Top 15 Christmas Songs

I’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music, especially in the car.  I love it.  I look forward to the switch to all every year, and like everyone, I have some favorites I’m excited to hear.

“The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain…Music expresses only the quintessence of life and of its events, never these themselves.” ― Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

So many Christmas songs have an ability to move me in ways that other types of music lack.  Maybe that is just because they are played annually and often during the season.  Maybe it is just that the holiday season is full of activity, and that gives these songs special meaning.  There are a handful of songs that make me think of the smell of the Santa bag we had at our house one year.  Another group transports me to my grandparents’ house on a December evening, the tree glowing intensely red.

I’ve made a “Top 15” list here, which was pretty hard.  There are so many I love.  A week from now, this list could be a completely different one too.  At the time of writing this, these are my favorite Christmas songs.

15. Darius Rucker — Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

1739, Darius Rucker recording 2014

This is one of my favorite carols by anyone, and Darius Rucker does a beautiful job.  Few songs give me as many Christmasy feelings as this one.

14. Ivy Winters — Elfy Winters Night

2016

This is a brand new song for 2016, and I’m very into it.  It’s a fun modern swing sort of thing.  It’s the kind of song that makes me think of a speakeasy, but in a theatrical sense… the type of song performed in a movie scene in a 1920s or 1930s bar.

13. Thurl Ravenscroft (uncredited) — You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

1966

This is one I try to resist loving, but it is just so tied to my Christmas experience that I can’t not love it.  It’s been recorded by other artists, but the original from the 1966 special is really the best.  Incidentally, the voice actor who sang the song, Thurl Ravenscroft, was not credited for the song, but he’s most well-known as the voice of Tony the Tiger.  He did so many other recognizable things as well, and his voice is just so perfect for this song.

12. Pentatonix — Mary, Did You Know?

1991, Pentatonix recording 2014

Pentatonix is sometimes criticized, including by me, for being too plastic.  There is such a thing as too polished, and they often go a step too far for me.  But what they absolutely do right in this song is give it the power it deserves.  A friend pointed out that this song is about a revelation that should be delivered with a certain vehemence, something most singers fail to deliver.  This version really builds beautifully and the lands softly.  It’s really a journey, and I enjoy being taken on it.

11. Gayla Peevey – I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas

1953

This song is so ridiculous and cute, and for me is less obnoxious than the other Christmas songs by and for kids.  It makes this list because it makes me smile every time I hear it.

10. Bing Crosby — Little Drummer Boy

1941, Bing Crosby recording 1962

Little Drummer Boy was my grandpa’s favorite Christmas song.  It makes me think of his house as it was in the 1980s at Christmas, music coming from the stereo cabinet in the living room and the tree intensely lit in red lights.  It makes me think of red three-wick candles, large ceramic Mr. & Mrs. Santa figures, and boxes of wrapping paper at the ready.  It conjures up the smell of brown and serve rolls, the taste of Aunt Chick’s cookies, and the energy of a house well lived in.  It is Christmas for me.

9. Megan Mullally — Silent Night

1818, Megan Mullally recording 2001

I love Megan Mullally’s voice.  She does a fantastic version of Silent Night here, and seems so unique to her own style in parts.  Silent Night is one of the songs I like by most artists, but I sometimes feel like the style doesn’t match the themes of the song.  This one does a pretty good job with that.  This was included on an album of NBC stars, and at that time Will & Grace was enjoying its greatest success.  Megan Mullally went on to release several albums, all amazing and worth looking into.

8. Burl Ives — Holly Jolly Christmas

1962, this Burl Ives recording 1965

What is Christmas without Burl Ives?  Sad, that’s what.  I really appreciate that Ives recorded this for his Christmas album the year after it appeared on the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Soundtrack.  That version had been so rushed and I like this slightly slowed one much more.  This song, and really any song from Rudolph, makes me feel like a kid in all the right ways.

7. Scott Matthew — Silent Nights

2008

This original song is sweet, sad, wistful… it’s one of the feelings I can identify with, especially during Christmas.  It’s beautiful, and Scott Matthew is the absolute master at making me feel sad and then making feel okay about feeling sad.  His songs are usually wrapped in melancholy, but I’m always glad they are.

