by Ben Shine
My birthday is 12 days before Christmas. My mother's is the day before mine, my dad's often falls on the same day as Thanksgiving and my brother's is right in the middle. In our family, the yuletide didn't begin until after the last birthday candles were blown out. No trees. No lights. No stockings hung with care. Nothing until Dec. 14, at the earliest -- and then the rush was on.
We weren't an anti-Christmas clan, spreading "bah humbug" across the town. We just took care of things one at a time. And that meant that, when it came down to it, we didn't want our special days to play second fiddle to Santa's big day or the Messiah's birthday, whatever the emphasis or belief might be. So, having to hear endless holiday tunes could get a bit tiresome for all of us.
With all that being the case, I hated Christmas songs for a long time. And let's be honest. They're often corny, overblown and saccharine, and really, they tend to miss the point. Even when the lyrics make sense, people perform them all wrong. "Oh, Holy Night" should build to the utmost rejoicing and a tremendous payoff (we're talking about a savior being born here, people), but instead we get vocalists careening all around their register, showboating and being wishy-washy at the same time.
In the last six or seven years, though, something has changed. Maybe it's me, but it's helped that many musicians have created new songs and recast classics that feel like the kind of Noel that I'd like. It also started changing around the time that my wife and I decided to forge our own holiday tradition, to be together -- just us -- on Dec. 25. There's no running around to three different family gatherings, rushing around without having our kind of fun. Now, we do our own thing. And, since music is at the center of my life, I've had to find my own soundtrack to my own Christmas.
To share that, I've put together this playlist:
Please also make sure that you have a copy of Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas, or at least tell me you do. Those songs, carefully played, make up a gorgeous album, a whole that transcends their use in commercials and my fuzzy memories of hearing them as a kid. And, just for kicks, here are two more perfect little tunes:
·Jingle Rock Bell - just a little subversive sonic joy.
·Xmas Rush by Uvula, one of my favorite bands from Indiana ever:
What songs will you listen to by the tinseled tree?