ranking of ten (more) favorite Christmas songs.
Ten More Holiday Songs (with YouTube links):
21) “Christmastime is Here” by The Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965): Written for and featured in the early scenes of that perennial TV staple, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Christmastime is Here” is every bit as much of a classic as the TV special itself. In the special, Snoopy grabs Linus by the blanket and “skates” the entire peanuts gang across the ice, while that subtle snare brush taps a smooth jazz rhythm that enhances the children’s chorus of male and female voices. The lyrics are simple but the nostalgia brings this song to the top of today’s list. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hajwg6kxpQ4
22) “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” by The Trans Siberian Orchestra (1995): This instrumental version of “Carol of the Bells,” complete with guitars, literally rocks. Scoring tickets to holiday performances by the Trans Siberian Orchestra has become as hip as catching “Hamilton” on Broadway. Another Trans Siberian Orchestra version was featured in 1990’s “Home Alone,” but I prefer this version. The video is kind of funny, too. See for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHioIlbnS_A
23) “O Holy Night” by Josh Groban (2002): In less than 15 years, soloist Josh Groban’s version of “O Holy Night” – thematically the most important Christmas song besides, perhaps, “Away in a Manger” – has become the gold standard. He sure can sing, low notes and high. Groban himself doesn’t appear in the video; his song plays over images from the 2006 movie “The Nativity Story,” about, well, that holy night when Joseph and Mary sought shelter in Bethlehem while wise men traveled to see if their prophecy came true. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zh-yR0pbmU
24) “Mistletoe” by Colbie Caillat (2007): I always research the release year of a song whenever compiling a list such as this one. All web searches noted 2007 as the release year for this sweet song about romantic yearning over the holidays, but I actually own a holiday mix CD that features the song and that I’m fairly certain was gifted to me in 1999! Weird. Anyway…enjoy “Mistletoe,” the sexiest song on this list. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZzW13XxJ4U
25) “The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen” by Bob Rivers (1987): The surprisingly-harmonic male choir that belts out this one-minute, 35-second takeoff on “O Come Ye Merry Gentlemen” is just one of the delights. From the delightful “Twisted Christmas” comedy album by Bob Rivers and Friends (which also features “The 12 Pains of Christmas” among others). Forget any unintentional political overtones following recent bathroom legislation by North Carolina, and just enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlIs27Z5Hrk
26) “The Holly and the Ivy” by Mannheim Steamroller (1988): The second instrumental track on this list, Mannheim Steamroller’s interpretation of this lovely holiday carol, from their album “A Fresh Aire Christmas,” is more likely to make you cry than smile. But who doesn’t need a good cry once in awhile. I’m sure the flute player in the recording wanted to cry after countless hours in the recording booth. Incidentally, I thought I’d share my favorite post from the “Comments” section of the YouTube video: “After hearing the news that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States, I simply could not watch any television. The only thing left to do was to immerse myself in the glorious music of Mannheim Steamroller and get shit-faced!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DeAClYGjQc
27) “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer” by Elmo & Patsy (1979): Grandma got run over by a reindeer. Sounds horrible, eh? Well, it would appear that she had consumed too much egg nog before walking home on Christmas Eve. These things happen. And depending on the decade, other pop culture phenoms may have gotten run over as well. In the 80’s, it was New Kids on the Block. During the 90’s, it was the Spice Girls. Now it’s President Obama. Where was the Secret Service? And while we’re at it, is it just me, or does Grandpa in the video look like actor Jeff Daniels? You decide. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgIwLeASnkw
28) “Alegría, Alegría, Alegría” by Wheaton College Chorale and Chamber Singers (2009): I had never even heard of this song until I began rehearsing it for our University Vespers Holiday Concert in – wait for it – 1995. The mariachi band that accompanied our Men’s Chorus had all of us, including the conductor, believing it was a Mexican carol, but research for this blog revealed that the song actually originates from Puerto Rico. This canción de Navidad is about the miracle that occurred in ancient Bethlehem when a very pregnant Virgin Mary, alongside ever-patient Joseph, took shelter in what would become history’s most famous manger. Audio quality is poor in this recording of the Wheaton College Chorale and Chamber Singers, but this is that rarest of occurrences: when the Internet doesn’t have what you’re looking for. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNkaANNGKjo
29) “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey (1994): Forgive me, everyone. I tried – really I did – to resist falling for this song, as I generally am not a fan of Mariah’s tendency to turn a single note into a song all of its own. But time – and repeated airplay – softens a person. Although I still maintain that Ms. Carey will be getting nothing but coal in her stocking this year for conking me over the head with this oft-played rendition, the music video, shot in the style of a family home movie, is cute. I surrender. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXQViqx6GMY
30) “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Mel Tormé (1990): What better song to close out this list than the much-recorded, oft-played “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?” Judy Garland first sang it, back in 1944’s “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Frank Sinatra has covered it, as have Bette Midler, Christina Aguilera, and Sam Smith…to name just a few. Most people prefer Frank’s version, but I was always partial to the one by Mel Tormé (orchestra conducted by John Williams), maybe because it was played at the end of the aforementioned “Home Alone,” a movie that I have seen more times than almost any other. But if it is holidays movies that you want to talk about, I have that top ten list covered, too! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt6Nd8Br50I
Happy holidays to you and yours, Loyal Reader. What are your favorite holiday songs?