6. Carpenters — Merry Christmas Darling

1970

All the Christmas feelings.  This one is similar to Silent Nights, but far more hopeful.  You feel mildly sad that these two won’t be together for Christmas, but are left with little doubt that they will eventually reunite.

5. Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You

1994

I got this album when it came out, and I have yet to get enough of this one.  It is just as perfect as it ever was. It’s so full of the joy that makes Christmas wonderful, and truly a timeless classic.

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4. Ella Fitzgerald – Sleigh Ride

1948, Ella Fitzgerald recording 1960

Ella.  Need I say more?

3. Dolly Parton — Hard Candy Christmas

1978, Dolly Parton & Movie recording 1982

This might be surprisingly high on my list… maybe?  It wasn’t conceived as a Christmas song, but I’m happy to listen to it over and over during December.  This song makes me want to drink cocoa and warm up under a blanket with a good book.

Dolly Parton’s Solo Studio Version

Film Version featuring Dolly Parton & the Cast of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas

2. Wham! — Last Christmas

1984

This one is polarizing.  I’ve seen it on as many lists of worst Christmas songs as best Christmas songs.  For me it is almost at the top of my favorites. I suppose if you have an aversion to 1980s pop music, you might not care for this, but I love 80s pop.  I especially love anything from George Michael, and I’m happy to hear this in every store during the holidays.

1. Trans-Siberian Orchestra — Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)

1914 (Carol of the Bells), traditional (God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen)m Trans-Siberian Orchestra recording 1996

Carol of the Bells is probably my favorite Christmas carol, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra really takes it to another level here. This song is a great storytelling.  It’s very moving.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some other songs I love, but they just didn’t quite get on my list.  It’s pretty hard to narrow down to 15; I could probably do a list of 100, and I’d still have to leave things off that I love.

Dean Martin — Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! 

Bing Crosby & Ella Fitzgerald — It’s A Marshmallow World 

Carnie Wilson & Wendy Wilson — Hey Santa

Trans-Siberian Orchestra — A Mad Russian’s Christmas

Burl Ives — Silver and Gold

Scott Matthew — Blue Christmas

Alaska, Courtney Act & Willam — Dear Santa, Bring Me A Man, 2014

Weather Girls’ — Dear Santa, Bring Me A Man, 1983

Ingrid Lucia — ‘Zat You, Santa Claus?

BC Clark Anniversary Sale Jingle

Megan Mullally sings BC Clark Anniversary Sale Jingle

The Waitresses — Christmas Wrapping

Bing Crosby & David Bowie — Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy

Detox — This Is How We Jew It

France Journal: June 1-2, 1996

Saturday 1 June 1996

As I went to work I realized the excitement and joy of the opportunity I have made possible for myself.  I am going to France!  I will be allowed to remain in another country for a time of two weeks!  Chessie starts today.  I hope she works out. If she does we’ll share hours at work.  I just don’t know what to think.  Tomorrow we will be going to Tulsa.  Brad is going for a week.  I will be going to the airport with Ann Monday morning.  Wow!!  My first plane, my first out-of-country experience and the first time I’ve gone East of Arkansas.  I just cannot wait.

» 27 August 2007

In truth, this was not an opportunity that I had created for myself.  Far from it.  This opportunity was made possible by the generosity of my Mimi and Papa, as well as sizable donations from my parents.  I had worked for a year and saved almost nothing.  It was not me who got me there, but my family who realized that I really wanted to go.

I did know what to think about sharing my job with the new girl who was starting.  I didn’t like it.  I felt liked I had worked really hard to be important to the Villa, where I worked, and didn’t appreciate having someone come in to “help,” as it just seemed like she was cutting my paychecks in half, which she did. In the end, she did not work out and I worked alone until I left for college over a year later.  Interesting side note:  my one and only date with a girl was with Chessie.  We went to the fair in September of the same year.  It was actually a lot of fun.

» 27 February 2016

I’m so excited to revisit this journal after twenty years.  I cannot believe it’s been so long!  Recently, I was driving my nephew home from my parents’ house and it dawned on me that he is only two years younger than I was when I went to France.  That seems so untrue and amazing that I hardly knew what to do with that information.  It was during that talk that we discussed the concept of memory.  He was asking me about the concept of time seeming to go by when one is older.  I thought about that and hypothesized that perhaps what is at play is how our memories can stick to us, how things that happened decades ago can seem so clear still, as though those things might’ve happened yesterday.  The older we get, the more of those memories we have and it all just starts to feel compressed as if life hadn’t been as long as it was.

