What makes the holidays even more enjoyable for me are the sounds of the season.
From carolers singing, to church bells ringing, to noisemakers bringing in the New Year, it is all music to my ears.
Music is what makes the season special. Some of the greatest music ever produced has been written in celebration of Christmas, from traditional religious hymns to contemporary standards like "White Christmas".
Many artists have recorded albums of Christmas music, usually including their covers of traditional holiday tunes. Over the course of a career, it's a good bet any singer with staying power is going to release at least one Christmas album.
One can debate the merits of versions of Christmas songs, such as the "Little Drummer Boy" versions done by the Harry Simone Chorale, Joan Jett, Bob Seger and even the surreal pairing of Bing Crosby and David Bowie, and still enjoy them all.
Some groups have even made careers out of performing holiday music, such as Chip Davis' Manheim Steamroller Fresh Aire Christmas albums and the hard rocking Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which melds the bombast of an arena rock concert with its own Christmas vision.
Then there's the lighter side of the Yuletide, for fans of Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Bob Rivers and even Elmo and Patsy's inescapable "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer".
Here are some more of my holiday favorites, in no particular order.
"Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid. The mother of all charity records, this Bob Geldof project incorporated Britain's biggest pop stars of the 1980s, raised millions for famine relief and spawned many follow-ups, including USA for Africa. The song still brings a wave of emotion every time it is played, especially since it reminds us to take care of the less fortunate.
A Christmas Gift For You - Long before Phil Spector began shooting at actresses, he was a gifted producer responsible for the Wall of Sound and many marvelous pop records. This holiday recording, also known as Phil Spector's Christmas album, is among his finest achievements, containing songs by Darlene Love, The Crystals and the Ronettes.
"Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms. Probably the definitive Christmastime rock song, it's hard not to sing along and feel better whenever you hear it, even in a crowded shopping mall.
"Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney. Simple but infectious. Maybe it's the sleigh bells, but once I hear it, I'm humming it all day,
"Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon, Yoko Ono and The Plastic Ono Band. A plea for peace that is all the more poignant during the holidays.
"I Believe in Father Christmas" by Greg Lake. Lake is the singer from the British 1970s supergroup Emerson Lake and Palmer; this has the feel of a modern day Christmas carol.
"2,000 Miles" by The Pretenders. The ringing guitars and the longing in Chrissie Hynde's voice convey the feel of being separated from loved ones over the holidays.
"Little Saint Nick" by The Beach Boys. Christmas, California-style, with the Beach Boys' trademark harmonies. Perfect for those who don't want a white Christmas.
"Father Christmas" by The Kinks. Santa gets mugged, set to hard rock, but once again a plea to remember the needy.
"Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg. A twist on a New Year's Eve reunion.
"A Long December" by Counting Crows. More New Year's Eve reflection.
Here's hoping everyone has a "Holly Jolly Christmas" this year.