Because I may not be able to finish all of this in one post, it tentatively stands as part 1:
Favorite Christmas Carols
1. My number 1 favorite Christmas carol is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” And it’s only ever sung at every single parish I’ve ever been a member of at Midnight mass. Because, you know, that’s when the angel sang it. So I rarely hear it at mass, as Midnight mass has not been part of my routine for many, many years around here. But, I still love it. To me, it’s the ultimate praise song this time of year. “Glory to the newborn king.” Indeed.
2. My number 2 is one I’ve never heard at any mass ever, but my mom sings it at her parish in the choir: “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” I just love how gentle the song is in melody and how beautiful the imagery is, “angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold” is a very specific picture in my mind.
3. Okay, so the rest of these are in no particular order but next up is “Angels We Have Heard On High.” I will admit when I was a child it was because of “Glo———–ria in excelcis deo.” It also has jubilee in it which is one of my favorite words ever and I like the idea of the mountains singing, even if in echo.
4. “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” because I like tidings of comfort and joy.
5. “What Child is This” I think I initially liked that it was the same tune as “Greensleeves.” It seemed to make it more romantic. I definitely can visualize a Raphaelite virgin and child.
6. “Joy To the World” I can’t remember why I initially liked this song, although this interpretation as a child definitely sticks out in my mind.
What that version did for me, that no other version ever did before was emphasize two things: that Christ came to save ALL of us. First the Jews, then the Gentiles, but ALL of us. The art as well as how it starts with an organ and goes into steel drums and harmonica really spoke to how different we all are and yet, well, Christ loves us all and was born of a woman so we all might live. In addition, there is the repetition of “Let every heart, prepare Him room” several times. Every heart, because again, He came, died and rose again for all of us. That repetition of the word “joy.” Only found in Him and through Him. So, I would say this particular version unpacked this song for me at a very young age in a whole new way. Also, it was a BSF children’s program hymn last year and it’s William’s favorite now.
7. “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Which, in a nod to my TLM peeps, is so much prettier as “Adeste Fidelis.”
I’m specifically leaving off this list “Silent Night.” Because, a beautiful hymn, for me it is the most haunting and no version I have ever heard of it has ever matched the one sung in 2012 as the cold open for Saturday Night Live by the New York City Children’s Chorus a capella in honor and remembrance of the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Unfortunately, it would appear there is no more video of this moment on the internet. The shootings happened on Friday and at 11:30 pm Saturday night, Lorne Michaels had produced what I consider to be all that could be said about the horror and the ensuing pain and fall-out. For me, at least still now, that song has become intertwined with images of a special needs aid trying to surround the body of the little boy with autism she shadowed, the young teacher trying to shield her students, the school psychologist who ran toward the shooter when others ran away, the teacher huddled with her students telling them she loved them and that the good guys were going to come save them, the teacher who refused to allow a police officer into her classroom until he slid his badge under the door, the parents waiting for their children outside the school, and then, the funerals. Oh the funerals. Surely some good has come of this tragedy, but as I get ready to go to my kids’ school for parties today, it weighs heavily on my mind. And I doubt I’ll be able to hear “Silent Night” anytime soon without crying.
Moving on the perfect segue from that to the next segment is the same children’s chorus on that same SNL episode with Paul McCartney.
Some of my favorite christmas songs, which are in no particular order but numbered for sanity’s sake:
1. “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney which, I know is corny and synthesized but I love it so there.
2. “Carol of the Bells.” I have a special affinity for this version (featured in the same tv special as “Joy to the World” above)
complete with Hunchback of Notre Dame references. And then there is this version which I danced to in my middle school dance company as a “dancing doll” in a theater version of “The Little Match Girl.”
3. “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. The girl who chased a guy all year and it just never happened, only to meet up with his Christmas Eve when they both forgot cranberry sauce for their solitary Christmas meals. It could happen.
4. “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time At All” by Band Aid. The original that Sir Bob Geldof created. Particularly Bono’s indictment of first world privilege, “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you.” If you feel uncomfortable by that statement, you should. And then there is this line, “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.”
5. “Snoopy’s Christmas” by the Royal Guardsmen Snoopy and the Red Baron are at it again, but when Snoopy is taken down behind enemy lines, it’s not to die, it’s to stop the war for one minute and see his opponent as human, in the spirit of Christmas.
6. “Bellau Wood” by Garth Brooks Set in the foxholes and trench warfare of the world wars. An American solider hears the quiet early hours of Christmas Day, a German soldier singing “Silent Night” although the words sounded different, the men sing together and the GI begins to think “Heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear.” Of course like Snoopy and the Red Baron, they would fight each other again soon. But for a moment they didn’t have to.
7. “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” by Bob Rivers. Classic, because all of these can be and often are, true pains of this time of year.
8. “White Christmas” the Bing Crosby version. I’ve never had one but darn, doesn’t it sound romantic?
Well, that wraps up this list…stay tuned for more!