As I’ve gotten older, my favorite things about the holiday season (I celebrate Christmas) have evolved from receiving gifts and having time away from school to giving gifts and having time away from work to, presently, listening to Christmas music all goddamned day as a counter to all the hideous news popping up on my Twitter feed.
Most of the albums that reliably cram the Christmas Spirit into my aching heart—think The Carpenters’s A Christmas Portrait, Amy Grant’s Home For Christmas, and the iconic A Christmas Gift to You—contain several of the standard tunes one is likely to hear in practically every business during operating hours between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. But there’s one that comes from a completely different pile. It contains no traditional yuletide melodies, and precisely zero references to “home” or “baby Jesus.” It’s Thomas Newman’s score to the 1994 adaptation of Little Women, and it sounds exactly like the holidays.
I have not seen this particular adaptation since, oh, let’s say 1995. But the music has—through some combination of its use in ’90s movie trailers (like this one) to the opening track’s occasional appearance in friends’ holiday playlists—become some of the most essential (and peaceful) sounds of the season.
Take a listen to “Orchard House” and tell me if your outlook on life doesn’t immediately improve when those trumpets come in around 1:05. Or if the crescendo at roughly 1:45 doesn’t make you feel like you’re running through the falling snow toward something perfect and attainable just over the hill.
As Ellen Griswald says (in an entirely different movie), “It’s Christmas, and we’re all in misery.” Thankfully, the bright, merry score to Little Women has the ability to convince us that we’re not, if only for a few short minutes.