Christmas, I Love You, But You Need To Shut Up

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I love Christmas. I love Christmas cookies, Christmas trees, Christmas presents, and Christmas specials. But Christmas carols have got to be stopped. Every year, there are more of them. And every year, they get worse.


I'm not sure when it happened, exactly, but at some point over the past five years or so, radio stations decided it would be super awesome to play 24 hours of Christmas carols, starting in mid-November, to get us all into that "holiday spirit." It's a decent idea, in theory, until you realize that there are only about 8 good Christmas songs, which leaves you with approximately 23.5 hours of seriously crappy filler.

Ah, but Hortense, you say, you can just turn off the radio! Problem solved! WRONG. You can't avoid Christmas music. It's everywhere. People play it at the office, they play it at their homes, they play it at every store you attempt to shop in, at every restaurant, every coffee shop; where I live, they even pump it out of the loud speakers at the movie theater right onto Main Street, so as soon as you walk downtown, you're clobbered by Barbra Streisand's speed freak rendition of "Jingle Bells."

In fairness, the problem isn't the carols themselves; the old school gems hold up just fine, and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Nat King Cole, Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and the like. Certain songs are as essential to Christmas as trees and tinsel and candy canes. But for every "White Christmas," there's a "Christmas Shoes" (and please don't even get me started on "Christmas Shoes"); for every "The Christmas Song" or "Holly Jolly Christmas," there's a god-awful Trans-Siberian Orchestra version of what used to be a perfectly lovely tune. And I swear to you, Christmas, if I have to hear Kenny Rogers and Wynonna sing "Mary, Did You Know," one more time, we are going to have problems. And does anyone else find it kind of sad and creepy when they hear Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on the radio?

Perhaps it's unfair of me to dump on certain songs. I suppose we all like different carols for different reasons; when I was 9, I thought "Funky, Funky Christmas" by New Kids On The Block was the best Christmas song EVER. Now I'm nearly 28, and though I will still laugh when I hear it, (and I remember the words! So sad!) it has fallen off my favorites list. This has happened to many other songs over the past few years; perhaps it's the overkill, or just my getting older, or the fact that after 20 years of hearing "Do They Know It's Christmas" one tends to go slightly mad. However, nearly 28 or no, I still hide my mother's Kenny G Christmas cd every year (and now I have to hide her Josh Groban one, too) so that we can listen to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" during dinner instead.

As far as Christmas songs go, there is one that has always held up for me:

Are you suffering from Christmas carol overkill? Feel free to post your favorites, as well as songs you wish would disappear and never, EVER come back, in the comments below-ho-ho.


A Small Turnip

Maybe it's just an English thing, but to me, Christmas carols are the most eerie, magical and beautiful part of the whole Christmas season.

I'm not talking about shitty, candy-coated pop tunes with a vague Christmassy theme. They're rubbish, and they make my teeth hurt. But REAL carols? sung by the likes of the choir of King's College, Cambridge? They send chills down this atheist's spine.

There's the achingly lovely The Holly and the Ivy, the snow-blown In the Bleak Midwinter, the chillingly beautiful medieval Coventry Carol, or the tender, suspended breath of a song, A Spotless Rose. I'm an unabashed infidel, but this is the music that probably brings me closest to understanding God. They're so beautiful it feels like this incredible surge of energy through my body, as if so much intense sensory loveliness can't be contained in a single person.

I love them. I could give up the tree, the turkey, the presents, the decorations, all of it. But without the old carols, it just wouldn't be Christmas to me. Light a candle and listen.