I remember 1996.  I remember it like I remember last month.  I remember my feelings, my desires, my motivations, and my philosophies.  I remember my secrets.  I remember spending lunches with my friends buying CDs at the local music store, and how much I loved my time washing dishes at my job because it gave me time to drift away into my own thoughts.  I remember the feeling of being caught between loving my family whose company I truly valued and needing very much not to be around them.  I remember spending too much time with my friends.  And I remember not being all that adventurous or daring, a trait I have always attributed to being very cerebral and lost in my own head.  I did not have a wild side; it never seemed to develop, which has been disappointing at various points during my life, but ultimately, I’ve been satisfied with being grounded.

In my teens, I romanticized everything, and often wondered if others were doing that as well.  At fifteen or sixteen, I didn’t have those words for my friends, didn’t understand the value of an open heart, and so I’d wonder about how people see the world for a long time.  It wasn’t until I had nephews and nieces that I got to see other people who were experiencing the world in ways that seemed so familiar.  My oldest nephew, the one with whom I discussed memory, has a tendency to romanticize his world.  It’s nice to see things through rose-colored glasses — I still try to wear them as often as possible — but he will experience a fair amount of disappointment when the world reveals itself for what it really is, a feeling that nobody can prepare him for.

Favim.com-9757France stood as a fantasy world, somehow existing in our modern world as both very much a part of the 1930s, 1960s, and somewhat 1980s.  To my sixteen year old eyes, it seemed not lost in time, but purposely wrapped in the past, a land joyously refusing to become something it did not want to be.  I loved that about it and could not have cared less about how unlikely my notions of French life might be.  I wanted so much for it to be that land I had invented.

The opportunity to go to France had been presented in 1994 in French class.  I was only too eager to join the group, assuming that others in my class would go as well… friends.  I looked forward to it from the moment I saw the green light in the eyes of my parents and grandparents.  I was told I’d have to pay for half, which motivated me to get a job in 1995, but my youth would ultimately stand in the way of acting responsibly and saving money.  I never really did.  The trip should’ve been called off, but perhaps the adults in my life realized the size of this opportunity.  Perhaps they knew its impact would last well beyond the two weeks we would be gone.  Perhaps they knew that I had in fact worked hard at my job, in spite of my lack of ability to save the money, ultimately deciding to reward me for that.  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I was allowed to go.  I was not prepared, not mature enough, but I was going anyway.

Sunday 2 June 1996

1_9cd8580cbcd0e41e8765f55eb60c4e3cI am at Ann’s.  This morning we did not go to church but rather we went to Stroud.  There I bought some new headphones, a CD, a get-well card for Mme Wright, and some stuff at the toy store.  I got a Limber Louie, a marionette of an unusual looking bird.  The sides control his feet so that he can appear to walk.  I am having a hard time stopping my thoughts of what France will be like.  I have absolutely no IDEA!  Becky and Brad are going to a work camp where they paint houses.  I also bought some Furr Balls lil’ stuffed toys with rubber faces.  I have had quite a day and can’t wait — think, tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to Paris.  Wow!

» 27 August 2007

Yep, spent a bunch of money BEFORE going to Europe.  I honestly had no idea how dumb that would end up being.  Blue and furry Louie lived in a box for years.  I eventually lost him and now do not know where he ended up.  I do not miss him.

» 27 February 2016

Sometimes things can happen in life and the impact can seem like it will be quite small, but it turns out the be huge.  Shortly before leaving on our trip, the French teacher and our chaperone Mme Wright suffered a brain aneurysm.  She would recover, but was unable to go with us to France.  The parents met and decided to let us go without her.  Money had already been paid — nonrefundable at that point — and most of those going were already eighteen.  I was the youngest at sixteen.  We weren’t going to be left to our own.  We would meet up with another group on our way and their teacher agreed to keep an eye on us.  That group was always going to be with us during the entire two weeks.

