Life with Liz: Don’t play it again Rudolph
It’s Dec. 22.
Is anyone else over Christmas carols, or am I the only Grinch out there?
While they used to be sporadically played throughout the regular play list for the month of December, things like Pandora and Sirius have now made it possible to listen to the sounds of the holiday season 24/7, 365.
I have plenty of friends who revel in these wonders of technology and have spent hours developing extensive Christmas play lists themselves, but it’s just not one of the holiday traditions I can get too excited about.
I think it’s just become too much of a good thing. I like my Christmas carols straightforward and unadulterated. I also prefer to go with either a classic version, or one that is undeniably unique.
“Christmas Wrapping” must be sung by the Waitresses and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” must be sung by Gene Autry. “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby and “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. Those voices are as much a part of the season as the songs themselves are, and hearing the 800th cover of any of them or other classics by yet another artist exhausts me. In a world where we already have too little time to focus on what’s really important, why are people spending time and money on yet another version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town?” (Bruce Springsteen’s version is my favorite, although it’s been recorded over 200 times by other artists.)
I have a terrible voice, and while I love singing to myself when I’m along in the car, the kids have let me know on more than one occasion that I’m doing a pretty good job of butchering whatever song is on the radio. A may have even commented once that he really likes ’80s music, just not when I sing it. Christmas carols are the one time of year where, whether it’s because the melody is so ingrained in everyone’s head or because no one wants to get on the naughty list, they overlook my off-key warbling and they’re a little more forgiving.
Don’t get me wrong, when it comes down to it, simple carols carry a great deal of meaning to me and can bring me to tears in a note or two. Much the way a scent can take you back to a very specific memory, carols have the same effect on me.
“Away in a Manger” reminds me of a simple wooden Nativity set that we had when I was growing up. That song was the first time I put together the little bed that the Baby Jesus was in with what a “manger” was, and so when I hear that song, I picture our old set just so. I played with that set daily, using the figurines as action figures, acting out life in the stable.
“Jingle Bell Rock” will forever be associated with the second-grade performance in the elementary school Christmas play. You had officially arrived as a second-grader once you started rehearsing that one for the annual school play. Our teacher at the time was a proper older woman with a reputation for being strict. Allowing the class to learn “Jingle Bell Rock” was such a deviation from her staid ways that we reveled in jamming out to it during rehearsals.
“Feliz Navidad” and “O Tannenbaum” will always remind me of our high school Spanish and German Christmas play feud. Each class alternated years putting on the play, and the other class would sing “traditional” carols in their language during the “intermission.”
Each class would of course try to spice up the singing part to distract from the play put on by the other class. It was all in good fun and we made many great memories trying to outdo each other.
I also look forward to Christmas Eve, when everyone in church knows all the words to all the verses of all the hymns, and our congregation’s voices all come together beautifully to celebrate the season. Since everyone is singing, it hardly matters if I’m a little off key, or a little louder than usual.
One of the best memories I have is going to church with my family on Christmas Eve. The church we would go to on Christmas Eve would always play one verse of “Adeste Fideles,” the Latin version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” For whatever reason, this tickled my dad, and he would boom out the entire verse. Since the rest of the congregation was a little timid around the foreign language, his exuberance was even more noticeable than usual.
As a kid, I was, of course, mortified by this and tried my best to become one with the pew cushion. As I got older, though, it became a time-honored tradition and my brother and I would scope out the Christmas program and smirk to each other when we knew his performance was imminent. I realize now that long before Buddy the Elf announced that the “best way to spread Christmas cheer was to sing loudly for all to hear,” my dad was doing just that.
These days, my Christmas carol memories are being added to annually by whatever songs the kids are practicing for their band performances or their piano performances. As E and I have been fighting over her pounding out “Silent Night” for the past few weeks, the irony of our loud battles has not been lost on me, and I think this will now become “ ‘Silent Night’ except for that year that we screamed at each other,” but I know she will shine on Christmas Eve, and it will bring a feeling of peacefulness both in the performance and the fact that we never have to play it again.
Whether you prefer Judy Garland or Michael Bublé or John Denver, I hope you “have yourself a merry little Christmas.”
The Wonderful Husband, A, G, E, TacoCat, and I wish you the happiest of holidays and the brightest of new years.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.