So in an attempt to lighten the mood, it’s only fair that I look at the other end of the spectrum.
These are songs that have stuck with me long enough that they’ve become a yearly tradition and I can’t call it Christmas until I’ve heard them at least once.
Snoopy’s Christmas (Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron) – The Royal Guardsmen
I actually know a number of people who don’t like or even hate the Peanuts comics and T.V. specials. But, for me, they were a formative part of my youth. They were the earliest cartoons I remember seeing.
Even ignoring the nostalgic comfort of the image of Snoopy boldly flying his dog house into battle, the story behind this song reflects what the holidays are all about in a microcosm; two people pitted against one another putting aside their affiliations to remember that they are both human (or canine as the case may be) and kin. And even though they know that they will likely meet again as enemies, they can forget their animosities for at least one day.
This song serves to remind me that we have the ability to seek out and obtain peace, effectively restoring my faith in humanity.
The Little Drummer Boy – Various Artists
This one would have to make the list regardless how I constructed it.
Sadly, in these more conservative times, I feel this song falls by the wayside due to its religious connotations and people fearing that they may offend someone. But if you look past that, you can see the true touching nature of this little carol.
The titular boy is practically destitute and has no gifts to offer; all he can do is play a small song on his drum. But that little kindness is still felt and cherished. During a time known as ‘The Season of Giving’, wouldn’t you want a song that reflects that spirit so well?
For my money, the best versions of The Little Drummer Boy focus mostly, if not exclusively, on the percussion for obvious reasons and get more powerful and booming near the end as the boy, “[plays his] best for him.” That said, I have yet to find a single one of the over thirty covers of this song I don’t like.
The 12 Days Of Christmas – Straight No Chaser
What would ‘The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ be without a few good laughs?
Leave it to Straight No Chaser to take some of the most tired and overused Christmas anthems (plus one stray Chanukah song and a one-hit wonder from the 80’s) and breathe new life into them by creating a medley of hilarity.
The humor here is subtle. By combining so many staples of Christmas music, they satirize the way many of us feel during the holidays whenever those carols play – every song just fades into one another creating a big bland mess of sound.
Props to you, Straight No Chaser for saying what we’re all thinking in the most creative way possible.
Bonus: Santa Claus and His Old Lady – Cheech & Chong
It’s not music, but it just feels wrong to leave my most important and favorite Christmas audio tradition out of this list.
If you can’t laugh and slacker comedy pioneers Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, you have no soul and I can’t help you – close your browser window and just walk away.
This little recorded anecdote between the two most famous stoners in the history of comedy covers Cheech’s attempts to explain the story of Santa Claus to Chong because he, “[doesn’t] know too many local dudes.”
The humor comes from the fact that Cheech is attempting to explain the story in the only terms they can understand – putting it in the context of a sub-standard urban community like the one they live in. When you realize that, you also come to realize that every culture on earth has been doing the same thing for thousands of years.
Thanks for the Christmas cheer, you two. May your tree not be the only green you have this year.