Kids should be educated on money and saving in school.  It should come up throughout the twelve years of school and be a mandatory part of the curriculum.  Add to that other everyday skills such as interviewing for jobs, interacting with others in public, how to wait in lines patiently, cooking, cleaning, how to apply for a loan, how to pay back loans.  These are all very important life skills we forget to teach kids.  I always had the things I wanted.  Sure, I remember my mom and dad telling me I couldn’t have this or that, but I never felt like I wanted for anything.  It was a cushy, middle-class life.  Understanding money didn’t play much of a roll at that time in my life.

I was facing a major opportunity, an event so pivotal to my life that I would carry it with me forever.  It would inform my future relationships, jobs, and where I would choose to live.  It would be the thing I would revert to for comfort or when I wanted to remember a certain kind of emotional pain.  And it would take as much money as I could hold onto to keep me going for the two weeks.  Still, I thought it appropriate to buy toys at an outlet mall the day before I left.  I had been doing a lot of fighting to keep the little kid part of me from going forward with me in life, and this is just one example of where I failed.  As setbacks go, it probably seems somewhat inconsequential, but it seems like an important part of understanding who I was in that moment, who I had been until then, and who I ultimately was to become as a result of the trip.

1990 Journal Revisited

I want to comment on my journals I kept when I was a child.  This came about as the 20th anniversary of my trip to France approaches and I would really like to update my thoughts and give some back story.  I was 16 at the time of the trip, an age during which I felt extremely self conscious.  Although I expected my journal to remain private, I still left out things I didn’t want others to know.  I wish I could take that trip again.

I should start by pointing out that i haven’t read my childhood journals in a long time.  In the case of the one I kept in Junior High & High School, I haven’t read them since I wrote them.  I have no idea what I had to say, but I’m going to put it out there anyway.

1

Jan. 2 1990

New Years

New Years is sharing,

caring,giving, and loving,

growing, seeing, living,

and moving on.

•Fuchs•

!Happy!

!New Year!

Brian F

2

Dec. 16, 1990

What is Christmas?

Christmas is loving and

caring,

It’s for being with

family and friends.

Christmas is kids

in the snow and puppies

by the fireplace.

It’s for Daddys with

the news paper,

For Mommys sewing

by the fire

Christmas…………….

The best time of the year!

•Fuchs•

Merry Christmas

Brian F

3

Nov. 28, 1990

Weather

Weather, Weather Every-

where,

You find it in the air.

Rain, snow, sleet, sun,

Some are gloomy some

are fun,

Hardy, soft, or inbetween,

Comes down hard and mean.

Now thats weather all

about,

and thats no doubt!

•Fuchs•

Brian F

4

Nov. 29, 1990

A Friend

A friend is what you

make of one,

Not what you want

from one.

•Fuchs•

F. F. L.

r   o  i

i   r   f

e      e

n

d

s

Brian F

Okay, that was mildly embarrassing.  I was 10 when I wrote the first one and 11 for the rest.  What I find the most interesting is that the journal I used was inscribed to me by my dad on November 7, 1988.  I have clearly ripped out some pages, which is unfortunate.  Seeing what I had to write at 9 would have been very interesting.  These poems were clearly written elsewhere and transcribed into this journal at a later date.  I had only recently discovered poetry, so it isn’t surprising that I was trying to write it.  My first poem was written in October 1988.

Fall Leaves

Fall winds swish around leaves of red,

orange, and yellow

The cool sand is nice, you see birds,

the grass feels good

Squirrels and birds gather food, it is

nice to walk around

Pumpkins decorations are neat and

fantastic

Jack-O-Lanterns are now on our porch,

fall has arrived.

Brian Fuchs

I was 9 when I wrote that and it somehow has more to it that the ones I wrote later.  Fall Leaves was written for class, so that could explain why my effort was greater as well.  As for the others, New Years seems to say nothing at all.  What is Christmas? is interesting.  It neither matches my life experience or that of the general population.  It speaks to an idealized Victorian era Christmas that I remember being rather popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Weather is clearly an attempt at rhyming, which I wasn’t terribly great at then and which I don’t attempt now.  Finally, the very short A Friend.  I had several books of proverbs as a kid.  This was almost certainly my attempt at writing my own proverb.

These poems as a whole say very little of my life in 1990.  They don’t have much to say at all really.