I was in New York last weekend and was completely shocked when I passed a Pottery Barn with lit-up Christmas trees and teddy bears surrounding a big white bed with billowy covers. This seemed out of place considering it was Nov. 7. And then I passed Bryant Park, totally transformed into a skating rink surrounded by kiosks selling Christmas ornaments in the shape of your home state, a taxi cab or a cowboy boot. But it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!
While initially annoyed by the premature Christmas cheer, it was immediately followed by my excitement to watch all of my favorite holiday movies and, of course, listen to holiday music.
For many years, my family had the tradition of recording a CD every Christmas to give away as Christmas gifts. We would hunker down in our family friend’s home studio and make food and record all of our favorite Christmas tunes. These CDs marked my evolution. I made my way from the four-year-old who insisted on recording the world’s longest version of “Jingle Bells” (1857) until I was finally promoted to the producer somewhere around middle school and took a more nuanced approach. We would recruit all of our musician friends to come lay down a banjo track on “We Three Kings”(1857) or to throw some melodica on “Angels We Have Heard on High” (1862).
When I am home for the holidays I still frequently hear my childlike voice singing along to a Music Minus One version of “Mary Had a Baby” (1993) at the homes of friends who have kept our CDs over the years. That recording specifically marks a period of my life in which I was particularly proud of my over-annunciation. I didn’t always appreciate how special it was that my family took the time to do this, but now I have all of these sweet and very embarrassing memories in a hard copy that will be saved… forever.
My favorite Christmas song of all time is “This Christmas” (1970) by Donny Hathaway. I would listen to it all year ’round if that wasn’t lame. Other than Donny Hathaway having one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard, it’s a really wonderfully crafted song and the kind that just makes you feel good.
The Christmas season usually consists of my dad and I singing the chorus to “Last Christmas” (1986) over and over and making up new lyrics to “O Christmas Tree”(1824). I am also partial to the Destiny’s Child Christmas medley, “8 Days of Christmas” (2001). My mom bought me the Destiny’s Child Christmas CD one year when I was little, the cover showing the trio in front of a fireplace with ski goggles bedecking Michelle William’s and Beyoncé’s heads. I immediately became obsessed with the album’s titular song, which exemplifies the true Christmas spirit, as the singer’s boyfriend gets her a diamond belly ring, dirty denim jeans, a BMW and, of course, writes some original poetry.
Another unfortunate Christmas song is John Denver’s “Please Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas”(1973), the plea of an eight-year-old who just doesn’t want to see his momma cry. And then there’s “Santa Claus Has Got the Aids This Year”(1985) by Tiny Tim, which apparently was just referring to the candy bar and appetite suppressant Ayds, which eventually changed its name after the AIDS acronym was established.
I was completely caught off guard by all the holiday merriment this early in the season, but now I am getting excited to watch the 1996 version of “The Preacher’s Wife,” with Whitney Houston’s spellbinding performance of “I Believe in You and Me” and listen to all the Christmas tunes — both good and very, very bad.