Do you love the family Christmas scene? The Christmas tree is lit with the little electric train running around it, and the parents signing Christmas cards or decorating cookies with the kids? All you need are some familiar Christmas carols to complete the effect. Don't let lack of belief stand in your way!!! Our culture has a such a long and varied tradition of Christmas music that the religious pieces are the exception rather than the rule.
To help get you started, here are some of the tunes you'll hear at my house:
There are many "Christmas carols" which aren't about Christmas at all -- they're just winter songs that have gotten sucked into the vortex of Christmas. Examples include Jingle Bells, Jingle Bell Rock, Sleigh Ride, and Winter Wonderland. There's also a whole sub-genre in this category just for songs about Winter cuddling: Let it Snow!, Baby, it's Cold Outside, I've Got my Love to Keep me Warm, Winter Weather, and Warm December.
Christmas Traditions with Family and Friends:
Then there are songs that are about celebrating Christmas. What better way to celebrate Christmas than to sing about celebrating Christmas? There's The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting), It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, The Christmas Waltz, Christmas Is..., Christmastime in New Orleans, and It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Some of the oldest ones were originally party game songs (where the game is to make up words), but have since settled down to some standard festive Christmas-celebration lyrics: Deck the Halls and The Twelve days of Christmas.
This category also includes a number of songs about wanting to spend the holidays with loved ones: I'll Be Home for Christmas, There's no place like Home for the Holidays, Merry Christmas, Darling, I'll have a Blue Christmas, There is no Christmas like a Home Christmas, White Christmas, and one of my personal favorites: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
Wishing You a Merry Christmas:
There are a number of songs to sing about wishing someone else a merry Christmas. This includes traditional "luck-visit" songs: We wish you a Merry Christmas, Here We Come a-Wassailing, and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. Some of the luck-visit songs contain Christian references, but they're interesting because they're reminders of the old caroling/wassailing traditions where the poor received Christmas treats in exchange for a song. (Bring Us in Good Ale falls into that category as well, although they skip the part about wishing the host a Merry Christmas...)
Some more modern songs center around wishing others a merry Christmas such as the fabulous Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Welcome Christmas (from the Grinch), and Happy Holidays, as well as bi-cultural favorites like Mele Kalikimaka and Feliz Navidad.
Symbols of Christmas:
Let's sing about Christmas Bells: Silver Bells, The Carol of the Bells, and Ring those Christmas Bells! Or let's sing about the Christmas tree: O Tannenbaum, Trim up the Tree (from the Grinch), and Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Or cut the B.S. and go straight to the point: the presents! Merry Christmas, Baby, All I Want for Christmas (is my two front teeth), I'm Getting Nothing for Christmas, Christmas Kisses, I'd Like You for Christmas, and Jolly Old St. Nicholas.
Speaking of His Jolliness, there's no shortage of songs about Santa Claus: Here Comes Santa Claus, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Little Saint Nick, Up on the Housetop, Petit Papa Noel, Santa Claus's Party, and Santa Claus is Back in Town. And there are a couple where Santa sure makes good use of his list of naughty girls, see: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and TMBG's Santa's Beard.
Then there's a whole list of other favorite Christmas characters: Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. You can also throw in The Little Drummer Boy and various songs about the baby Jesus here if you're so inclined.
Other Winter Holidays:
While you're at it, why not throw in a few secular songs about some other holidays you may or may not be celebrating? Try What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?, Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song, and TMBG's Feast of Lights. There's also Good King Wenceslas for the "Feast of Stephen." That one's not exactly secular, but it's cool: for once the miraculous reward for charity isn't further riches, it's magically-warmed footprints.
Some are harder to categorize. One of my all-time favorite Christmas songs is Fairy Tale of New York which is kind of sentimental and unsentimental in a way that's hard to describe. Then there's John Lennon's So this is Christmas... (Merry X-mas, war is over), which is hard to describe in a completely different way, even though its message -- Merry Christmas and peace to all -- couldn't be more standard Christmas fare. I guess it just seems controversial because when he talks about "peace on Earth," he means for real...
Then there are some complete Christmas musical productions: The Nutcracker Suite and Babes in Toyland.
And don't forget to throw in a few funny ones. My favorite is Monty Python's Christmas in Heaven. The South Park gang also have a few amusing selections.
Okay, I admit it -- I include some religious carols on my Christmas music playlist. I mostly just include the liveliest and most familiar of the bunch, and even then I usually go with instrumental versions. I like Greensleeves, so I include a few versions of that one, but rarely with the religious lyrics ("What Child Is This?").
There are a few exceptions, though, where I like the words as well as the music. There's The Holly and the Ivy and The Cherry Tree Carol. Both of these are fun because they seem very pagan, hence highlight the pagan roots of the Jesus story. I also like Rudi Cazeaux's Angels Are Singing. Then there's Veni Emmanuel. That one is cool because it's one of the oldest Christmas carols that is still popular today, written in the middle ages. That's not why I like it though. I like it because it reminds me of my husband. Many people get to listen to somewhat more romantic songs with their S.O.'s first name, but when you fall for someone whose parents were religious, you take what you can get. I also like to listen to It's Christmas Time and Time for a Carol for essentially the same reason: Christmas time is time for me!! :D
On that note:
It's time for a carol, don't you think? :^)