Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Couch Caroling

I find myself singing old Christmas carols when I’m alone in my room. The decorations are stimuli; they help create an atmosphere of cheer and optimism, and trigger the recollection of pleasant memories. The imagery and music go hand-in-hand; the songs are still beautiful, even when I don’t feel their meaning anymore. I obviously don’t believe in what the season’s about, as I have written before, but I can recognize its evolved spirit.

Among traditional carols, I’d say my favorites are “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “What Child is This,” “Joy to the World,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and other songs taught during grade school or discovered in old books. The arrangements remain universally appealing, even when I can’t relate to the lyrics anymore.

Most of them still have a soothing effect, while “Twelve Days of Christmas” still entertains with its unique, challenging wordplay. The subject certainly isn’t the kind spoken about in the usual Christmas chantey.

Other yuletide-themed songs that I’ve adored through the years are the pop-ier, less traditional-sounding ones:

“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon- (“So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Another year over. A new one just begun”) I suppose you get to understand and enjoy it more when you’re older. I’ve been hearing this for years, but only began liking it back in my 20s, when I was feeling disillusioned.

“Oi to the World” by No Doubt- (“He’d say: Oi to the punks! Oi to the skins! Oi to the world and everybody wins!”) It speaks of God coming down on Christmas day to spread peace on Earth. Lyrically and musically, it’s a rocking, offbeat holiday tune.

“Merry Christmas, Darling” by The Carpenters- (But I can dream, and in my dreams, I’m Christmasing with you.”) We play the Carpenters Christmas album yearly. It’s only recently that I began liking and relating to this particular song. “Logs on the fire fill me with desire” is a funny line, though. It either sounds icky or sexy, depending on your creative interpretation of unintentional metaphors.

“The Atheist Christmas Carol” by Vienna Teng- (“It’s the season of possible miracle cures, where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown.”) It’s a reassuring, refreshing song that offers a different way of looking at the season.

“River” by Joni Mitchell- (“It’s coming on Christmas. They’re cutting down trees. They’re putting up reindeer, singing songs of joy and peace. I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”) Mitchell’s touching ballad reflects on past mistakes and hopes amid the impending arrival of the holidays. Love it.

“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by Sixpence None The Richer- (“You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel.”) The Christmas-stealing character is vividly described in a song that’s nicely interpreted by the band. Always fun to listen to.

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